The highlight of this car’s performance isn’t even its drivetrain or controls...
Occasionally, you will come across a car that makes you ask many questions. Why did they choose that colour? Why is it shaped like that? Why did they name it the “Aztek”? More often than not car enthusiasts ask “what were they thinking” when we look at certain cars. However the more frequently asked question is: how can THIS bit be so good, while THIS bit doesn’t quite work. Such is the case with the 2017 Ford Focus ST. Certain parts of it we loved, and certain parts, not so much. The question is, which side of the coin lands facing up?
Unquestionably, the styling of the Focus ST is aggressive, and when finished in “Race Red,” as our tester was, it certainly fits the bill for “hot hatch”. Some aren’t so into the boy racer looks, but we err on the side of: “it’s a hot hatch, it’s supposed to look like that.” The front end looks great, and it visually balances its four doors well. However, the exterior of the car isn’t where we took issue.
Sitting in the Focus ST is an experience that will vary wildly from person to person apparently. Your writer with a 5’10” 185 lb. frame was nowhere near comfortable in the Recaro front bucket seats. If you are not a smaller proportioned person, you will simply sit on top of the bolsters instead of between them. However, It seems like some people find them perfectly comfortable. Furthering the lack of comfort for your writer, the pedal placement is not ideal for heel-toe downshifts, and when set up in a proper driving position, you are likely to hit your knee on the underside of the steering column.
That being said, the seating position is very good overall, and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes so that it comes right at you, to put you in a great position for performance driving. The shifter location is perfect as well. It’s high enough that your right hand doesn’t have far to travel to reach it, and it’s above the level of the armrest, so quick shifting can be done without moving the armrest out of the way. In this respect, the interior is well set up, though visually, it doesn’t do much to impress.
In the cabin of the Focus ST, there are a lot of hard plastics, and the dials look rather inexpensive. The design is a little too busy, and the infotainment system is too far away, recessing too far into the dash. Functionality of the interior bits isn’t stellar either; the centre read-out in between the instrument cluster exhibited some lag and lacks overall simplicity. The SYNC3 infotainment system is fairly easy to use, but it doesn’t look particularly nice unless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is connected. Overall the interior really does need a refresh, and since Ford recently announced a new Fiesta platform (which looks brilliant), the Focus will naturally follow suit very quickly.
Fortunately, the complaining stops here, because when behind the wheel of this car, the interior issues sort of melt away. Since its original release, the Focus ST hasn’t lost any of its sharpness; the driving experience is truly lovely. The steering is electrically assisted, but still retains more feel than other cars in this segment, and weight is just right. Shifter and clutch feel are both snappy and satisfying, and our tester, which had the carbon fibre package, came with a wonderful carbon fibre shift knob that felt perfect in the hand.
Giving the car inputs with the steering throttle and brakes is genuinely fun, and makes daily driving anything but boring. To add some drama to your throttle inputs, there is a ‘sound symposer’ that selectively pipes intake noise into the cabin at certain RPMs. Yes, it’s “artificial,” but in reality, who cares, because it makes the car more fun. Too many things on cars these days are meant for practicality and safety, and so few are there expressly for fun, so we support the idea of a little electronic doodad that makes the car sound aggressive.
Engine performance is a strong point as well. The turbo inline four-cylinder EcoBoost makes 252 horsepower at 5,500RPM, and 270 lb-ft. of torque at 2,500RPM; which is more than enough to make you giggle, and more than enough to cause torque steer. The chassis does a good job of managing the power, and turbo lag is minimal. Throttle response is quick, and this makes downshifts a breeze.
The highlight of this car’s performance however isn’t even its drivetrain or controls; it’s the chassis set up. Over the course of the week we turned out 11.7L/100km, which is mostly due to the fact that the ST seems to constantly be asking you to run out the gears for fun. Better fuel economy is certainly possible with a lighter right foot. It requires premium fuel thanks to the turbocharged motor, and the tank will only hold 47L of it.
Even though the Focus’s little brother the Fiesta ST (reviewed here) might be a bit more tossable, the Focus ST is certainly exciting in the corners. In “Sport” mode (which backs off the traction control but leaves stability control on) the car will willingly rotate as you turn into a corner. Sport mode will catch the slide if you don’t. Turn the systems off entirely though, and be ready to counter-steer in fast corners. If you turn in while off the throttle, or lift mid corner, the Focus ST will turn on a dime.
The rear comes around in controllable oversteer, and since it’s front-wheel-drive, all you have to do is squeeze the throttle to keep the car balanced through the corner. This tendency to oversteer is due in part to the way Ford has set up the front end of the ST. Turning into a corner aggressively impressed every single time. The car just darts in without protest. This is something that you can feel even at low speeds, making the car fun just about all the time.
As for the question of whether or not the fun factor outweighs the few issues we had with it; the short answer? Yes. Even with the uncomfortable seats and laggy electronics, this is still a really great choice for a hot hatchback. If you fit in the seats; even better. The Focus ST starts at $32,948 and our fully loaded tester rings in at just over $34,000. All things considered, the 2017 Ford Focus ST would make a practical, fun daily driver that would have no issues tearing up your local autocross course.
2017 Ford Focus ST Gallery