The beaming—potentially visible from space—Tangerine Scream Ford Focus ST is one photogenic little scamp, I murmur to myself upon delivery. The color alone causes the hairs on my neck to rise, but it’s the driving experience that elevates the heart rate. A hatchback of the sports car variety, the Focus ST can surprise even the most heavy-footed enthusiast.
There’s a reason why some of the top rally car drivers in the world use the Ford Focus as their base vehicle. Being sporty and capable with a well-tuned chassis is the main reason, but under homologation rules, the car must be sold in certain capacities to make it eligible. Selling a worthwhile amount of cars means that it must contain certain qualities, and attract scores of buyers willing to shell out a premium for a compact car. The Focus ST hits the mark with style, plenty of power, first-rate amenities, and impressive driving performance with a portfolio that must appeal to customers the world over.
Starting with a sophisticated and powerful 252 horsepower motor that could be more at home in an entry-level luxury car, the 2.0-liter engine makes proper and efficient use of the turbocharger that forces compressed air into the engine. Not only does the turbo provide copious amounts of torque with 270 lb.-ft @2,500rpm, but it also doesn’t fall flat on its face at higher revs.
Ford has managed to make a small motor perform as if it has bigger displacement, while still maintaining a power-plant that can sip fuel sedately, or wake you up with a hatchback that can surprise more than a few motorists.
Regardless if you know it or not, you want to be seen in something with style, flair, or sprezzatura. You’re buying a vehicle because of the way it makes you feel, looks and what it does to your emotions every time you press the ignition button. The progress of Ford has been an explosive force on the buying scene in the past few years. They are making the $450,000 Ford GT again, bringing supercar ambitions to lovers of Americana; and they’re rehashing the Focus RS (the ST’s bigger, more powerful, more capable brother). Go down the product lineup and you have cars that appeal to consumers of multiple brackets of affordability from the low thirties to six-figures.
The ST is not luxurious in the traditional sense, because it’s not supposed to be. It’s an amenity ridden, street brawler with luxurious undertones. There is a roster of first class appointments with the ST that you don’t expect to find, but instead, are there in an amazement of value.
Real carbon fiber on the ST3 package litters the cabin in places that are thoughtful, but not overdone. Auto-up (and down) windows—a feature that most luxury cars three times the price don’t come equipped with—is standard on the ST. The optional Recaro bucket seats in our test car with the ST2 package are sublime for high G-force cornering. Ford’s Sync 3 is finally something that works as expected.
Like a scallop wrapped in bacon, you’re getting the salty with the sweet; the oil and vinegar; the sedate and the satanic.
The Focus ST won’t slot in with everyone’s lifestyle, but that’s the beauty of it. You’ll finder bolsters that don’t appease the well fed, and stiff front and rear independent suspension that makes you clearly understand what’s beneath you. However, you’ll find Torque Vectoring Control front-wheel drive that follows your beck and call and makes the ST claw and fight its way around corners; defeating the laws of physics in some cases, but not all. The rear will rotate to follow, but power can overwhelm. You learn to be judicious with throttle, sometimes requiring the finesse of a funambulist to extract the correct amount of power to grip ratio.
the ST lies in a platform that truly begs to be driven hard—follow the road at your will and do as you please because this Focus is a sadist in its ability to take abuse and ask for more. And though our test car was fully optioned out at a still reasonable $31k, the base model starts below $25k for a sports car that will surprise most everyone who steps foot inside; and whoever challenges you at the stoplight. Ford Focus ST
Photography and Story By Michael Crenshaw
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