Came in looking for Chris Harris, leaves disappointed.
En route home from running an errand, I noticed our local Ford dealer had a white Focus ST sitting front of lot. An impulse prompted me to pull in and take a look at it.
This car was a 201B package, which meant it had the Recaros, moonroof, and MyFord Touch. One reason I'm interested is that I own a 2012 GTI, the car the ST has been frequently benchmarked against.
I'll talk about the good stuff first:
Engine: Everything that's been written so far is true. It's great. Sounds good, very flexible, pulls HARD. If it has rev hang, it's minimal compared to the GTI (one of my biggest pet peeves about the TSI motor). It's a sweetheart.
Transmission/Clutch: Clutch is definitely heavier than the GTI, and engages very near the floor--took a sec to learn that. Transmission feels more like a rod linkage--again, heavier than the GTI but much less slop. I really liked it. Not a huge fan of the shift knob though.
Steering/Handling/Ride: Ride is a bit firmer but more controlled than my GTI; by contrast the GTI doesn't feel as well damped. Steering is fantastic; it turns in quickly and eagerly. I'd love to attack a back road with it. The steering does go a bit stiff under hard acceleration; you can feel something attempting to quell torque steer and it does put the steering off. Handling feels very composed, and the one cloverleaf I was able to throw it into you could feel the rear end come out just a bit under lift-off. I could see this car making unexpecting drivers have an moment if they throw it into a similar corner, lift off expecting nothing but understeer, and have it do quite the opposite. Kudos to Ford chassis engineers for pulling that off.
Exterior: Not as subdued as the GTI, but nicely done overall. The center exhaust finisher is an interesting touch. Big bummer for me that you have to pony up for the top spec car to get HID's. That, and one other major issue (which I'll get to in a second) are likely deal-killers for me.
Interior: The cloth Recaros are very firm and have big bolsters. You'll either love them or you won't depending on how big you are. These are manual adjust, and you're best off adjusting the seatback angle before you put on your seatbelt--thereafter the lever is lost behind the lap belt, which is annoying.
Instrument cluster isn't bad, although the design and gauge font is a bit too form over function for me. Color MFD in the center is a nice touch, but at least in the 201B package car it doesn't tell you enough--no real trip computer or redundant radio display (at least that I could figure out)? Why, Ford?
The center console seems way too big for the size of the car; not sure why it has to be so large, honestly. It's big enough that my right calf was pressed up against it. I think that'd annoy me in the long run. The steering wheel isn't bad, but it's not as thick/grippy as the one in my GTI. The leather also has a weird finish to it. It's ok overall.
MyFord Touch--ah. Well, V2.0 is definitely better--quicker and a bit more user-friendly. I still didn't find it hugely intuitive, and it was occasionally laggy when switching functions. I was also surprised given this car was equipped with Sync that the Bluetooth audio support didn't give me more control over my Windows Phone device. I know a USB connection would, but it was exactly the same as that in my GTI. Stereo wasn't bad, but given it had the additional subwoofer in the hatch I wasn't as impressed as I thought I might be.
Now, to the deal-breaker: Rear seat room. The Recaros are BIG, and kill knee/leg room in the rear. I'm 5'11" with a 30" inseam (read: mostly torso) so I didn't have the seat all the way back--far from it. And my knees were jammed into the front seatback. The sales guy was bigger than me, and had the passenger seat farther back/more reclined; there was literally about 4" of room between the front seatback and the front of the rear seat bottom cushion. The GTI totally blows it away in this regard.
Overall, it's a GREAT drive. Real shame about the backseat space, as that'll keep me in my GTI.
By comparison, the GTI's shifter is crap, the steering isn't as good, the suspension isn't as well damped, and the engine isn't quite as good--it's a bit peakier when it comes on boost and it has the annoying TSI flat spot off idle. But it does pull very well--I did the same route in my car after driving the Focus and was surprised at how quick it felt (it's not chipped, but does have an exhaust). Overall, I like the interior of the GTI better.
Funny sidenote: We returned from the testdrive and I parked the ST next to my GTI. There were 3 sales guys standing around my GTI...apparently I inadvertently parked in an area where new/used cars are brought back from detail. I'd cleaned it up a bit yesterday, so I guess they thought it was going on their used lot. One of the guys says, "Why would someone trade this in so quickly?" Heh.
Last edited by Numbersix; 09-30-2012 at 06:17 PM.
And when I rev-match downshifted into the cloverleaf, he said, "I can tell you're someone who really enjoys driving--which makes the best test drives. Feel free to throw it into this curve..."
I can't wait until one of these and an AWD Fusion is at the local dealer.
Thanks for the write-up. I've been pondering test driving one, but haven't made up my mind if I like the car enough to even do so. Something about the design and color choices is bugging me (tangerine scream = tacky, the silver is blah, red, black, and white might be OK).
I would definitely have to get it with the full Recaros and HID package (which look quite nice), which rings at about $29k I believe, still cheaper than a similarly equipped Autobahn at that point. But I think given the choice, I'd still take the Autobahn.
Ford should have tried to make this classier, instead we got something SRT-4 buyers will likely flock too.
And, honestly, it's a better driver than anything else I can think of. Including my GTI in most respects that matter.
It loses the practicality contest, though. And that's where things end for me, unfortunately. I still can't figure out how Ford screwed up the interior packaging so badly. It's 5.8 inches longer than the GTI. Where did all the room go?
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My local dealer had a red base. I had thought about ordering a white base before buying my WRX in May. It was an ordered car, so no test drive. The sales guys were all bragging about spinning the tires through second gear. I bragged about how mine couldn't. Great looking car though.
Glad to see you had fun, I liked the car a lot and would certainly take a good hard look at it for a more docile DD. However, after driving a FWD hot hatch equipped with an LSD, I can't say I'd like dealing with an e-diff. At the end of the day, when comparing to my ms3, I find myself jealous of the Recaro seats, and not too much else.
Rear legroom is short for the Focus compared to the class currently, though would've been class-leading a decade ago. It's not due to the Recaros, all the OEM seats are the same way. It has much more rear-seats-up cargo capacity than the Golf, that's where the extra length went. The dash is not more intrusive than normal, the A-pillars are very far forward.
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The cargo area is definitely deeper, but due to the extreme slope of the hatch I'm not sure that the space is as usable with the rear seats up.
I also nearly hit my head getting into the rear seat due to the curvature of the door opening.
When I did this with the Mazdaspeed3 and my MK3 GTI, I ended up buying one less than a month later.
My legend dates back to the 12th Century you see. My legend is quite old. The 12th Century was a long time ago. It was summer and so cold from the snow because it was actually winter or maybe it was Monday. It could have been a Thursday or possibly a Saturday or was it Tuesday though it could have been Wednesday or a Monday.
I am really disappointed to hear about the back seat room in the Focus. That said, I don't really use my back seat, but the room back there is a huge plus for the GTI since it makes the car very usable.
I also agree that the shifter in the GTI sucks. The SHO has a very mechanical feeling linkage, one I wish the GTI emulated (if not the stiff shift action and general balky demenor of the SHO's box).
I also wish the GTI were maybe 15 - 20% more playful. As it is, its a little too buttoned down for my tastes, which I suppose is why it is so easy to live with day to day.
GReat review. I will have to go check one out.
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