Who says track-style power and driving pleasure has to first crash through the bank? DriveME brings you two great options back to back, that respects your need for speed as they do your hard-earned dirhams!
If you want to enjoy track style driving without having to tie your family to a stump, of course you have the GTI and even the Hyundai Genesis Coupe – cars that comfortably accommodate five. But then, if you’ve ever dreamt of mounting Recaro seats and spitting fire from a dual barrel rear end on tailgaters who expect a meek family carrier, you don’t have many choices left other than the Ford Focus ST or the Opel OPC line models.
247 hp and 346 Newton-metre of torque coming from the 2.0 litre ecoboost engine of the ST is something that even a GTI cannot ignore; especially when it is fitted with a stick shift.
UPSIDE: Powerful, track-style handling; Doubles up as family hatch; Solid build quality; Best-buy value
DOWNSIDE: Bumpy at low speeds; Too sporty for some; Cabin functions could be friendlier
Specs: 2.0 L Ecoboost GTDI, 247 hp, 346 Nm, 6-speed manual, Front wheel drive, 18” alloy wheels, 4361 mm long, 2649 mm wheel base, 1462 kg curb weight, 0-100 in 6.6 sec, Fuel economy 8 km/L
The Price: AED 99,000 now with a 5 year service contract and one year insurance
This is a car meant to be driven at high speeds. How else do you explain the bumpiness you experience when it slows down? The Ford Focus ST loves to feel the road and tell you all about it. More than what you probably want to know. So, the way to get around is to not let it linger too long at every square inch of tarmac.
The claws of the Ford Focus ST are sharper than the sharpest corners. The faint body roll there is, you can only ‘hear’ it, from the delighted screams from the rear, because your Recaro seat holds you so nice and tight that you are hardly aware of it.
The sculpted rear lamps and the menacing dual exhaust at the rear state how sporty the ST is, to those on your trail. The warble that climbs with the tacho to a snarl, made me look twice in the rear view mirror for the Ferrari or the Corvette that I thought was following me!
With so much of power generously supplied to the front wheels of the Ford Focus ST, a torque strain on the steering upon straight take-off or profligate acceleration is perfectly understandable. That is depite having steering and suspension settings that mostly counter it! As long as it didn’t take me crashing through the rails, I was fine with it.
Talking about curves, the Focus ST has a tendency to dive nose first into corners but it only takes a bit of familiarity with the over-sensitive steering to manoeuvre this car exactly where you want to go. The thick rimmed leather steering establishes an immediate connection with the driver in terms of grip and feedback.
The 0-100 in the Focus ST came up effortlessly in 6.6 seconds thanks to any lack of hesitation in the lower gears. The turbo charged drivetrain of the Focus ST resolves the issue I used to have with the GTI, which would wait around a bit before actually blasting off on its course.
It is too much to expect a 2.0L ecoboost engine with a six speed manual transmission to provide all the performance you need in higher gears. In fact, the power flattened out on overdrive, just when I wanted to zip past a cruising Corvette. But that’s where you shake off your last memory of a niminy-piminy automatic tranny, and use your hand instead of your foot to spin some extra power.
The six-speed box in the Ford Focus ST sympathises with your rusting manual skills. Even with race-like power, the Focus ST saves you the embarrassment of jerking or crashing into a lower gear, making for sharper acceleration and surer braking, showing just a slight tendency to slip from the straight.
Convert the slip into an asset, and an instant feeling of thrill hits you with the power tugging sideways yet the car keeping straight. The fun plays out even with the electronic stability control on, but hey, what’s that switch for after all!
With a mixed driving style during the test, I managed to clock 13 L per 100 kms, which is close to 8 kms per litre. Great for a track car; not bad for an urban hatch!
The Focus ST is ready to take the reins of showjumping from the Volkswagen GTI, beating the Opel OPC line to it. It has a well designed cabin with a mix of fabric and leather, and the Recaro aura. The seats have enough adjustments, though few, to keep you covered from the G-force tugging at you from the sides.
The visibility in the Focus ST is excellent. Whether you are on track or road, the windscreens and the side windows of the hatch is so well designed that they map the entire surrounding.
Cabin and Controls
It’s not hard to appreciate ‘premium’ that is yours for less than 100K. The Focus ST cabin does it with a good mix of leather and rubber, and the glossy hard plastic that houses the controls – especially with its dominating theme of black and red. Every function has a separate button, and they are too numerous to get used to. There is a central dial with corner controls that isn’t much in terms of utility, but the Bluetooth offers easy connectivity.
There isn’t a lot to display on the four-and-a-half inch screen because the ST doesn’t come with navigation or a rear view camera, though it has a park pilot with sensors. What the sporty cabin does have is a Sony 9-speaker sound system that entertains you apart from its aggressively tuned engine sound.
The ST gets an exclusive race supportive gauge cluster on the dash. Gear shift prompts flash on the panel in front of you. The shifts are quick before the ST settles down to a smooth and quiet ride, while the six-speed is so seamless that I could easily remain on overdrive at speeds as low as 70 kmph.
I did mention how you could scare away chasers with the vociferous ‘motorolling’ but in contrast, the Focus ST sticks to “no shouting when the family is around” manners, keeping it low till around 3,300 rpms. The cabin itself keeps out the road and wind noise for the most part.
Focus is a family car and it’s no different with the ST, except when it gets too bumpy during low gear driving. It is not something to brood over if you want to balance track trips with the school run. The boot space is surprisingly large and unlike any other hatch, the removable felt counter extended quite a long way, giving me the feeling I was in a Station Wagon.
The Essential Ford Focus ST
To whoever complains that there is no automatic option available in the Ford ST –well, why would do you even wish to let go of the command?
It looks as aggressive as the WRX, perhaps a shade more thrilling than the GTI and way more affordable than both. And if that weren’t enough, you won’t have half the office pestering you for a drive, because this manual drive takes some spunk to handle.
Drive Courtesy: Al Tayer Motors
Pictures: Sudeep Koshy