THE PROS & CONS
What’s Best: There’s real bang for the buck with this car.
What’s Worst: The suspension could be softened up a bit for everyday driving.
What’s Interesting: Ford engineers get 252 hp and 270 lb/ft of torque out of this small 2.0-litre engine.
“What is that?” asked a neighbour, with a smile that stretched from ear to ear as he watched me gingerly drive the hatchback over the lip of pavement at the edge of the driveway.
The twin black racing stripes, brilliant red paint job, snazzy alloy wheels and beautiful exhaust melody were the obvious indications that this is no ordinary Ford Focus.
I explained to my friend that it was the 252 hp Focus ST, the high-performance version of Ford’s global compact best seller.
“Well, we’ll have to have a drive in this baby,” he replied, cheekily plopping himself down in the passenger seat.
At that point he quickly discovered another reason this isn’t your ordinary Focus as he tried to get comfortable in the deep, highly bolstered Recaro racing seat.
Those of us with a more, shall we say, developed rear end may have a bit of a problem fitting into the narrow seats, but once there, the struggle is well worth the effort in my opinion.
A few weeks before, I had driven another Focus model that was as different from this one as night and day.
At that time I was testing a Focus SE with Ford’s 123 hp, three-cylinder turbocharged 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine, which is new to the Focus but had been introduced to North American in 2014 in the subcompact Fiesta.
This time around it’s the ST with its direct injection 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, mated with a slick six-speed manual transmission.
It’s part of a high-performance, one-two punch for Ford, which also offers a similar ST version in its Fiesta model.
The Focus has been the best selling nameplate in the world for three years running, in part because it offers something for everyone depending upon whether fuel-efficiency, performance or luxury is top of mind.
For 2015, all Focus models including the ST have a bolder exterior look along with interior refinements and the availability of more advanced technology.
Outside, the 2015 Ford Focus ST has a sportier, more aggressive style than the previous generation with a lower, wider stance, new sculpted hood, slimmer headlamps and rectangular fog lamps.
The ST sports a body kit with body coloured side skirts and diffuser elements on either side of the twin-hexagonal centre pipes and a rear spoiler designed to optimize performance.
All these refinements are designed to keep the 2015 Ford Focus ST as one of the hottest hatchbacks on the market.
Ford introduced the ST in 2002 and since then, more than 140,000 of them have been sold in more than 40 countries. Despite this success, the ST has only been offered in Canada for the past couple of years.
A key change for 2015 Ford Focus ST is updated tuning that results in a stiffer suspension for increased handling refinement and improved steering feel.
There’s a tradeoff here with the new stiffer front springs and sportier shock absorbers, though, as you feel every bump and imperfection in the pavement— acceptable on some roads, but excuse the pun, a pain in the butt on others.
But oh, this is a fun car for the performance enthusiast with its precise steering, robust acceleration and road-holding ability.
There’s a bit of torque-steer to contend with, but that’s to be expected in any high-powered, front-wheel drive compact.
If you love to drive, you’ll relish the thought of taking the ST up and down through the gears.
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And unlike some other performance-oriented hatches, the ST isn’t a ‘Plain Jane’
inside. It’s nicely outfitted with what Ford describes as a “beautifully crafted cockpit-like interior” with features like ergonomic controls, Recaro seats and a perfectly-proportioned flat-bottom sport steering wheel.
The cabin is cleaner and more modern with greater use of satin chrome detailing. The centre console now features double cup holders and the glove box is easier to access.
A rear view camera is standard across the board in the Focus lineup, appearing either with a 4.2-inch screen or an eight-incher that comes with MyFord Touch, which was included in the $1,250 Technology Package on our tester. The package also included a 10-speaker sound system, Dual zone electric air temperature control and Sirius satellite radio.
Other options included navigation system ($800) and 18-inch premium painted wheels ($600), and black exterior racing stripes ($500).
The $3,250 in options brought the as-tested price to $34,814 including $1,565 in destination and delivery charges.
If a hot hatch appeals to you, Ford has its bases covered with both the Focus ST and its smaller sibling, the Fiesta ST.
For a manufacturer that at one time was known mainly for its F-150 pickup trucks, the Focus ST is helping bring excitement back into Ford’s car lineup.
2015 Ford Focus ST at a glance
BODY STYLE: Five-passenger compact high-performance hatchback.
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, front-wheel drive.
ENGINE: turbocharged 2.0-litre EcoBoost direct injection four-cylinder engine (252 hp, 277 lb/ft of torque) with a six-speed manual transmission.
CARGO CAPACITY: 672 litres behind second row, 1,267 litres behind front-row seat.
FUEL ECONOMY: 10.2 L/7.3/8.9 L/100 km city/highway/combined.
PRICE: $30,349, as tested $33,249 plus $1,565 delivery.