The Ford Focus ST Is a Sports Car by Default
When fun cars are in short supply, terminology changes.
The Ford Focus is a global vehicle that has seen sales fall over the course of its four-year lifecycle. Now seems like an appropriate time to look back on the ST model. Last year, I spent three or so weeks driving the RS model, doing video and testing.
The conclusion was extremely mixed. From a performance perspective, The Focus ST set a new standard for turning Eco cars into overachievers. However, at the end of the day, it was still the same Focus underneath, and at no time did the performance transcend the C segment feel. Worse yet when we sprinkled the $45,000 price tag on top (including dealer mark up) it was almost insulting.
The ST was the first performance version of this generation and with FWD, high HP and TQ on paper it was a recipe for disaster. In retrospect we now know the ST has become a fan favorite mostly because it often behaves similar to RWD in many conditions. A reader and viewer Tom contacted me to do a drive and review of his stock ST to see if the value proposition still made sense.
After about 15 minutes behind the wheel doing a few street starts, aggressive driving and hitting the twisty roads my immediate reaction was that Ford had figured out how to emulate sports car feel. The almost laughably fast steering response will have most drivers turning in way early. With TCS/Stability off the vehicle's throttle response and willingness to break the tires loose translated into a smile. This car was almost exclusively about messy fun. It torque steers, wheel hops and surges, all of the worst things about FWD, except in this car it is fun and part of the overall charm of the ST.
The vehicle rotates without understeer and when the motor is wound up in a corner, lift the throttle and watch the Focus start to oversteer. While the overall interior and exterior quirks drag down the entire experience the price of this car made up for all of it, the owner bought the car new at under invoice. ($19,995). Given the current market of affordable fun sporty cars, this is one of the last of its kind. Yes we have vehicles like the GTI, Toyota 86 and Mazda MX-5 however, none of those capture the spirit of edginess that the ST does. And with that in mind by default this may get labeled a sports car.
The truth is in the fine print and the ST is still an eco car. Ford produced a car equipped with a tiny intercooler, brake fade problems, known issues with transmission longevity and carbon build up from the DI system. If a buyer works within the confines and drives the ST within the limits of reason as a fun practical sporty street car, the joy cannot be matched easily.