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Review of: 2016 Ford Focus 5dr HB ST
2016 Ford Focus ST: Too refined for hot hatch appellation
By G. R. Whale
Aug. 19, 2016
They call this Tangerine metallic “Scream” and it conjures Tangerine Dream vinyl LPs. Seems fitting a German electronic band comes to mind because this Focus feels born and bred in a European mold: It’s quick, fun, stable at speed, practical on a daily basis and not hugely expensive up front or ongoing.
Pros & Cons
- + Practicality
- + Efficient performance
- + Refined drive
- - Rear seat space
- - Artificial engine note
- - Tires
This generation Focus I’ve always found an appealing, sharp hatchback from its Aston-esque nose to its spear-drop taillights. There’s symmetry between the main and outboard grilles, the line supplying forward wedge runs from the headlights straight to the rear windows, echoed in the front bumper, and the unique tailpipe aperture sets it off.
In this color scheme you’ll never need that where’d-I-park app. I could manage bright orange paint or wallpaper stripes but together they’re a bit much for me—you save $1,650 skipping stripes, black wheels and day-glo hue.
Accompanying a racy flat-bottom wheel are Recaro sport seats: Weightlifters and linemen will find them confining while cyclists and oarsmen will delight in the support. Cushions are highly angled and that angle is not adjustable yet ergonomics shouldn’t be an issue.
Analog gauges frame a trip/function display, thoughtful enough to tell you if a light bulb’s out but so slow to reset the car can gain 50 km/h before you zero it or dial back traction control. A welcome instrument trio tops the dash, adding to the creases that caused irritating reflections, yet the nav screen was always crystal clear.
Switchgear and layout are simply effective, room up front plentiful. By tape or observation, rear seat legroom is the weak point in class, the shorter-outside Golf GTI feeling especially roomier in back. Ford’s consumer website lists 660 litres of cargo volume but that must be fertilizer because an Explorer hasn’t that much behind the second row and this looks Golf-size at best. It does have a proper spare tire beneath.
I’m not certain Sync 3 is three times better than the original but I see why they didn’t use 2.0: I didn’t once curse at it nor ever give up accomplishing something. My early 2016 model did not have CarPlay (due for 2017), which will disable some Sync 3 nav and AppLink controls, but Siri Eyes Free is available for texting and voice commands without CarPlay. A few more hard-key choices and icon colors might be welcome, but this is a big improvement.
Focus ST combines a flexible engine, positive shifter, solid brakes and sporting suspension in a well-balanced package as happy on the highway as on the back roads.
The turbo 2.0-litre piles on torque by 2,500 rpm and while there’s no need to rev it beyond 5,500, it does so fuss-free. You can drive the snot out of it and never miss a shift—though it hasn’t the click-click precision of an Si, and there will be some torque steer. Or, you can trundle around town beating the upshift light without complaint. It doesn’t feel 42-hp more powerful than a GTI (especially with DSG) because the Golf is lighter, and against NRC’s 10.5/7.7 L/100km estimates, I did 10.2 around town, averaged 8.9 and behaving on sea-level highways got down to 6.2.
Revised last year, the suspension is smoother yet buttoned down without being harsh or crashing over bumps, and only exhibiting occasional tire slap from sharp impacts. Steering effort is spot-on and it stays fairly flat and stable even when being pushed on undulating byways and could comfortably and quietly put away a 1,000-km day, haul your boss to lunch, or spend an afternoon hot-lapping.
I’ve two complaints. First, the artificial engine noise “enhancer” is insert derogative here, in part because it doesn’t appear directly related to revs, boost, load or throttle position. Second, all-season tires have replaced the summer performance tires of earlier versions, so outright limits are lower and they howled in protest at previous ST speeds on a road that hasn’t changed—the car is literally crying out for the sticky rubber.
ST Foci start around $28,000—with nav, carbon-fibre trim bits and so on, about $34,000. A five-door GTI with leather plus adaptive cruise, auto emergency braking and blind-spot warning not offered on ST is $36,900. Possible alternatives with all-wheel drive and/or different output include the $40,000 Golf R, $36,000 Subaru WRX Sport Tech, $33,000 Mini John Cooper Works, $29,000 Mazda3 GT, thousands-less Fiesta ST and, at a $200/hp premium, Focus RS (with a set of winter tires) for $48,000.
Focus ST is so fun to drive you’ll behave like a juvenile, it’s good on gas, and flexible enough to serve as a daily driver regardless of where your days take you. It has hot hatch capabilities but it’s the supreme sense of refinement that suggests hot hatch might be too juvenile a descriptor.