Screaming Tangerine | Ford Focus ST

BY Joel Tam

Having owned the previous ST (2.5) before, I couldn't wait to get my hands on the new ST. Despite being a very different machine, Ford has indeed brought back the magic!

Photos: Low Fai Ming

The previous generation Focus ST 2.5 was one of the best cars I've ever owned. Fast, solidly-built, chuckable and oh-so-sweet to listen to. The five-pot's soundtrack was so creamy that it made you want to keep revving the car.

So naturally, the first thing I took notice of on the new Focus ST was the sound it made. While it is not as rumbly, it does retain the same raucous soundtrack as its five-cylinder predecessor. This made the already impressive car even more fun to drive.

I must admit though that I took sometime to warm up to the car. Getting into a huggy Recaros for one, was a bit of a squeeze, and I'm not, er… horizontally challenged. I never had this problem with the old car, and I remember it being a lot roomier up front. But let's not jump the gun and focus (sorry, had to do it) on the new car.

Visually, the new ST is mean and aggressive from all angles. It looks clearly fiercer than a standard Focus and the bodykit with gaping vents speak only of speed! You won’t mistake this for anything else this is the baddest Focus yet. It's racy enough, especially in our test car's Tangerine Scream colour (shouldn't it have been Screaming Tangerine? Y'know, S.T., Screaming … never mind). The standard 18-inch wheels have been updated from the previous generation design. While similar in style, the edges are now sharper and taper off at the end. Overall, it looks as fast as it goes - that's good.

Back to the interior, there are two ways to look at it, some will find the new cabin messy and complicated. I think it's a huge improvement from the previous Focus, both in terms of design and build-quality. But the chunky console and large Recaro bucket seats do take up more space, and this is no good for those in the front. But once you're snug in the seats, everything starts to get better. Visibility is good, the instrumentation and switches are within reach - except for the power button, which is a bit hidden from view (according to my height at least). The set of three gauges – oil temperature, boost pressure, and oil pressure – are back, and sit atop the dashboard.

So how does it drive? There's no doubt that hot hatches are our favorite kind of cars. We've sampled the two closest competitors to the Focus ST, the Volkswagen GTi and the Renault Megane RS, and each of them have their distinct strengths. One thing is for sure, the ST and RS both have hilarious amounts of grip. The Goodyear Asymmetric 2 tyres work hard to keep the car planted on the ground, but do protest when they are pushed hard. The ST is fast, make no bones about that. So fast that even with the traction control on, you'll be spinning the wheels in 1st and 2nd gear off the lights. It picks up speed phenomenally quick, all 250 horses (and 345Nm) come alive when you crack the whip, I personally think that the 0-100 km/h timing of 6.5 seconds is a bit conservative.

Working through the slick 6-speed gearbox is a cinch. The short-throw gear lever is a joy to use with a precise magnetize movement in and out the slots. Steering weight is on the heavy side - which I like. But the ST does feel less direct that the RS, or even the GTi. It's by no means vague, but I did wish it gave me a tad more feedback. Once you're used to it though, it's great. Handling the car around the corners is when you start to feel the car come alive, and you'll feel at ease piloting it too, as the chassis offers a superb balance between traction and comfort, like the GTi, this is a hot hatch you can drive everyday.

The ST is a highly effective weapon of mass performance. All that accessible power from its 2.0-litre turbo engine, steering and brakes that are perfectly weighted, and one of the best front-wheel-drive chassis that we've driven.

Throw in a well-specced car and that supercar exhaust tip, we have a winner. I still miss the five-pot warble though, but replicating that was always going to be tough. That said, Ford has created the best-sounding 2.0-litre turbo on sale, and one that is a hoot to drive!