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Ford Focus ST

Ford Focus ST-2: end of term

The evo car park has become a darker place since Andy Morgan’s DayGlo Focus ST left us...

Ford Focus ST
I've never liked goodbyes, and saying goodbye to our ST long-termer was no exception. We’d come a long way together, spent many hours in each other’s company. We’d become good mates.
 
Switching from the original Continental SportContact 2s to a set of Dunlop Sport Maxxes saw a reduction in road noise and an improvement in grip in both wet and dry conditions

Our friendship started a year ago. At first I was a little worried about the Electric Orange paintwork and orange-trimmed seats, but I soon came to rather like the boldness of it all. Finding it in a car park was no trouble at all, and the general consensus was that the colour worked. In fact, the only people who mocked its brightness were the sort of people who wear badly cut jeans pulled up to their armpits whilst desperately trying to cover up their ageing gut with a moth-eaten blazer.

These types would no doubt look back fondly to the heyday of the ST’s long-lost cousin, the RS500 Sierra Cosworth, and it’s amusing to note that the front-wheel-drive Focus has an almost identical power output to that revered rear-drive homologation special of 20 years ago. Not surprisingly, the 222bhp produced by the ST’s smooth, turbocharged five-cylinder felt more than adequate. However, I couldn’t help thinking the chassis could handle even more. Although the engine would tear through the revs fast enough to propel the ST from 0-60 in 6.7sec, it always felt like the engineers from the Blue Oval had wound the engine back a bit to guarantee its longevity. The fact that a number of STs have already been tuned up to as much as 300bhp means that the power is there, should you want it.

EO06 GDE needed two services during its year with us, both of which were carried out by Marshall of Cambridge, and I was really impressed with the customer service I received. On both occasions the car was treated to a full valet, while I was given a detailed report on what had been done and what would need to be replaced before the next service. I also received a courtesy call a couple of days after each service to check that everything had gone OK.

Perhaps other Ford dealers could learn a thing or two from Marshall, as there are quite a few people on the Focus ST Owners Club forum who are far less happy with the way their dealerships have treated them. (I found www.focusstoc.com to be a great source of ST information, incidentally, and refreshingly level-headed for a one-make forum.)

No relationship is without its niggles, of course, and the ST had a couple. The first was the way it drained its fuel tank all too quickly, averaging less than 25mpg over the year. The second was tyre wear – I managed 12,000 miles on a set if I was lucky. Worryingly, reports from other owners suggest that this was actually pretty good going…

Switching from the original Continental SportContact 2s to a set of Dunlop Sport Maxxes saw a reduction in road noise and an improvement in grip in both wet and dry conditions. On our Bedford Autodrome test track they definitely helped with cancelling out some of the understeer, too.

The ST was great fun on track, in fact. The brakes lasted well, and with the traction control off it was possible to get some big, smile-inducing lift-off oversteer moments. The only down side was the way that it felt like most of its portly 1392kg was over the front wheels. Curiously, when we put our ST on the scales for the hot hatch group test in issue 102 we discovered that it was, in fact, less front-biased than its rivals. Unfortunately we also found that the car’s actual weight was 1465kg (rather more than Ford’s claim). It’s easy to see where some of that weight could have been saved: the huge Recaro seats must add a fair few kilos, as must the thick carpets, the generous soundproofing, the thick doors and their heavy seals. However, living with the ST in the long-term these are things you probably wouldn’t want to throw overboard. The Recaros, for example, while set a little high, were the most comfortable sports seats I have had the pleasure of sitting in. After breaking a couple of ribs while shooting Car of the Year I was pleased that it was these seats I was being driven home in and not some of the more expensive but less comfortable ones in the convoy.

The satnav/telephone/audio system was another highlight of the interior. The satnav (a £2000 option) only let me down once, and that turned out to be due to a user error. The hands-free Bluetooth connection (£250) was the perfect answer to the new phone laws and was also clear enough that people didn’t think I was calling from the inside of a lawnmower grass collector. Meanwhile the sound system was sufficiently loud that I never quite had the stomach to see just how deafening it could be. But with an engine that sounded so good, in a car that gave so many grins, it was generally a case of stereo off, phone off and satnav set to back-roads only.

And then my head was turned: I saw some photos of an ST at last year’s Paris motor show. The show car had a front splitter, side skirts and a tail diffuser, making it look a bit like the original Focus ST concept. After a few calls to the Ford press office I managed to arrange for our car to receive the same treatment. However, also fitted to the Paris car – and therefore also being added to mine – were some bigger wheels. Now, I know that bigger doesn’t always mean better, and that going up from 18in wheels to a set of 20s is probably not the best thing I could have done, but I still did it. There’s no denying that the body kit made the ST look even better, but as for those wheels…

To start with, as could be expected, the ride was made awful to the point that I’m surprised I have any fillings left. On top of this, the road noise was unbelievable and the handling tragic. It was like I’d spent months dating a supermodel with a doctorate in nuclear physics and the heirship to a small country full of oil, only for her to go and have a sex- change. I can now understand why you see lads with over-wheeled cars cruising around town so slowly – it’s the only way they can travel comfortably. Given the chance again I would still go for the body kit, but I would definitely keep the original wheels. As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke…

To add to the misery, on the ST’s last outing – acting as chase car for this month’s Lamborghini group test – one of the larger-than-life wheels was damaged when the ultra-low-profile rubber wrapped around it failed to completely absorb the shock from a protruding cats-eye, resulting in a rather nasty ding in the rim. Damn!

Wheels aside, I was sad to see the Focus return to its real owners. Well built, fun and ever reliable, there’s little doubt that the ST is a great car to live with. Whatever I end up driving next will have a tough act to follow – and almost certainly won’t be as easy to spot in a busy car park.

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evo Statistics

 
Date acquired: June 2006
Total mileage: 2,835
Duration of test: 12 months
Average consumption: 24.5mpg
Servicing costs: £305.52 (two services)
Extra costs: ΂£2863 (body kit, wheels and tyres)
Price new: ΂£22,167 ΢ ΂£18,022 basic, plus ΢ST2΢ trim (xenons, ESP, heated screen ΢ ΂£1000), Electric Orange paint (΂£695), Bluetooth (΂£250), satnav (΂£2000), park assist (΂£200)
Depreciation: ΂£7567

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