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New Ford Focus debuts with hot ST

Greyscale: Ford's facelifted Focus ST scores dark rims and a unique paint scheme called Stealth, while the 184kW/340Nm powertrain remains the same.

Fast Focus hatch first on the floor for Ford, but still no auto option in sight

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Ford logo7 Apr 2015

By TIM ROBSON

FORD'S facelifted Focus ST arrives in showrooms in early May with additional tech features and updated chassis tuning, for $38,990, plus on-roads, or $700 price less than the current model.

In an unusual move, the Blue Oval has brought the hottest version of its facelifted LZ Focus to market ahead of its cooking model companions.

Ford Australia sources the ST from Germany, while the rest of the range, comprising Trend, Sport and Titanium, is built at its Thailand factory, which will start to manufacture these variants from August this year.

The ST goes head to head with the hot hatch leader, Volkswagen’s Golf GTI, which starts at $41,990 before on-road costs. Other competitors include the Renault Megane RS265 at $43,990 and Subaru’s WRX at $38,990.

It again misses out on an automatic transmission option, despite a dual-clutch unit being available for the Europe-only Focus ST diesel.

The ST’s nose has been sculpted to mimic the look that made its debut on the smaller Fiesta ST, with narrower headlights, a redone upper hexagonal grille and rectangular fog-light surrounds. The bonnet is new, as well, to suit the new headlights.

The newly designed LED tail-lights are smaller, and there’s a full-length faux diffuser under the carry-over centrally mounted exhaust. A new dark grey exterior colour called Stealth is exclusive to the updated ST, as are the grey 18-inch alloys fitted with 235/40 R18 tyres front and rear.

The dimensions of the car remain unchanged from the previous model, at 4362mm long on a 2648mm wheelbase. It sits 1484mm high and 1823mm wide. Luggage room is rated at 316 litres. No weight figure has been published for the local car, but an American-spec manual ST weighs 1643kg.

Internally, the ST is the first local Focus to show off the new interior treatment that made its debut in Europe midway through 2014. The most marked difference is the simplification of the centre console array, with the Sync2 8.0-inch touchscreen dominating the centre of the dash. Gone is the large rotary dial, replaced by a few key buttons below the screen.

The half-leather Recaro front seats are carried over, as is the trio of ST-specific auxiliary gauges, but the flat-bottomed leather-wrapped steering wheel is new.

Chassis-wise, the ST has gone under the knife at the headquarters of Ford Team RS, the European arm of Ford’s Global Performance Vehicle Group. All four dampers have been retuned, while there are new front springs and stiffer bushes for the lower front control arms. Stiffer bushings for the rear spring mounts have also been fitted. The ST rides 14mm lower than its Titanium stablemate.

The ST’s electric steering and stability control systems have also been recalibrated. A new system called Enhanced Transitional Stability – an extension of the standard Dynamic Stability Control System – uses an array of sensors to detect an impending loss of control, and can apply the brakes at any corner of the car independently.

In fact, the ST does away with any form of mechanical limited-slip differential, using its electronic systems to reduce and control torque steer, understeer and wheelspin.

As per the previous model, an optional Technology Pack can be purchased for $2000 with the ST. The pack has been heavily revised, and includes Active City Stop (now able to operate at speeds up to 50km/h as opposed to 30km/h), blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping aid, lane-departure warning, driver impairment monitor and auto high-beam headlamps.

No changes have been made to the powertrain, which comprises the previous car’s EcoBoost 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged direct-injection petrol engine backed by a single gearbox option a six-speed manual.

Making 184kW at 5500rpm, the EcoBoost engine – an uprated version of the engine that is used in the Falcon and Mondeo – generates a peak of 360Nm of torque 2000-4500rpm via a 15-second burst of overboost. It falls to 340Nm under normal operating conditions.

It can record a 0-100km/h dash of 6.5 seconds, according to Ford of Europe.

This version of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo is set to be phased out, as an almost entirely new build of the same engine comes on stream across the Ford empire.

Fuel economy drops by 0.1 litres per 100kilometres to 7.3L/100km. It emits 174 grams of CO2 per kilometre. Fuel tank capacity remains unchanged at 62 litres, and the ST requires 95RON or better fuel. Idle-stop is including on Focus ST for the first time.

Ford Australia general marketing manager David Katic said the ST will likely appeal to buyers looking for a sprightly performance-focussed model. “We believe the combination of a freshened design along with new key technologies and an enhanced driving experience will resonate with our performance customers for this important model.” Focus sales slid almost ten per cent in 2014 to finish just north of 15,000 units for the year, while its numbers have dipped more dramatically in the first three months of 2015, with a slide of 50 percent year-on-year on the same period (1828 versus 3429).

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