Let me begin by saying the Ford Focus ST is an astonishingly fun and entertaining vehicle. This front-wheel-drive turbo hatchback offers respectable fuel economy (32MPG HWY), accommodates 4-to-5 grownups and will hold its own against its German (Volkswagen GTi) and Japanese (Mazda Speed3) rivals.
Having said that, this post intends to highlight a handful of flaws I found with the car after 200 miles of seat time. This is a hypercritical assessment and not a comprehensive review. Consider it a first impression of displeasures.
Bottom line – I love the ST and I think most other people will too.
The Focus ST is equipped with Recaro sport seats. These seats are designed to minimize driver movement during cornering through the use of
destructive aggressive bolstering.
The seat bolstering is tolerably firm, yet the absence of lumbar support pushes the needle from ‘aggressive seating’ to ‘hostile body trap.’ After 100 miles of highway driving your joy and astonishment of how ‘sporty’ the seat feels will quickly turn to mild aches and constant arching.
These seats also present larger people with a tough choice: which cheek gets the seat’s bottom and which gets the seat’s edge. Measured from side to side, the butt-cradle comes in at 11.5-inches. If your bottom is wider than that, expect to spend your time sitting ON the seat rather than IN the seat.
The seats in this ST2 packaged car (partial leather with Tangerine Scream orange inserts) offer three adjustments: forward/backward, up/down and recline.
Having spent 200 miles confined in the unyielding orange-arrayed thrones, I love them. Even as their mistreated captive I still love them. Then again my adoration might be classic Stockholm syndrome.
While the seats aren’t comfortable, their track-inspired poise and womb-like sense of security still make for a pleasing driving experience, especially when being pushed hard.
So if you’re a lesser-sized person without any preexisting back injuries – you’ll really enjoy the ST’s seats.
While on the topic of seats, let’s talk shifting and seat position. The ST is only offered in a manual transmission (Hooray! SaveTheManuals). While the shifter itself is good – medium throws, mechanical gates, nothing sloppy – the placement seems ‘off.’
After positioning my seat (wrists-over-steering-wheel), my right arm persistently hits the bolster of the seats when changing gears. Instead of shifting straight back, I’m forced to shift with my elbow tucked close to my side. It feels like I’m changing gears with my arm in a sling.
For Ford, moving the shifter forward isn’t an option at this point, but reshaping the bolstering on the driver’s seat may be a better route.
I’ve beat this horse into glue, but I’ll say it again – headlamps, specifically advanced headlamps, are a safety item and should not be attached to a larger premium package. These options should be a la carte on every trim available. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently highlighted the safety benefits of advanced lighting saying that its possible brightness and range of advanced headlights could result in fewer crashes.
Sensors / Cameras
The ST does not offer rear park sensors or a rear camera like its fellow Foci do. Why these aren’t available on the ST is a mystery. Ford did offer a free GoProHD camera to anyone who preordered their ST, so in a circuitous way a few owners do have a ‘camera.’
Maybe Ford thought ST owners would be too busy doing gymkhana to need reverse cameras or park sensors.
Of course cars this size can be parked without the use of cameras and sensors, but from a safety perspective why not offer them? I assume this was a cost decision and not a consumer research driven one.
The irony here is every time you shift into reverse a large yellow icon appears on the navigation screen reminding you that you do not have a camera and you should see a dealer about that. SYNC is laughing at me, over and over again.
Speaking of SYNC, let me quickly touch on Ford’s infamous infotainment system.
You’d think MyFordTouch was a candidate for public office given the amount of destructive criticism and press it has garnered. As daunting as the system may appear, I don’t have the same issues my brethren in the media seem to have with it.
I have one, and only one, issue with MyFordTouch – speed.
When I click navigation, satellite radio, climate or phone, it isn’t a suggestion. It’s a command, an order, a directive from the Driver God. I shouldn’t have to wait for the system to process my request, nor should multiple commands create lag or confusion.
I’m not sure if this is a memory or processor weakness, but hopefully future iterations will come equipped with adequate resources so that I get what I ask for, when I ask for it.
The bright metallic orange paint, the taut ride and aggressive seats are all affectionately greeted once the little car is pushed. It is in that moment the gripes and groans fade away leaving nothing but the sound of a gruffly two-liter, squawking tires and the occasional ‘whoa’, followed by a man-giggle.
The ST really is that good.