Technology gives Focus ST a hot hatch advantage
by Colum Wood
In the sport compact segment, refinement and power are considered mutually exclusive – with one exception. That exception is a car that has been around for decades, and while it hasn’t always been so refined, the modern iterations certainly are. We are, of course, speaking of the Volkswagen GTI.
In the modern era it might not have been able to hold on to the crown in terms of outright performance (thanks to the Mazdaspeed3) and now it can no longer sit pretty as the only hot hatch that treats its driver with respect.
Perhaps most surprising is that this new turbocharged 5-door challenger isn’t from Germany, or Japan, but an American automaker known for V8 engines and rear wheel drive: Ford
ECOBOOST PUTS FOCUS ON THE BOOST
And yet the Focus ST is the very first performance product to result from the brand’s new global approach to cars. Based on the Focus platform, which is sold throughout the world, the ST (Sport Technologies) is also the first performance model to use an EcoBoost engine – which until now has been branded as a down-sized fuel economy alternative.
Fuel economy is most certainly not the focus here, with 252 hp and an even more impressive 270 lb-ft of torque that comes on full at 2000 rpm. An overboost function doesn’t modify the peak output but does help the mid-range, especially in regards to flatting the torque curve. That car will easily clip a 0-60 time in the mid to low six second range and sounds pretty wild doing it.
Making noises like nothing else on the road, the Focus ST also sounds unnatural, even contrived, and for good reason. Under throttle the note you hear isn’t that of the exhaust but of the Active Sound Symposer, essentially a valve that opens to generate noise similar to what you’d get by adding an aftermarket air intake to a Honda Civic. The down side is that it masks any of the fun sounds associated with a turbocharged car.
The advantage of this system, however, is that, based on throttle input, it generates plenty of noise when you lay on the gas, but the Focus ST remains nearly silent when cruising.
Like the exhaust note, much of the rest of the Focus ST has been massaged with technology as well (living up to the T part in the badge), and the results are in some ways similar, though its hard to fault the impressive results, with power levels just shy of the Mazdaspeed3 and a sophistication to the drive that matches the GTI.