Cabin Compromise - 2013 Ford Focus ST Long-Term Road Test

2013 Ford Focus ST Long-Term Road Test

2013 Ford Focus ST: Cabin Compromise

July 5, 2013

2013 Ford Focus ST

I try, and I try, and I try and I try. But I just can't get comfortable in the Focus ST. It's more than the seats. We've already hammered on that. Some of us like them, some of us don't. Most of us think they're a little one-dimensional. Great if you're hanging it out on a curvy road, but lousy for retrieving some Thai take-out.

So the seats are a part of it. But it's also the way the instrument panel rises from the depths and swells toward you with its weird waterfalling Transformers design. It's slightly claustrophobic, but everything's easy to reach. Except the touchscreen, which is angled up and away. That, combined with the menu-diving and precision tapping required for most operations, de-motivates you from, say, adjusting existing bass and treble settings while driving. What works for Sinatra works for Slayer, in other words.

I also keep trying to break the non-sliding armrest. And aside from their comfort value or lack thereof, the yellow fabric seat inserts hurt the eyes. Even the steering wheel feels a little like twisting a caved-in speaker dome, but the rim is the right diameter and the two bottom spokes are nice, if unintentional, thumb rests.

I dwell on this only because I don't remember other cars within the ST's field of play that ask this much compromise in seating comfort. The Mazda3/Speed 3, as I recall, struck a good balance on its performance/utility axis. The Scion FR-S, while a little low-slung and with seats bolstered almost as aggressively as the ST's, offers a warmer welcome when sliding in behind the wheel.

And the BMW M3, well, the M3 excels at the serpentine and suburban in equal measure. Now, the ST is no M3. But it aspires to be the Everyman's M3. And from a dynamic angle, there's no disagreement. The ST is bonkers attitude, a front-driver that has no business oversteering in corners, yet oversteer and tail-slide it will do.

That alone might be worth dealing with the seats and cabin compression. But sometimes you just want an uneventful drive for some basil noodles.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor @ 14,300 miles


  • gloss gloss Posts:

    The ST's interior design was absolutely my biggest problem with the car, and the reason I probably won't end up getting one. I'm hoping that the Fiesta ST's interior is a little more accommodating.

  • zcalvert zcalvert Posts:

    This is one of the reasons the GTI has been successful for so long - it gets the basics right first and then moves on to the other stuff.

  • nedmundo nedmundo Posts:

    I've taken two test drives in the ST, and the interior was the biggest issue for me as well. I think I'd get used to the seats, but I was put off by the claustrophobic feel created by the looming, ill-shaped dash. I agree the FR-S provides a more natural fit. Even so, if my TSX disappeared tomorrow and I had to buy a new car, it would probably be a Focus ST. Apart from the interior's shortcomings, I loved it.

  • bc1960 bc1960 Posts:

    "the yellow fabric seat inserts hurt the eyes" Apparently people like you are why people like me now have to drive cars where every trace of color has been eliminated from the interior (some manufacturers are working hard on the exteriors as well). I probably wouldn't pick this shade, but you can also have grey even with the Tangerine Scream exterior, or black if you get the all-leather Recaros (or don't get the Recaros at all), or blue with some other exterior colors. Which is a lot more choice than you find in a lot of cars today.

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    Personally I would just as soon you pay attention to the road rather than the bass/trebel levels anyway.

  • cotak cotak Posts:

    The show car they had at the Toronto auto show had some serious interior fit and finish issue as well. 1) Left twitter speaker had a 2 mm gap between it and the door panel, right speaker no gap 2) Interior door handle fit and finish was bad. You can squeeze it lightly and feel the plastic move. And I am not a big person at 5' 6 and I find the seats not comfortable. And I agree with the comments about the general design. It's trying hard to be modern but comes across as plasticky in a targeted at teens sort of way. Overall the interior design and fit and finish it's not the strongest suit in the car I saw. Then again it was quite close to the BMW booth so maybe we were just a bit spoiled after sitting in BMWs and Minis.

  • bassrockerx bassrockerx Posts:

    the visabillity is what keeps me away from the focus especially the hatchback. it just has too many blind spots and even the entry level focus made me claustrophobic for this reason alone. also for being a hatchback it does not seem to have that much space for cargo if it were my cash i would be looking at a mustang/challenger/camaro similer mpgs and similer performance and you don't give up that much utility

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    Dan, when I went from a Volvo S60 to a Jag I had to completely change my driving position to get comfortable especially the seat height for some reason. Now I have it fixed I am nearly as comfortable for long periods as I was in the Volvo, but then Volvo seats are the best. As for the ST interior, Jeremy Clarkson said it was nasty on UK Top Gear, and he is usually a big fan of Fords. I had a ride in a rented Fiesta and it also seemed to have a high dash and console to cocoon the front occupants. I guess when cocooning becomes claustrophobic is down to the individual. @bassrockerx Visibility is an issue in all new cars. You can thank ever more demanding safety standards for that.

  • socal_eric socal_eric Posts:

    The Focus is still an economy car in North America and while not perfect, if you compare it to others in the segment and then look back at the previous generation and other econo cars of just five to ten years ago it really isn’t too bad quality and material wise. The seats can be an issue for some but there’s always the ST1 model without the Recaro seats if you otherwise like the driving dynamics. The interior seems a little cramped but it’s not terrible on actual usable space and has some nice storage bins and features, even if the design looks busy and masks that this generation of the Focus grew quite a bit. The exterior styling of the ST isn’t my favorite thing about the car and neither is the newer Focus interior, but I recall a decade ago when we first got the Focus comments on the odd shapes and “sagging booby” dash and those cars ended up aging reasonably well. This Focus interior might be polarizing but at least has a little style and it isn’t a cookie cutter interior although there’s always room for improvements.

  • sb_aldrich sb_aldrich Posts:

    I didn't like the Recaro seats either, nor the touchscreen -- so I just got the standard ST without them....

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