2013 Ford Focus ST: Cabin Compromise
July 5, 2013
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