Brand new car. No initial purchase issues and not driven long enough to have reliability or service issues. This is more a first impression that a long term ownership review.
The Focus ST is a niche car. It is aimed (noticed how I didn't say focused ;-) ) at someone who wants a fun and exciting car that is also practical and affordable. I don't believe everything I read, especially in advertising, but this car delivers. I am surprised at how well it delivers. The acceleration is quick, the steering is quick, and the braking is quick. There are 5 other cars and a pickup in my driveway, but there is only one car you would chose if you said to yourself "I just feel like going out for a drive". There is great power delivery even down low and when the turbo kicks in you feel it push you back in the seat. Gearbox is smooth. You can row back and forth through the six gears if you want, but the powerband is broad enough that downshifts are not nearly as necessary as some manuals I have owned. The tires and suspension let you feel all the road imperfections, but it is not harsh and handling always feels connected instead of busy or mushy. Torque steer? It is there if you push it in first or second. Not hard to control, but can be surprising when the car decides it doesn't want to accelerate in a straight line like you expected. Overall the car is reasonably quiet. You do hear the engine 'power symposer' when you accelerate, but not even loud enough to drown out a normal conversation. I have yet to hear the turbo whistle at all. Didn't get the Recaro seats. The base seats fit me much better. My ST1 has the base Ford Sync, so I can't comment on Sync 3, either. Although this is my daily driver, in no way is it just an average commuter car. It is for people who enjoy cars and want something that involves them in driving. Choosing an ST is a personal statement. I think it is a mistake by Ford to offer it only in the ST1/2/3 packages. I would have liked to pick and chose exactly which options fit me. A marketing decision I am sure.
I don't challenge Mustangs, Camaros and Chargers at the stop lights. I don't wait to ambush BMW's and Vettes on twisty roads. I don't look for 2 miles of straight road where I can wind it out (but I do admit, on ramps have become lots of fun all of a sudden). There are bigger cars and faster cars and smoother cars and easier cars to drive. My ST is an every day driver that puts a smile on my face. It knew it was what I wanted as soon as I drove it.
This is not your father's daily driver. I was looking for a replacement hatchback for my beloved 2002 Honda Si (251,000mi). I had recently rented a 2015 Focus sedan and was surprisingly impressed by it's "big car" characteristics. I have never owned a Ford automobile. Since Honda didn't have a replacement Si available I went to test drive a basic 5spd Focus hatchback. Looking around the lot I was impressed from the window view of the ST interior. I had not researched that car and didn't know what I was in for after asking for a test drive. Not surprisingly, the salesman offered no resistance...
I bought it the first time I shifted into 3rd gear carrying some revs. I won't soon forget the experience of that turbo propelled acceleration. The overwhelming harmony of the power, steering and symphony of engine and exhaust notes was instantly addictive. It was the Si I had always dreamed of and much, much more. The fit and finish of the interior is excellent, very easy on the eyes and full of discovery. I'm 6'1", 210lbs and find the seats fit like a glove. They are comfortable and meaningful when you accelerate into a curve and pleasant while waiting for the green.
I have owned this car for 3 weeks, have 1300 miles of city/freeway driving and the only think I miss from the Si is the somewhat less frequent stops at the gas station. This is truly a 6-star vehicle and feel fortunate I stumbled upon it.
Some 6 months and 9,000 miles down the road and I'm still giving my ST 6 stars. This car has completely failed to disappointment me. I never thought I'd offer to get off the couch to go buy a loaf of bread but there I am, still enjoying the first blush of excitement this vehicle offers every time I fire it up. Could I get better gas mileage? Sure, if there weren't any freeway on-ramps. It's nice to know that if I keep my foot out of it, I can easily get 30+ mpg on the freeway. I took a friend on a 200 mile ride recently and he commented repeatedly how much quieter the cabin was than in his Prius C. It's also much more quiet than our 2013 Mazda 3.
You don't see many ST's on the road but when I do, the knowing smile and nod between drivers tells the whole story.
I shopped and test drove everything that resembled a "sports sedan" and even a couple of coupes (namely, the Mustang GT) before zeroing in on this understated, under-appreciated sportster from Ford. I see a lot of Focus vehicles on the road around here (Detroit area) and they always grab my attention in terms of being the perfect blend between a small and medium vehicle. After driving an ST base (I will NOT purchase either a Mustang or Focus ST with Recaros--they are designed for backs of very narrow people!), I had the following impressions:
1. The get up and go factor is amazing for this price point (around $20,000 plus tax in these parts). The 6spd shifter is tight and very similar to shifting in my 2015 Mustang GT (which I just got rid of, T.G.).
2. Ergonomically the front seats and general interior for the driver makes much more sense than the Mustang's: The seats feel more bolstered and not angled back as much as the GT's. Visibility is dramatically better in the ST. The base seats are firm and well bolstered, and are even comparatively attractive. The only thing missing that Ford really needs to integrate into its speedo area is digital readouts for the speed. "72" is so much easier spelled out in numbers staring at your in the center of the gauge cluster than a short line segment with an arrow pointing to it on a round speedometer.
3. Back seats are actually usable (unlike the Mustang's) and cargo space is huge, again compared to the Mustang. There's a YouTube video of a guy showing you how to make the back seats fold absolutely FLAT, making that entire rear area into very usable cargo hauling space. Plus the hatch opening allows for some pretty tall and wide items to be placed into the back area.
4. Winter and wet traction. This car actually moves through ice and snowfall less than 3-4", which is a common occurrence in Michigan winters. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the all season stock 18" tires did. The only issue is with plowing, due to the fat tires pushing the snow when it's in excess of 3-4", rather than cutting through it. I would suppose the purchase of 4 winter-only tires on spare rims would be a good investment, especially for those who purchase an ST with the Summer-only tires.
5. The value on this vehicle is tremendous, when you look at the resale prices of year-old models. The depreciation of $2000-$3000 in a year (especially if you stay with the base ST and not pump the price up of the Focus to $30,000 or more) is in the top 10% of the lowest depreciation of vehicles in this market segment.
The ONLY recommendation I'd make would be to designers at Ford: to provide for a spoiler delete option (like the Mustang). That thing is ugly.
Ford has managed to pack a 252 HP pocket rocket with a top speed of over 150 into a family friendly car that's just as much at home hauling around your brood as it is hauling A**!
Make no mistake, this little car is a performance automobile, and while it is soon to be eclipsed by the more track "Focused" RS model, the ST still reins supreme at performance for price.
The car is available in three trim levels, ST1 (base), ST2 and ST3. The ST2 and ST3 models include the now "infamous" Recaro seats. It's a shame that Ford could not have optioned the seats separately like they did with the moon roof. The highly bolstered Recaro seats are in a love/hate relationship with certain owners. Some owners find the seats amazingly comfortable, while others find them much too confining and almost abusive on long road trips.
So prevalent is this view, there are active threads on ST enthusiast boards requesting seat swapouts with other owners.
If you want more cabin refinement (leather interior, power seats, 10 speaker radio, Sirius XM, ambient lighting, etc) then you have no option but to get the Recaro's. If you don't like them, you are stuck giving up some refinement on the base model.
Let's not kid ourselves here, though. The base model ST is still hansomely appointed with keyless entry and pushbutton start, a six speaker AM/FM CD system with bluetooth and USB connectivity and hands free phone integration. Air conditioning, power windows and mirrors are also standard, as is the leather trimmed steering wheel and sport pedals and backup camera all standard.
From an interior standpoint the ST1 is no slouch, but if you don't want to deal with the Recaro's then your back passengers are going to have to settle with less cupholders and the lack of dual zone climate control.
If you do like the Recaro's then the world is your oyster and you can push up the price of this automobile past $30K with the addition of full leather seating, heated drivers seats, ambient lighting, back passenger center console with cup holders and the like.
The bottom line is that you should perform an extended test drive with the Recaro's prior to purchasing this car, especially if you tend to tip the scales on the large side as I do.
But whatever your choice, you will soon forget about the lack of cup holders when you fire this bad boy up. The car has plenty of acceleration across the entire RPM band, and the six speed gearbox is a joy to use. The ride is a bit more stiff than the standard Focus, but is not what I would call uncomfortable. The fuel economy is not great, but that's to be expected given the type of engine being used. However careful shifting and expressway driving can bring your MPG's up to a respectable 30 MPG.
And while driving like a responsible adult may appeal to your practical, it's ability to throw you back in your seat, and grip corners like on rails that will put that permanent smile on your face and turns you back into your inner 12 year old. You'll be fighting over your significant other who gets to take junior to his play date.
This car is not for everyone. If you are simply looking for a vehicle to haul your two young kids around town, then you can get a suitable substitute with more room and much less cash. However, if you really appreciate driving, and you want to get behind the wheel of a car that is able to always put a grin on your grill AND haul the little ones, then it's hard to beat this car for bang for your buck.
We were looking at an SUV (Escape) when the ST could our attention. We really hated the idea of driving an SUV on an every day basis and we loved our Focus. The dealer threw in roof racks for those occasional hauling duties and we stayed with a Focus but one with amazing performance. The one weak point in our previous Focus was the auto transmission. We love driving a manual again as it ups the fun factor to a considerable degree. The ST is a delight, fast, fun, and engaging. We take it everywhere because its such fun to drive. One down side is the Recaro seats. My butt fits fine. However, I'm 5'7", 175, with broad shoulders. The Recaro seats are too constricting at the shoulders. I'd have been happier with the regular front seats in the Focus. Overall, we love the ST and are looking forward to putting many miles on it as we explore the back roads of America. An addition benefit is that I get to buy American, something we consider important.