A small sporty Ford is nothing new. Although the Focus ST170, the subject of this test, comes from the makers of Falcon XR6 turbo and Falcon XR8, we mustn't forget the small sporty Ford's from Europe of the past. There's been the rally bred Escort Mexico, the Escort RS models and, of course, the RS 200 (the purpose built rally car) which all provided a distinctly sporty flair and a heritage of competition success. So it's to be expected that Ford would again re-enter Europe's appropriately named "hot hatch" category. Ford's entrant, the Focus ST170 is an exceptionally worthy candidate. Since mid 2003 it's been available locally.
You don't need to be in the driver's seat for long, to get a feeling of sportiness! As you drive off, it becomes obvious! With it's sharp power steering, the Getrag 6-speed manual gearbox, the 2-litre DOHC VVT 127 kW engine, the uprated 4-wheel disc brakes, the 17 inch alloy wheels and it's magnificently tuned independent sports suspension, this car immediately impresses you with it's abundant attributes.
The suspension is firm, just as you would expect. But it's an enjoyable firmness. In fact, it's a comfortable firmness. The ride is even more enjoyable when you consider all the previously mentioned qualities. The seats are a little firm, too. But it's imperative to have firmish seats in a car of this nature. We drove for hours at a time and didn't even come close to being uncomfortable. The seats look good too! There's blue cloth inserts, surrounded by black leather. A fitting interior, which matches the car's nature.
On the road you notice a lack of wind noise. It's stunning how you hear no wind noise at all. The tyres do emit some road noise, but that's easy to live with in a sporty car.
Styling may be take it or leave it, but you do become attach to it as you live more and more with the car. The rear roof line provides a 'coupish' look, as the side rear windows slopes away to the rear. But the roofline remains deceptively high, thus providing good headroom, front and rear. The high mounted tail lights in the "C" pillars and the blistered wheel arches (especially at the front) are unique styling features which give the car a distinctive appearance. The ST170 comes in Imperial Blue, which is the only colour choice offered. It looks good, as you can see in the photographs.
By now you may be curious about the cost of an ST170, which is the top of the range in the Focus line-up. It's around $37,000! Add the usual charges and you'll quickly observe that this is not a cheap car. You're correct! It's not cheap, but it's a lot of fun and to have this much fun behind the wheel, you have to pay for the engine, the gearbox, the suspension and all the other components. All this considered, it seems a fair price to pay so you can enjoy yourself whilst you drive. And how many cars provide enjoyment?
Standard equipment includes a 6 CD in-dash CD player and air bags for front seat occupants plus the now common side airbags for the front seat occupants.
We covered 1,468 kms in this sporty little number over the Christmas and New Year period. The test was conducted around Sydney's northern suburbs, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the NSW central coast plus up and down the F3 twice in each direction. A great opportunity to attest to the delights provided by this car.
The Focus ST170 is so easy to drive in a sporting manner. In fact, with it's sporty 6-speed manual gearbox it invites a sporting approach to driving. The handling is so good, you'll often take the long way home, just as we did ...... just so you can experience even more! And then there's the sporty exhaust note ...... at around 3,000 rpm to 4,000 rpm it sounds so sweet!
In an attempt to find fault with the ST170, one has to become quite picky. There's no driver's foot rest, but that's no problem because the driving position is so comfortable and the handling so good you don't need a foot rest. There's no cruise control, but that's OK as this sporty little car is so much fun, you'll be wanting to drive it! So can the ST170 be faulted ...... no, we don't believe so!
The ST170 is a particularly enjoyable driving experience. It does everything very well ...... and it looks good too! The handling and the steering is so impressive you just keep driving and driving. Then you drive some more because you're enjoying yourself so much. This car is a driver's delight!
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