Driving Torque

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Archive for the tag “Focus”

New 2015 Ford Focus ST – First Drive

2015_ford_focus_st_yellow_hatchFord‘s ‘Global Performance Vehicle’ division seem to have gone into absolute overdrive recently. Just as the price of oil quite handily drops through the floor, hardly a week goes by when Uncle Henry isn’t taking the wraps off a GT, an RS, or in this case, two STs.


The ‘normal’ ST picks up where the 2012 model left off, but for the first time ever, there’s also a Diesel Focus ST, and both of them are available in hatch or wagon flavour and the usual range of suitably eye-catching colours, including the somewhat divisive ‘Tangerine Scream‘.

The diesel unit has apparently been introduced following the success VW have been enjoying with their Golf GTD and Ford are expecting a clean 50/50 split between the two power-plant’s sales figures.  It’s visually a carbon copy of the 2.0l EcoBoost petrol models, so you lose nothing in that department. Thankfully the petrol and diesel even wear the same badge; it can’t have taken Ford long to realise that the ‘Focus STD’  legend just wouldn’t have worked……….

2015_ford_focus_st_estate_blackLess Torque-steer

First things first though, the ‘traditional’ petrol derivative: Its 247bhp is still channeled through the front wheels without the aid of their ‘RevoKnuckle’ technology, instead relying on a revised Torque Vectoring system to keep things straight and true. This seems to do its job well, and the ‘left-right, left-right’ sensation that the previous ST suffered from under rapid acceleration has been all-but eliminated. It’ll get itself to 62mph in 6.5 seconds, but only on a dry, sticky surface; show a lack of subtlety with the loud pedal on a wet road and the petrol ST will happily spin its wheels in third gear.

Thanks to the addition of Auto-Start-Stop across the range, the petrol ST’s efficiency has been improved by 6 per cent, getting a fairly impressive 41.5 miles out of a combined gallon of petrol, and only releasing 159 grams of CO2 per km.  If it’s economy that floats your boat, though, the new-kid-on-the-block will probably be more your thing………

The diesel ST’s performance figures aren’t that impressive on paper – 181bhp and 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds won’t get it into the Fast-Ford hall of fame, but that’s not the whole story. It only produces a fleet-friendly 110g/km Co2, and where the petrol engined car produces 360Nm of torque, the diesel trumps it with 400Nm, all of which is conveniently available from just 2000rpm. What this translates to in the real world is a six-gear car that could actually live with just two of them; first for pulling away from standstill and 3rd for the rest of the time.

Both cars channel noise into the cabin via a sound symposer, giving the driver a ‘proper’ hot-hatch experience. Don’t worry about the diesel sounding like a ball-bearing in an aerosol, though; there is the inevitable clatter at standstill but it develops into pretty-much exactly the same pleasant thrum as the petrol once you’re on the move.

2015_ford_focus_st_diesel_red_hatchImproved handling

There isn’t much to split the two ST’s handling characteristics either; the ribbon-smooth roads on our test-route around Barcelona can’t possibly give an accurate indication of how the car will fare on our pock-marked tarmac, but the petrol was as responsive and accurate as you’d expect, and there was none of the usual nose-heaviness one associates with diesel cars. A nice little surprise came when we discovered that both models are happy to stick the rear end out, especially the wagon.

Ford are keen to use analogy that the new Focus ST is a pentathlete; it may not be the best in the world in any particular discipline, but it does everything well. With the Focus RS looming heavy on the horizon, they had no choice but to show some considerable restraint with the petrol ST, but the diesel ST is a different matter; rather than water down the ST brand, it’s an admirable player in the performance diesel market and, on first impressions at least, is more than fit to wear the badge.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Ford Focus ST 2.ol EcoBoost turbo, Transmission – 6spd manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 247bhp, Torque – 360Nm, Emissions – 159g/km CO2Economy – 41.5 mpg combinedMaximum Speed – 154mph, Acceleration0-62mph – 6.5s, Price – from £22,195 (5dr), £23,295 (estate)

Specifications; Ford Focus ST 2.ol TDCI, Transmission – 6spd manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 181bhp, Torque – 400Nm, Emissions – 110g/km CO2, Economy – 67.3 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 135mph, Acceleration – 0-62mph – 8.1s, Pricefrom £22,195 (5dr), £23,295 (estate)

For full details, go to; http://www.ford.co.uk

Peugeot 308 e-THP 130 – Driven and Reviewed

Anyone remember those clever Peugeot ads from the ’80s and ’90s? Well I do; there was the 306 TV ad that used the late, great Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing’, and before that, the 205 Look and 405 ads with ABC’s ‘Look of Love’ and Berlin’s ‘Take my breath away’ providing the respective soundtracks. Look them up on YouTube if you want an instant hit of automotive nostalgia, but make sure you watch them all the way to the end; what you’ll find is that long forgotten Peugeot tagline – ‘The Lion goes from strength to strength’.

Most attractive car in its class

New_PEUGEOT_308_Feline_panning_167_450Admittedly, the last decade has made something of a mockery of this – ‘The Lion falls out of the ugly-tree, hitting every branch on the way down’ could have been deemed more appropriate with certain models, that is, until the arrival of the New 308. We tested it in THP 156 guise earlier this year and were blown away with the driving experience, the look and the overall feeling of quality that’s been sorely lacking in the marque of late. The 308 is so good, we went as far as to say it was ‘the most attractive car in its class’, and we stand by that still.

So, what happens when Peugeot invent their own take on the increasingly popular genre of engine – the three-cylinder petrol – and slot it into the already popular 308?

Well, in this case, it’s a 1.2l turbocharged affair – the most potent in the Peugeot three-cylinder range that’s been christened ‘PureTech’, generating a healthy 129bhp and 230Nm of torque at just 2750rpm., whilst cutting emissions and fuel consumption by 18% over the 1.6l equivalent.  So, the figures sound promising enough, especially with a claimed 58.9mpg combined, but how does this translate to the real world?

Three-cylinder performance

New_PEUGEOT_308_Feline_tracking_rear_141_450Pretty well would be the predominant answer. This diminutive engine does a great job of getting what’s a fairly heavy car off the line, and the power band rises steadily, keeping the 308 accelerating to speeds you wouldn’t warrant a 1.2l possible of achieving. Compared to the equivalent Ford Focus three-cylinder which is powered by an even tinier 1.0l engine, the 308 hits 62mph 0ver one second sooner. That said, the maximum amount of torque may be at your disposal at 2750rpm, but follow the 308’s optimistic change-up indicator and there’s a definite laboured feeling as you’ll be going through the ‘box a little sooner than you possibly should.

One thing Peugeot have always had a bit of a knack for is handling and feel, and the lightweight PureTech engine really adds to that in the 308. The car just seems even more accommodating when you make adjustments from that mini steering wheel, with less metal swinging around in the nose as that weight distribution moves ever-so-slightly rearwards towards the centre.

If peace and quiet’s your thing – the 308 PureTech’s cabin space won’t disappoint. Personally, I like to hear the distinctive thrum that three-cylinder engines emit manifest themselves a touch more when you press on, but the 308’s obviously a little too well insulated for that, and the engine’s hardly audible however you drive.

Strength to Strength

74834peu_450This really is a winning combination of car and engine from Peugeot, then, both of them complimenting the other perfectly. The 308 should be the yardstick that Peugeot measure all future models by, as it really does go ‘From Strength to Strength’.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Peugeot 308 Feline e-THP 130, Engine – 1.2l three-cylinder petrol, Transmission – 6 spd manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 129BHP, Torque – 230Nm @ 2750rpm, Emissions – 110g/km CO2, Economy – 58.9mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 125 mph, Acceleration – 10.3s 0-62mph, Price – £20,995 OTR, £21,520 as tested.

For full details, go to http://www.peugeot.co.uk

Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC – Driven and Reviewed

Honda Civic Tourer sideCars in this mould come with a variety of monikers; there’s the good old ‘estate’, the glamour of the ‘shooting brake’, the Clark W Griswold American-ness of the ‘station wagon’, and in the case of the enlarged Civic we have here – the ‘tourer’.

Colour scheme is £200 option..........it's not really

Colour scheme is a £200 option……….it’s not really

Now, it might be down to the clever use of this shape for the factory Honda team’s current BTCC car, (albeit with a few less spoilers and stickers) but I’m inclined to think that this is one of those occasions that the darling of new parents and dog owners alike has more to offer in the looks department than the hatchback from which it was spawned. The way the roof-line seemingly dives down towards the D-pillar (it doesn’t, it’s just cleverly made to look that way), thus creating a sail shaped rearmost side window, is very reminiscent of both the Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake and the Jaguar XF Sportbrake – neither of which are renowned for their hideousness.

The rest of the Civic Tourer looks exactly the same as its hatchback sister, even down to the hidden rear door handles which enhance that sportier ‘shooting brake’ image that’s so desired in this sector. Perhaps more pertinently then, what does the enlarged rump have to offer in the practicality department?

Honda Civic Tourer bootHonda Civic Tourer underboot storageQuite a lot it would seem. The Civic hatch uses clever cubby-holes and techniques such as moving the fuel tank towards the centre of the car to optimise its load-lugging abilities and the Tourer takes it up a notch. Doing away with the spare wheel means that the cavern-like under-floor storage compartment in the boot is honestly more spacious than some car’s whole luggage area. Add this to some clever seats and the Civic Tourer provides a class-leading 624 litres of boot space with the rear seats in place, and a whopping 1,668l maximum with them down.

Honda civic tourer rear lights

Tourer’s rear visibility is far superior to hatch’s

One other aspect of the Civic Tourer that deserves mention here is the added bonus of where the rear light-bar is positioned. One of my gripes with the Civic hatch was the way they dissected the rear windscreen, creating a dual-screen effect and not really inspiring confidence when you wanted to see what was lurking behind. With the Tourer this issue has gone. It admittedly may not look quite as nifty and original as the hatch, but the need to put the lights on a near-vertical boot-lid has resulted in a more conventional approach which, when coupled with the extra glass around the boot, makes seeing out of the Tourer far less of a chore.

Inside the Tourer, it’s the usual Civic high standards again, just with a slightly lighter, more airy feel thanks to the added windows and extra space to swing a cat around in, if that’s your thing. The leather seats in our SR spec car added a feel of luxuriousness that you just don’t get with cloth and they were easy to manipulate into whichever position you feel comfortable in. Like the hatch, there’s the multi-screen, dual-level dashboard effect going on. It does take a bit of getting used to at first, but I’ve always admired its originality – I just wish that the colours and fonts used on one of the fascia’s four gauges and screens would match at least one of the other’s.

When we tested the Civic hatchback in September 2013, it was equipped with Honda’s 1.6 i-DTEC Diesel unit, and it’s fair to say that we were pretty much blown away. The Tourer we have here is powered by their 1.8 i-VTEC petrol and, as much as it pains me to say it, you’d have to be pretty adamantly against Diesel to opt for this engine.

There’s nothing wrong with it per se, in fact it’s so smooth and quiet that it’s almost impossible to notice when the stop/start technology is doing its stuff, even with the slight ‘boom box’ effect that estate cars usually suffer with.

Anyone opting for the petrol would also save over £1,200 on the list price over the Diesel unit – not a figure to be sniffed at, but when you delve further into resale values and running costs, I can’t help but feel that that financial saving would soon be swallowed up. It’s a simple numbers game, you see; the equivalent SR spec Diesel Civic qualifies in tax band B (£20), whereas this petrol emits 149g/km CO2 and is therefore all the way up in tax band F (£145).

Honda Civic Tourer frontIf you’re not covering many miles, you may decide to go for the petrol’s added refinement over the Diesel, but if you’re quite keen to keep visits to the pumps as minimal as possible, it’s worth noting that this petrol variant achieves a claimed 44.1 mpg combined, compared to the Diesel’s 72.4 – and having driven it, I can verify that the 1.6l oil burner really is as economical as they claim.

The petrol Civic also achieves the 0-62mph sprint quicker than its counterpart (9.6s vs 10.5), but that’s presuming you haven’t activated ‘Eco’ mode to make your economy figures more respectable. Doing this will make the engine less thirsty, admittedly, but the way its stunts the car’s performance  takes away from an otherwise fun driving experience, especially around town or on long motorway hills where you might find yourself changing down a gear a little more often than you’d expect.

Honda Civic Tourer rear and sideIf you opt for the SR or EX spec Civic, you get their new rear Adaptive Damper System included in the price (it’s a £500 option on SE Plus and SE Plus-T models), and it really does make a difference to the whole driving experience. The Tourer shares the hatch’s feather light gear-changes and steering feel that could do with a touch more feedback from the road but, also like the hatch, it actually sticks to the tarmac very well. Switch the dampers to ‘dynamic’ and you could argue that it’s rather fun – it’s never going to be a Lotus, obviously, but you can certainly feel an improvement in how the car responds and reacts to any changes in direction. Just don’t try throwing it around in Eco mode – the responsiveness of the ‘dynamic’ dampers and the listlessness of Eco mode are worlds apart in their aspirations. At the other end of the spectrum – ‘Comfort’ mode is so well suited to a long motorway schlep. It transformed the Civic Tourer and seemingly ironed out our less than perfect roads, making journeys of any real distance more relaxing – usually the preserve of far larger cars.

To conclude, then. The Civic Tourer, is beautifully built like most Hondas, is class leading in many aspects including interior space and, in my opinion, looks great. As is usual with Japanese cars – the standard equipment is plentiful, even on base models, but I would be inclined to either pay for the Adaptive Damper System or go for a model that comes with it included as it’s a very clever piece of kit. Having driven both engines available in the Tourer – I’d advise you forego the petrol engine we have here and go for Honda’s excellent 1.6 Diesel – it’s just too good to overlook.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications;  Honda Civic Tourer SR, Engine 1.8 i-VTEC, Transmission – 6 speed manual, Layout – Front Engine, FWD, Power – 140bhp, Acceleration – 0-62mph – 9.6s, Maximum Speed – 130mph, Torque174Nm, Economy44.1mpg combined, Emissions – 149g/km CO2, Price – £24,355 OTR, £24,855 as tested

for full details, go to: http://www.honda.co.uk

Peugeot 308 Feline THP 156 – Driven and Reviewed

Peugeot 308I think it would be fair to say that the design department at Peugeot have been going through what rock stars commonly refer to as their ‘wilderness years’ in recent times. Newer models such as the 208 and face-lifted RCZ aside, cars rolling off the Peugeot production line have been unfortunate enough to resemble the lovechild of a newly discovered, rain-forest dwelling amphibian, and Pete Burns.

But what’s this? Here to signal an end to taste and decency’s sabbatical, it’s the newly crowned Car of the Year, the new 308.

On face value alone, this model surely brings a breath of fresh air to Peugeot dealerships across the world, relieving their beleaguered salesmen of the need to avert potential customers’ gaze before they notice just how unsightly their potential new car actually is. I thought the initial press shots of the 308 were alluring but this is quite often the case, with the actual road-going model proving what can be done with a clever photographer and very little light. Not so the 308. Utilising the old adage that less is more, Peugeot have binned many unnecessary design cues and features and stuck to the principle of concentrating on making a car that people will find appealing.

Peugeot 308 side viewThe new 308 is lower and wider than its predecessor, and thanks to its new EMP2 platform, both front and rear overhangs have also been reduced, pushing all four wheels further towards their respective corners. These adjustments will usually add visual appeal to any model but I think it’d be unfair to solely heap praise on them without commenting on the actual lines and features of the 308. The neat double grille and absence of exaggerated jutting chin will hopefully mean an end to the ‘basking shark’ styling cues of recent Peugeots as the results are impossible to argue with. The sleek LED headlight cluster may not be the most original design on Earth, but there’s an attractive sense of organisation and purpose when combined with their slightly smaller mirror images directly beneath. Again, this is in stark contrast to the haphazard nature of the model it replaces.

Peugeot 308 rear light clusterThe rest of the 308 carries on in the same vein, with one broad line emanating from the front wing, rising up through both door handles and culminating in the central portion of some C shaped, ‘claw effect’ rear lights. At the rear, a relatively large bumper and small window combine to reduce the overall feeling of size, thus adding a more coupe feel to the whole event.

Peugeot 308 interiorIf sweeping changes have been made to the exterior of the 308, it’s fair to say the same treatment has been dished out to the living space too. Minimalist is the order of the day inside with many knobs and dials being removed and their functionality incorporated within the very iPad like central screen. It doesn’t take long to get used to this way of doing things and the screen is one of the most user-friendly I’ve come across. On the other hand, it is sometimes useful to just be able to adjust the temperature or stereo by pressing or turning a cheap plastic knob, rather than have one’s attention distracted by scrolling through numerous menus and images. The image from the reversing camera deserves special mention as the clarity is outstanding, almost HD. Conversely though, the SAT NAV system on our test car warrants special mention due to its inept approach to navigation. Why the software can’t be programmed into all systems at source to recognise postcodes is beyond me – every road’s got one. This requirement to input the desired road name and then which road it intersects is ridiculous – if I knew such details, I surely wouldn’t need a sat nav as I’d already be familiar with the area. That said, our system was quite insistent that we were 50 meters to the right of where we actually were anyway, and there was no persuading it that we weren’t rudely ploughing through the surrounding flowerbeds and gardens. Some gremlins need removing here I feel.

Peugeot 308 rear view cameraPeugeot have decided to migrate their miniature steering wheel project over from the 208, with the pretty, Evoque style jewelled dials being visible over the top of the wheel, not through it. A few people are insistent that it’s tricky to get a comfortable seating position whilst maintaining sight of the dials but I’ve no issue with it myself, having had the method explained properly to me. My only issue is how this go-kart esque wheel translates to the whole driving experience; obviously an adjustment of a smaller circumference wheel equates to a more dramatic effect at the driving wheels than a larger one would, that’s basic physics. This is all well and good in an intense, high-speed environment but it can make the 308 feel a little twitchy during everyday driving when a more relaxing ride might be what you’re after. I just feel that this diminutive wheel should possibly have been reserved for more driver-focussed Peugeots such as their Gti, RCZ and R models, and give everything else something a touch bigger to play with.

Peugeot 308 frontOur test car came equipped with Peugeot’s new 156bhp, 1.6l petrol unit under the hood and, as much as it pains me to say it, I’d opt for the Diesel if it were me. There’s nothing wrong with this petrol engine, per se, although I did find it a little reluctant to rev past 3000rpm, it’s just that when you compare the alternative, it makes more sense. The mid 90’s saw Peugeot’s 306 popularise Diesel engines when they were still the reserve of tractors and taxis, this 308 should continue where it left off. Yes, the 2.0 HDi is around £1,700 more expensive than the same spec petrol model, but the performance is very similar (8.9s – 62mph vs 8.4s), and the gains made in mpg(68.9 vs 48.7), Co2(105g/km vs 134) and bucket loads of torque easily justify the extra layout.

Peugeot 308 wheelHandling characteristics have always been one of Peugeot’s strong suits and this 308 isn’t too shabby at all. Considering this isn’t wearing a Gti badge, or any other performance led moniker for that matter, it’s more than capable of tackling the twisty stuff. The front will be tempted to understeer if anything, but the stiff-feeling rear end brings things back into line with something of a jolt before long, it just takes a certain amount of trust in the 308’s pretty sorted chassis. One aspect of this Feline spec 308 that would force me to save some money and opt for a lesser model is the 18” wheels that come as standard. There’s no doubting their visual impact – they’re cleverly designed and fill the arches nicely, it’s just the effect they have on the 308’s ride that leaves something to be desired. Coupled with the intrusive tyre noise they generate, it’s another feature I’d leave for ‘Gti’ and ‘R’ models; best to stick with 16’s or 17’s for the sake of comfort.

Peugeot 308 front 3-4 lowPeugeot 308 rearThis new 308 model is light years ahead of the model it replaces, both in terms of design and refinement. I challenge anyone to be disappointed with the cabin plastics, even out of direct sight and this is a good indication of the direction Peugeot are heading in with quality becoming more of a priority. The overall drive is good, not quite Focus standards but not a million miles away, but this isn’t why people will buy a 308; it’s the looks that have seen this model prove popular. I’ll go out on a limb here and state that this is the most attractive car in its class, didn’t think you’d read that about a Peugeot, did you?

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Peugeot 308 Feline THP 156, Engine – 1.6l petrol, Transmission – 6 spd manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 156BHP, Torque – 240Nm @ 1400rpm, Emissions – 134g/km CO2, Economy – 48.7mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 132 mph, Acceleration – 8.4s 0-62mph, Price – £21,345 OTR, £22,020 as tested.

For full details, go to http://www.peugeot.co.uk

New 2014 Ford Focus – Exclusive pictures from Frankfurt preview

2014 Ford FocusBiggest selling car nameplate globally for two years running; quite an accolade, don’t you think?

Well that’s what Ford proudly boast of their Focus model – a World Car in every sense.

Following the global theme, Driving Torque are pleased to bring you some World exclusive facts and, perhaps more pertinently, photos of the new Focus in both 5dr hatch and estate guise, all gleaned from a preview event held in Frankfurt earlier this week.

Ford are, quite unsurprisingly keen to ‘focus’ (excuse the pun) on two areas that are always towards the top of a car owner’s list of priorities; fun and economy. Conveniently, the Focus has sold in its multi-millions thanks, in no small part, to these two elements being prevalent in the model whilst still being affordable.

To build on the ‘fun’ factor, Ford have made some alterations and improvements to the new Focus, including stiffening the front end, revising the steering geometry, adding paddle-shift to auto models and retuning the electric power steering feel. All of this is to reinforce the Focus’ reputation of providing a spirited driving experience that a ‘C sector’ family car possibly has no right to warrant.

On the slightly less exciting but just as relevant economical front, the new Focus will continue to be available with the multi-award winning 1.0l EcoBoost engines, with one variant tuned to emit just 99g/km CO2 – making the Focus the first non-hybrid in the sector to creep under the magical 100g/km ceiling.

1.5l Ford EcoBoost engineThere will also be a new 1.5l EcoBoost available in either 150ps or 180ps and the range of Diesels will remain on offer (whether you like them or not), offering a 10% reduction in emissions on previous engines and completing a line-up, in which every model meets Euro 6 emission regulations.

Ford were also keen to point out improvements in refinement in the New Focus’ cabin, both in terms of materials used and finish. The most obvious change to occupants will be the new ‘SYNC 2’ infotainment system which boasts an 8” touch screen. It’ll apparently read out texts and permit Tweeting on the move too!!

So, here’s some images for now until we can actually get hands-on in one and feel how these alterations translate to the driving experience.

Speaking of which, although Ford were willing to confirm that an ST model is in the pipeline, they flatly denied plans to launch an RS……. don’t believe everything you hear though.

2014 Ford Focus Enveiled

2014 Ford Focus Estate

2014 Ford Focus Hatch side

2014 Ford Focus

2014 Ford Focus rear and side

2014 Ford Focus Front

2014 Ford Focus Hatch Rear

2014 Ford Focus Estate

2014 Ford Focus Front

2014 Ford Focus Sony door speaker

2014 Ford Focus Touch Screen

2014 Ford Focus Cabin

2014 Ford Focus Alloy Wheel

Ford Focus vs Ford Fiesta; A Tale of Two STs

Ford Escort Mexico

The legendary Ford Escort Mexico

Since the dawn of time, well, since 1963 anyway, our quirky little island has been caught up in an unrelenting love affair. Yes, we’re quite keen on GTis, SRis, GTEs and various other alphabet-soup inspired monikers, but what we ceaselessly lust after is a certain breed of breathed upon family hatches and rep-mobiles, namely Fast Fords.

To suggest that every nutty Blue Oval has been fantastic would be somewhat ill-informed, there have been a few dogs. But through good times and bad, booms and busts, Ford have bravely persevered in their quest to bring affordable fun to the blue-collared masses.

So, in these times of double-dip recessions and soaring fuel costs, what do Ford have on offer to tempt out the cheque-books and exactly where does a Fast Ford fit into our precariously balanced lives?

Have we seen the back of RS Fords? Don't you believe it!

Have we seen the back of RS Fords? Don’t you believe it!

Well, the RS badged cars are currently conspicuous in their absence (only temporarily, apparently), so have Ford turned their back on their responsibilities? Are we destined to seek our thrills elsewhere?

They may not be RSs but, like steroidally enhanced buses, out of the mire appear two excitable, ST (Sports Technologies) badged hatchbacks to answer our question. Both are hellbent on not only getting you from A-B, ASAP, but also bringing the family along and thus extending the Fast Ford bloodline that can be traced back over 50 years.

Previous ST badged Fords have suffered something of an identity crisis. Most have danced around their almighty RS siblings, being careful not to tread on their toes and ending up waltzing in no-mans-land, stuck in limbo somewhere between ‘come and ‘ave a go if you think your ‘ard enough’ and ‘I’m awfully sorry if you hurt your knuckles on my face’. These two STs are different though, they’re currently at the top of the Ford tree and are unashamedly set in the nation’s psyche as THE Fords to have if you want to make a statement.

The question is, which one is ready to face the upcoming fight against the auld enemies – Peugeot (208 GTi), VW (Golf GTi) and Renault (RenaultSport Clio)? Driving Torque has driven the Focus ST and the all-new Fiesta ST to discover whether either are true heirs to the throne.

Ford Focus ST1

The 2013 Ford Focus ST

The Focus ST has been around for some time now. It first saw the light of day in 2006, sporting the adaptable 2.5 litre Volvo-sourced lump as seen in the loony Focus RS. It performed well enough and was updated visually to provide adequate impact but horrendous fuel and tax costs just weren’t going to cut it in today’s society. Step forward the EcoBoost. Without sounding overly dramatic, this range of direct injection, turbo-charged engines could be hailed as the future. Not only for Ford, but for petrol engines in general.

The 2.0 litre engine found in the Focus may lose half a litre of displacement on the previous model but, through various use of witchcraft, its output rises from 222bhp to 250bhp whilst, at the same time, pushing claimed economy figures up a third from 30.9mpg combined to nearly 40mpg! Perhaps more importantly, it’s quicker too, not only in a straight dash but it’ll tackle the twisty bits with added assurance, having lost some unsightly weight up front.

Fiesta ST garage

The three ‘ST only’ colours – Race Red, Spirit Blue and Molten Orange

It’s more difficult to draw a direct comparison between the Fiesta ST and its predecessor as the last incarnation was deleted in 2008. It hardly made a dramatic impact on the world and could undoubtedly be placed in the ‘must try harder’ bracket. This 2013 model has far loftier aspirations and, again, it’s relying on the EcoBoost engine to thrust it into the spotlight. What the 1.6 incarnation loses in size, it makes up for in enthusiasm and it uses all of its 182bhp to propel the lighter Fiesta ST to 60mph in 6.7 seconds; only 0.2 seconds slower than the Focus – barely noticeable in the real world.

Ford Focus ST2

Those exhausts are dual trapezoids – don’t you know!

Both models have ST-only noses grafted on, in order to further enhance the dramatic effects already offered by their ground-hugging body-kits and enlarged wheels. Looks are obviously a matter of personal taste but, whereas the Focus grabs attention at every turn (especially in the Tangerine Scream hue of our test car), it may take more of an automotive aficionado to pick the Fiesta out from its lesser-specced brethren. Head-turning may not be your thing, of course, but Fast Fords aren’t usually aimed at the shy, retiring types and if I’d just bought the Fiesta, I’d forever be wishing that it could dominate a scene like the Focus, with its fancy exhaust tips (dual trapezoids, in case you were wondering).

Ford Focus ST interior

Focus ST Recaros – possibly the grippiest seats ever found in a production car.

The modus operandi of these cars is to combine the practicalities of a hatchback whilst making the driver feel like Sebastien Loeb when the mood takes them. On the practical front, the Focus is head and shoulders above the Fiesta, not only due to its size advantage in every direction but also due to the fact that it’s only available in 5 door guise. The Focus and the Fiesta are both ‘global cars’ according to Ford and yet, the Fiesta ST will be offered in the US with 5 doors, two more than in the rest of the world. Ford must be saving a fortune by not making a 3dr variant of the Focus but I can’t help but wonder if their reluctance to sell a 5 door Fiesta ST in Europe is through a fear of sales being pilfered from the more expensive Focus.

Back to the important bits though – the way these cars drive. Turbo-lag is all but eliminated on both cars and the torque curve is steady and predictable – it really is hard to find fault in either power plant. In the past, Ford have utilised a clever bit of engineering called a Revoknuckle, in order to convince the front wheels that they really can multitask, handling the, not insignificant job of steering the car whilst at the same time, lassoing 250+ horses as they try to escape in unison, usually by torque-steering through a hedge into the nearest paddock. This Focus ST however is Revoknuckleless (?!?) and it leaves the job of keeping Red Rum et al on the grey stuff up to some very clever electrical aids instead. The result is admirable but by no means perfect – floor the Focus ST and there is a slight feeling of hanging on, as the arguments between physics and microchip are echoed through the steering wheel. Each front wheel temporarily breaks free before it’s reined in, leaving it’s opposite number to head for the horizon. I can imagine a child would enjoy a similar sensation if he were to sit atop Usain Bolt‘s shoulders – whilst he competed in the Olympic 100m final.

Fiesta ST cornering

Notice hardly any body roll in the Fiesta – thank the Nurburgring for that

The Fiesta ST, on the other hand, suffers none of these problems. Less is, once again more in this case and the smaller, less powerful car can simply get on with the task in hand without worrying about being overburdened with power. The task, of course, being to provide maximum thrills to all occupants, and this is certainly what the Fiesta ST does. We were lucky enough to take the car to its max on the sublime roads above Nice and whatever was thrown at it was simply returned with interest. Ford have done an incredible job here; they’ve disguised all the electrical aids and excess flab that modern cars are cursed with and made a car that feels raw and unbridled. Acceleration is keen with the engine happy to rev, and the car simply handles whatever corners are thrown at it, without ever getting flustered or confused.

It’s a similar story in the noise department – an aspect I unashamedly place much importance on. Both the Focus and the Fiesta utilise a clever system called a Sound Symposer which, in simplest terms pipes the engine note directly into the cabin without being deafening at the exhaust and failing to meet stringent sound regulations. I found the whole thing a little frustrating in the Focus, sort of like hearing your favourite song on a radio that’s stuck on mute. The Fiesta’s system is turned up to 11 in comparison and provides a hugely satisfying soundtrack that gets better and better as you progress towards the red-line.

Fiesta ST Three wheels

The Fiesta ST doing it’s best impression of a Reliant Robin. This chassis is properly sorted.

So, which one would I take home? Obviously, if size and 5 doors are high up your list of importance, it’s a no-brainer, it’d have to be the Focus as the Fiesta just can’t compete. If it’s pure driver satisfaction that floats your boat though, I’d undoubtedly save a wad of cash and take the Fiesta – it’s just more satisfying. I’m not saying that it’s perfect – the furthest gears were a little hard to reach and the smaller Recaros pinched a tad after a couple of hours but, on first impression, these were honestly my only niggles. I’ll be fascinated to find how the Fiesta ST is to live with when I get my hands on it for a longer test but, for now, I’d go as far as to say that if Toyota’s GT86 represents a return to innocence for coupes, this Fiesta ST is it’s hot-hatch equivalent. Some accolade huh?

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Ford Focus ST2, Price – £23,495, Engine – 2.0T Petrol, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 250bhpAcceleration –  0-62mph – 6.5s, Maximum Speed – 154mph, Economy – 39.2 mpg combined, Emissions – 169g/km CO2

Specifications; Ford Fiesta ST, Price – from £16,995, Engine – 1.6T Petrol, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 182bhpAcceleration –  0-62mph – 6.7s, Maximum Speed – 137mph, Economy – 47.9 mpg combined, Emissions – 138g/km CO2

For brochures and details on how to order, please go to; http://www.ford.co.uk/Cars/Fiesta/Fiesta-ST

All New Ford Fiesta. How does it compare to its predecessor?

2012 Ford Fiesta

2012 Ford Fiesta

Fact; The Ford Fiesta has been Britain’s most popular car every year since 2009 when it knocked its big brother – the Focus off it’s well-worn mantle.

Near Certainty; Unless the price of oil is decimated and the car buying public decides that a 10yr old Range Rover Vogue, equipped with a 4.4 V8 petrol engine (circa £9975) makes more financial sense than Ford’s latest small hatch (from £9795 OTR), the New Ford Fiesta will march on triumphantly to the top of the 2013 charts.

How can I be so sure that the Fiesta won’t be knocked off its lofty perch? Well, Ford seemed to have taken the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and used it with consumate wisdom. There are definitely enough revisions and improvements to the 2013 model to justify the ‘All New’ tag, but the majority of the car is taken straight from the previous incarnation which was hardly looking long in the tooth itself.

All New Ford Fiesta

All New Ford Fiesta

I was in the fortunate position to arrive at the New Fiesta launch in Manchester in the previous model that I was road testing. This ‘out of the old, into the new’ situation is undoubtedly the best way to draw comparison as I had every last niggle and highlight fresh in my mind. In the blink of an eye, I was drawn to establishing whether this new car had simply improved upon the last formula, or whether the essence of such a successful model had been lost in the intricacies of launching a car with its own identity and character.

All New Nose

Visually, the new model pulls off the amazing trick of being very similar to its predecessor whilst, at the same time, looking completely different. That trapezoidal nose has actually graced the front end of many Fords, including the Fiesta, for a while now. By adding some shiny brightwork, giving the new model a facelift and swapping the smaller, secondary air inlet from above to below the main ‘mouth’, the resulting car is instantly transformed, not only into a new model but also into a part of the new Ford family image.


2012 Fiesta Interior, a very pleasant place to be

2012 Fiesta Interior, a very pleasant place to be

Inside the New Fiesta, the changes are negligible which came as no surprise as, again, the previous model’s cabin was chic, funky and fresh, with all manner of eye-catching shapes and materials being utilised in a very similar fashion to the ultra cutting-edge Focus. The quality of materials used and overall attention to detail really have no right to appear in a car in this price bracket and Ford have been quite shrewd in ensuring that possibly the most memorable part of the car is the environment which the occupants see most; the cabin. It really is futile giving a car like this the world’s most attractive engine bay when the majority of its target market have no inclination whatsoever to ever open the bonnet.

New interior, very similar to previous model.

New interior, very similar to previous model.

That said, there were a couple of niggles inside the previous model Fiesta that have now been ironed out, the most significant being the multimedia unit. The unit in my test 2012 model wasn’t disastrously bad, it was just nothing to write home about either; it played CDs, it boasted multiple radio stations, it even had an incredibly useful USB port, into which one could plug one’s Iphone and merrily select tracks in MP3 format. The problems arose when the ‘shuffle’ mode was operated and a random selection of tracks were played. It would reach the end of one track and, instead of instantly choosing the next one to play, the first few lines of the subsequent song would be heard whilst it made up it’s mind. Sounds like a minor annoyance, doesn’t it? You try it, in no time at all it’s incredibly irritating.

Thankfully, Ford have decided to outsource the current multimedia software to a little company who apparently know a thing or two in that field; Microsoft. They’ve concocted a system called Sync and, speaking from first hand experience, it does exactly what it says on the tin, eradicating any previous issues that existed.


Another technological innovation on the new Fiesta is a system called MyKey. In a nutshell, it allows the vehicle to be programmed by its owner via the keys, altering settings such as maximum speed, audio volume and the low-fuel warning. The thinking behind this is that parents, worrying about their teenage offspring who are out driving, will be reassured in the knowledge that their pre-armed Fiesta will be working extra-hard to ensure their safe return home. Now, the memories may be getting a little hazy but I can remember enough about being a teenager to state with confidence that this is the last thing I’d have wanted in my car. I also know that, even though it’s generally not their money that’s buying their first car, with enough incessant whining, any teenager worth their salt will be able to influence which car is bought and potentially steer well clear of this ‘big brother’ technology. It’s certainly innovative and will probably attract buyers, my only reservation is that it could possibly deter buyers too.

2012 Model Fiesta Nose......

2012 Model Fiesta Nose……

Ford claim that, due to the state of the global economy, many buyers are choosing to ditch their larger hatchbacks and are opting instead for something Fiesta sized to keep costs down. The fact that their very own Focus was deposed from the top of the charts by the Fiesta corroborates this claim and Ford have decided to act upon it by adding a new range-topping Titanium X model, in order to reinforce that feeling of quality that the Focus driver had previously enjoyed. Combine leather and climate control with the fact that the Mk1 Focus was only 20cm longer than this latest Fiesta and it’s easy to see how a smooth transition can be achieved.

EcoBoost Engines

One monumental leap forwards in this new model is the introduction of Ford’s multi award-winning range of EcoBoost engines. I’d experienced this excellent little three-cylinder in the Focus recently, without disappointment, and I was itching to get my hands on the lighter Fiesta, equipped with the same powerplant. Does it work? Of course it does! I sampled both the 125ps and 100ps variants and both were huge fun with character to burn. I quite safely predict that this excellent engine/chassis/gearbox combination will only reinforce the Fiesta’s rock-solid reputation in the market as it offers a fun factor that it’s competitors can only dream of.

......and New Fiesta Nose. Some shape-shifting going on.

……and New Fiesta Nose. Some shape-shifting going on.

The official economy figures for the Ecoboost models are 65.7mpg combined, admittedly this isn’t a patch on my Duratorq Diesel test car’s 85.6mpg but there are other considerations to be taken into account here. The very nature of the free-revving Ecoboost engine when compared to a fairly reluctant Diesel is hugely important in my opinion and the throaty sound that resonates around the petrol-engined model’s cabin gives a real hot-hatch feel without the associated costs. I also found that the relatively small Fiesta struggled with the extra weight of a Diesel lump up front whereas the lightweight petrol engine made the car less nose-heavy into corners and really did justice to the extremely satisfying driving set up. As both models slip in under that magical 100g/km on emissions, there isn’t a VED issue to separate the two either.

In Conclusion

Ultimately, the Fiesta’s sales figures speak for themselves and it was going to take a series of huge errors for the updated model to ruin such a complete little car. That said, it wasn’t perfect, a fact that Ford weren’t too arrogant to acknowledge and remedy. With its niggles ironed out, it’s striking new look and, perhaps most importantly, the introduction of their EcoBoost engines, the Fiesta will undoubtedly go from strength to strength.

ST due to arrive in April - looks fantastic

ST due to arrive in April – looks fantastic

Oh, did I also mention that the ST model will be along in April, priced from £16,995? More on that to follow……..

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; 2012 Model as Tested – Ford Fiesta Zetec ECOnetic, Engine – 1.6 8V TDCi, Power – 95PS, Maximum Speed – 111mph, Acceleration – 0-62mph 12.9s, Economy – 85.6mpg combined, Emissions87g/km CO2, Price – £15,595 OTR.

2013 Model of choice – Ford Fiesta Zetec S, Engine1.0 Ecoboost Turbo PetrolPower – 125PS, Maximum Speed122mph, Acceleration0-62mph 9.4s, Economy – 65.7 mpg combined, Emissions99g/km CO2, Price –  £15,395 OTR

They always recognise their own, apparently

They always recognise their own, apparently!

Ford Focus Zetec S EcoBoost – Driven and Reviewed

2013 Ford Focus Front angle

2013 Ford Focus Zetec S

In the not too distant past, a car sporting the looks and dimensions of this Ford Focus Zetec S, coupled to a 1.0l petrol engine would usually be found lurking suspiciously in the classifieds, tagged with the highly undesirable moniker – ‘lookalike’ or ‘replica’. Back to 2012 however and Ford have worked some engineering wizardry and installed it in their latest Focus models, the results include the Zetec S model we have here which is propelled by a diminutive 1.0l EcoBoost engine.

EcoBoost Engine

Punching way above its weight, this tiny powerplant may only house three cylinders but they’re assisted by a turbocharger, its engine block is infamously the same size as an A4 piece of paper. Interesting pub facts aside, the EcoBoost provides a 20% decrease in emissions over a similarly powered engine of higher displacement. All of this obviously hasn’t gone unnoticed and Ford’s pocket-rocket is consistently winning more awards and titles than Titanic and Manchester Utd combined.

2013 Ford Focus Rear

Note the ‘Venturi’ rear splitter

Ford have always been the masters of visual drama and this Zetec S in Race Red is no exception. There are aerodynamically efficient spoilers and angles everywhere, from the jutting chin spoiler to the Venturi style rear diffuser.  Whether their potential is regularly utilised is somewhat irrelevant as their visual impact is undeniable even when the car is stationary. The optional 18” wheels and privacy glass on our test car only reinforce the impression that this car means business. I’d even go as far to say that this Zetec S model offers more visual drama than its big brother – the ST. Quite an accolade.

Chic Interior

2013 Ford Focus Interior

Dual Screens and many buttons – surprisingly user-friendly

It’s a similar story on the Focus’ interior, with the many controls and buttons laid out in a fashion that appeals not only visually, but are tempting in a tactile sense too. The ice blue illumination does provide a certain ‘vodka bar’ chic to the experience but I found it surprisingly relaxing when driving at night, it just seems to exude a feeling of calmness. I’m usually a ‘less is more’ type of guy when it comes down to buttons and dials and I have to admit, I initially felt a little intimidated with the plethora facing you from the Focus’ dash, especially the multi-function steering wheel. They are, however, very simple to become accustomed to and each one just seems to be positioned in exactly the correct place. The quality of materials used in the cabin are of a high quality, even in out-of-view areas. The Focus must surely be vying for the top spot in its class in terms of offering a pleasurable environment.

From a driver’s point of view

Power up the EcoBoost engine and it seems to operate in some manner of stealth mode. Below 3000 rpm, this three cylinder is so quiet that the gear-change indicator becomes an essential driver aid as the cabin is near-silent. Ignoring our environmental responsibilities for a second, the 1.0l engine will rev freely when pushed, providing unexpected levels of fun with negligible lag from the turbo. This same turbo also gives some much-needed grunt lower down the rev range  and I found that, even in sixth gear at relatively low revs, there was enough torque to increase speed without searching around the ‘box for a suitable ratio.

Come rain or shine, the Zetec S was reluctant to come unstuck and its handling was admirable. The latest generation Focus may have grown slightly when compared to previous models but the chassis seems well-balanced and easily capable of coping with the extra mass. Around town, the steering assistance is very welcome and makes manoeuvring in tight spaces a doddle.

Utilising a ‘sliding scale’ approach to power steering seems to be the norm these days and I’m not sure Ford have really got the hang of it with this Focus. I found the feedback from the front wheels to be a little lacking at higher speeds which led to some slightly unnerving guesswork as to their intentions. The same was true on motorways and the car just felt a little twitchy, with every minute movement from the driver being magnified through the steering wheel.

5 door only

Kids thumbs up in back of focus

Thumbs up in the back of the Focus!

Ford have taken something of a gamble with the 3rd generation Focus by dropping its 3dr option and making the hatchback available as a 5dr only. This may not have been a popular decision with their hordes of fast-Ford appreciators but it’s a huge signal of intention that this is, first and foremost, a family oriented car. The Zetec S model must surely represent something of a zenith in the family car stakes as it seems to please all generations. Children can be the harshest of critics but my own young daughters (3 & 4) were very keen to put their seal of approval on the Focus with no complaints about any lack of space, access or visibility in the rear.

Reinforcing this aura of attraction for the modern parent, the Zetec S comes packed with driver aides and safety features as standard. These include, not only familiar features such as traction control, now the norm on most cars, but also reassuring assistance from Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) and Torque Vectoring Control. We all assume that our loved ones will be ferried around without incident but it’s good to know that the Focus is capable of dealing with any problems that could occur.

2013 Focus free tax

First Year = Free tax

Our test car was fitted with a Driver Assist Pack option as an option. It includes Active City Stop, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Aid, Traffic Sign Recognition, Driver Alert, Auto High Beam and Blind Spot Info System, all of which are working in unison to keep us on the straight and narrow.  Priced at over £1,000, it’s not the cheapest of additions but then, what price safety? Whilst testing the Focus, I experienced first hand the advantage that most of the Pack offers and it’s undoubtedly justifiable. I would bear in mind though that, although very clever, the system is not infallible and in some situations, not entirely appropriate. The Blind Spot Info System, for example, illuminates an orange dot in the applicable door mirror if it detects an object in a blind spot. Although extremely useful on most roads, it came a little unstuck on country roads at night when it was flummoxed by the presence of nearby hedges and seemed determined to warn me of their existence. It was a similar story with the Lane Departure Warning which obviously didn’t appreciate the need to sometimes cross the white line, the Auto High Beam which seemed to hold onto maximum illumination for a little too long, resulting in some irritated flashes from oncoming traffic and the Traffic Sign Recognition which would occasionally get confused with stickers on foreign HGVs and insist that the speed limit on British motorways was 110 mph.  It’s important to remember though, that all of these aides can be simply switched off and sometimes, this may be the safer option.

In Conclusion

2013 Ford Focus front closeOverall, it’s very difficult to fault the Focus Zetec S, especially when fitted with the 1.0l Ecoboost engine. It’s safe, frugal and appealing, both visually and from a driver’s point of view. That’s not to say it’s perfect, and with the options our test car was supplied with, it’s price tag of over £22,000 may prove to be a little much for some wallets. If it’s head-turning, hot-hatch looks you’re after though, without the associated running costs, the Zetec S is the real deal.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Ford Focus Zetec S 5 Door, Engine – 1.ol EcoBoost, Transmission – 6spd Manual, Layout – Front engine, Front wheel drive, Power – 125PS, Emissions – 114g/km CO2, Economy – 56.5 mpg Combined, Maximum Speed – 120mph, Acceleration – 0-62mph – 11.3s, Price – £19,195 OTR, £22,320 as tested.

Optional Extras on our test car included – City Pack-Rear Park Assist and Powerfold mirrors – £525, Ford DAB Nav System – £750, Door Edge Protectors – £50, Privacy Glass – £150, 18” Alloys – £400, Cruise Control with Active Speed Limiter – £200, Driver Assist Pack – £1050

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