First Drive: 2014 Ford Focus ST

For those from Generation Y, the term “Hot Hatch” was something that was learned from the game Gran Turismo. Very few cars that could be classified as a hot hatch were brought to America. Thus we began asking the question, “Why does Europe get all the cool cars?”.

It took awhile, but then brands like Ford began working on a global initiative to sell all their cool cars everywhere. Thus one of the first Ford global performance vehicles were born and it’s called the Focus ST. The ST brand is a collaboration between European Ford car designers that know compact cars well, and the boys in Detroit that work hard on our SVT vehicles.

The Powerplant – Ford’s 2.0-Liter EcoBoost

Ford’s EcoBoost engine family has been a huge hit across the entire vehicle line up and it would only make sense for the Focus ST to get a turbocharged mill of its own. The big goal was to shrink the engine, achieve 20% better fuel efficiency, reduce greenhouse gases by 15% and produce more horsepower than a larger displacement counterpart.

The 2.0-liter EcoBoost was first debuted in the 2008 Ford Explorer Concept. It was originally rated at 275 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Ford toned down those power numbers to 252 hp that comes at 5,500 rpm and torque that peaks at 270 lb-ft at 2,700 rpm. The gas sipping EcoBoost 2-liter will net 23 mpg in town while highway mileage increases to 32. Keeping the ST fueled with premium will actually result in a few mpgs (and more power) over the minimum 87 octane required fuel.

How Overboost Works

The overboost feature helps maintain a nearly flat torque curve by allowing higher boost levels for up to 15 seconds at a time. It is limited to 15 seconds to help reduce internal wear on the engine, though the system will automatically reset as soon as your foot comes off the throttle. Overboost’s targets the 3,000-4,500 rpm range and adds 7.4% to the torque curve while this feature is active.

We logged boost levels in excess of 20 psi with the ST’s overboost function in full effect while on 91 octane. The ST specific gauge display is a subtle addition that also reads oil pressure and coolant temperature on the fly.

The overboost feature helps maintain a nearly flat torque curve by allowing higher boost levels (we have recorded 20+ psi) for up to 15 seconds at a time. In the same breath, all of Ford’s EcoBoost motors are extremely sensitive to heat soak and peak power levels can vary over 10% between a hot and cold motor. Ford pulls timing and adds fuel when the engine is ran hard for extended periods of time. This is to help preserve the life of the engine.

What You Get Over a Standard Focus

Interior

With a $16,605 starting price tag, the base Focus is already a very well put together car. The base Focus ST comes with all the standard equipment that you would find in the Titanium trim level, including keyless ignition and entry; full power accessories; air-conditioning; cruise control; a 60/40 split folding rear seat; Sync; and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, USB/iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack.

Start tacking on options and the $24,115 sticker price climbs to just shy of $30,000. The ST2 package (Equipment Group 201A) adds Recaro front sport seats, cloth/leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8-inch touchscreen display and a 9 speaker with trunk mounted sub woofer Sony sound system with HD radio.

From there, one can option the ST3 package (Equipment Group 202A). This includes all the ST2’s features plus HID headlights, heated mirrors, heated front Recaro seats, full leather upholstery, ambient interior lighting and a navigation system. One can also add a sunroof as an additional, standalone option.

Exterior

From the outside, the Focus ST is is a completely different beast. Upgraded wheels, body kit, center exit exhaust, and brakes are some of the first upgrades one will notice. Inside the transmission is an electronically controlled limited slip front differential that will help reduce torque steer and apply power to the needed front wheels under cornering.

All of the ST’s exterior components are body color matched, including the upgraded high-mounted liftgate spoiler. Dark black color accents come in the way of the unique ST front grille, automatic quad-beam halogen headlamps, and the unique ST fog lamp surrounds.

ST’s Performance-Inspired Suspension

Outside of the significant bump in horsepower, one of the biggest differences the ST offers is the revised suspension. Starting at the steering, the knuckles are shortened to give a quicker, variable steering ratio – reducing from 14.7:1 to as quick as 10.1:1. This decreases lock-to-lock by almost one full turn of the wheel.

The front suspension features a host of upgraded bushings to decrease deflection with slight increases in the way of NVH.  The MacPherson strut independent front suspension is a carry over from the standard Focus but those struts are completely revalved and the springs are 30% stiffer. The front rotors are increased from 10.9-inches to 12.6-inches. The caliper is still a single piston unit, though larger than the standard Focus.

Ford’s trademarked “Control Blade” rear suspension is featured on the base Focus and ST alike. This design helps reduce brake torque and allows the rear of the car to rotate easier under hard cornering. The rear sway bar diameter remains unchanged but a redesigned mounting point allows for better motion ratio and thus acts like a stiffer bar when put into use. The rear springs are also about 19% stiffer.

Driving the Focus ST

With our week long excursion through the mountains of southern California, we have to say that it’s one of the most fun stock sport compacts we have driven. The 235/40/18 Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 summer performance tires work harmoniously with the ST’s suspension to give a very consistent feel when driving. If you need the back of the ST to rotate a little more, a little off throttle oversteer can be dialed in with precision. The electronic limited slip does a remarkable job fighting understeer, even in low speed, high radius turns.

After two back-to-back runs, our best number came from the first run - 208.8 hp and 246.5 lb/ft, right at a 17% drivetrain loss on horsepower. Boost levels were fairly flat at 18 psi, though we noted 20-21 psi during street driving.

We had an opportunity to drive a different Focus ST at a Goodguys autocross event and on the low speed, technical course, it was within two seconds of some of the fastest rear wheel drive cars from the weekend.

With 252 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque at the crank, what does that correlate to the tires of a Dyno Dynamics chassis dyno? We had the chance to strap down our Focus ST test mule on Cunningham Motorsports’ rollers with a fresh tank of 91 octane. After two back-to-back runs, our best number came from the first run – 208.8 hp and 246.5 lb/ft, right at a 17% drivetrain loss on horsepower.

The Focus ST is an ultimate daily driving machine. It achieves 30+ mpg, produces respectable power numbers through its 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, and handles like it’s on rails. For less than $30,000, it’s a strong contender in it’s class with vehicles like the Subaru WRX and Mazdaspeed 3. Also when it’s time to modify, the ST responds strongly with big power improvements on a budget!

2014 Ford Focus ST Key Features:

  • 2.0-liter high-Output EcoBoost
  • 6-Speed manual transmission
  • MacPherson strut independent front sport-tuned suspension
  • Unique 18-inch Y-spoke painted aluminum wheels with red brake calipers and Y-rated summer tires
  • Control Blade independent rear suspension with stabilizer bar
  • 4-wheel disc Anti-Lock Brake System
  • Variable-ratio electric power-assisted steering (EPAS)
  • Exhaust with bright-tipped dual center exit
  • Unique ST front grille
  • Rocker moldings, body-color
  • Automatic quad-beam halogen headlamps
  • Black headlamp surrounds
  • Unique ST fog lamps
  • High-mounted liftgate spoiler

About the author

Mark Gearhart

In 1995 Mark started photographing drag races at his once local track, Bradenton Motorsports Park. He became hooked and shot virtually every series at the track until 2007 until he moved to California and began working as a writer for Power Automedia. He was the founding editor for its first online magazines, and transitioned into the role of editorial director role in 2014. Retiring from the company in 2016, Mark continues to expand his career as a car builder, automotive enthusiast, and freelance journalist to provide featured content and technical expertise.
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