A Dying Breed – Ford Focus ST Track Pack

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One thing I never really got when I was younger, and in retrospect, I wish I did, was the whole “hot hatch” thing. When all my mates were driving Golf GTIs and Civic Type Rs, I was usually smoking about in some 15-year-old diesel Mercedes S-class or Audi A8 because I was always a fan of getting more bang for my buck. This, obviously backfired miserably on multiple occasions when I realised just how expensive all my bargain-barges were to run…

So now I’m in my late thirties, I have a house, a dog, and a partner who loves nothing more than spending the weekend perusing our local Ikea. This means that a LWB Jag XJ isn’t the sensible choice, and last year I sold my beloved, but painfully costly L322 Range Rover and bought a diesel Audi A3 Sportback on paper; it’s brilliant. It has a decent size boot, the rear seats fold flat, it can seat four adults, and it gets well over 50mpg. There is a problem though: I just don’t like it. It looks nice, and I love the Misano Red paint, but after 16 months and nearly 20,000 miles, we just don’t seem to see eye to eye. My instant reaction to not getting on with the car was that it was too small, not big, and brash enough for my tastes. Why would I want something so small when for the same money I could have bought a new L322 Range Rover, or a Porsche Cayenne, or just about any other large SUV and then Ford ever so kindly dropped off the keys to a “Race Red” Ford Focus ST “Track Pack” for me to review. Without giving the game away too soon, the reason I don’t get on with my Audi has nothing to do with its size…

Ford Focus ST “Track Pack”

As soon as I heard the Focus pull up outside the house I was keen to have a go. From a glance, the car looks like any other Focus ST or any other Focus for that matter, but it’s when you put your astute car nerd specs on where you start to see the subtle additions that should, on paper at least, make this fiery red hatchback that little bit more special. You’ve bigger 18″ Brembo brake, lightweight alloy wheels, grippy Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tyres and fully adjustable KW coilovers. The rest is all the same as the standard ST, with the 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine producing 280PS through that all-important 6-speed manual transmission.

Inside it’s business as usual from Ford these days – a nice airy cabin and some snug hip-hugging Recaro seats all facing an enormous 13.2″ touchscreen, but less said about that the better. It worked just fine, and like every other car we get into these days, I hooked my phone up and CarPlay did its thing. The car was also fitted with the upgraded 10-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system which was ok but did have a fair bit of rattle in the door woofers at higher volumes. The seating position is great and I could lower the seat right down to get myself in the perfect form to hit the B-roads ahead.

Black leather and red stitching look great inside the Focus STs cabin

As with all these things, once I’d fired up the engine, I set the car up in “Sport” mode by pressing the red “S” button on the lovey chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel and I got on my way. As I drove down the quiet streets surrounding my house the car felt very tight and the suspension felt quite stiff, something I would be happy with on a small circuit but it’s maybe not ideal for the backstreets of a small Cambridgeshire city – but it was when I left town and got onto the more open roads where the car really came into its own. At lower speeds, up to about 45mph, the car felt like a race car. Agile yet powerful, with pin-point handling, and then as you opened up to higher speeds the KW suspension transformed the ride completely. The car felt smooth and stable, almost gliding over the road, something which I am not very used to with cars running coilover set-ups.

The 19″ wheels and P-Zero Corsa tyres were also the perfect match for the car, back when I drove the previous generation Honda Civic Type R I remember leaving the drive in desperate need of a chiropractor due to the combination of rock-hard suspension and rubber band tyres, but the Focus couldn’t more comfortable to be in as a daily. I put the car through a variety of everyday uses from the 25mile commute to work in bad traffic to a weekend trip to the coast utilising Norfolk’s finest backroads to open the car up to see how well it handled that lovely British mixture of beautiful sweeping roads and terrible road conditions.

It has to be said that where I think the overall car is very good, and if someone told me they were thinking about buying one, I would definitely not tell them to run a mile, I do feel that the KW suspension is a big part of how well this Track Pack edition drives and without it, the rest of the car was a solid 7/10. Not bad by any means, but not as exciting as the Golf R 20 I recently drove and not as premium feeling as some of the German competitors. That said, the sports exhaust did have a very satisfying tone and the gearbox was not only novel, with fewer and fewer of these cars coming with a manual option, but also a delight to use.

The Ford Focus ST is a car I wish I’d driven when I was younger, along with all the other great hot hatchbacks as my big fear now is that I probably won’t ever get to experience one for myself as the owner – at least not for a long time and when that time does come, they will no doubt be very different. The Focus marks the inevitable end of an iconic era for motoring. Small turbocharged engines with manual gearboxes just aren’t going to be around for much longer as they are quickly being replaced by hybrid/fully electric powertrains, so enjoy these while you can.

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A big thank you to Ford UK for supplying the car for the week, you can find out more on the Focus ST and all the other vehicles currently on sale from Ford here: https://www.ford.co.uk/