The Ford Focus ST is a really good car. I want to make that point crystal clear. But I wouldn’t buy one. As far as Blue Oval hot hatches go, my money is on the smaller, cheaper Fiesta ST. I honestly find the Fiesta more fun to drive, and not just by a little bit. It’s more nimble, doesn’t fight you as much, and from behind the wheel, I just feel more comfortable and locked in to what the car is doing. The Focus ST is a riot, but for everyday use, it’s sometimes a bit too “Jane, stop this crazy thing!”
On paper, the idea of a more powerful, front-wheel-drive Focus ST doesn’t really do much for me, because the last thing this car needs is more oomph. The folks at Mountune now offer a power pack that adds 23 horsepower and 26 pound-feet of torque to the Focus ST’s 2.0-liter turbo-four, bringing output totals to 275 hp and 296 lb-ft. That’s all done thanks to different ECU programming, not to mention a new induction kit and an intercooler. It’s a $1,900 upgrade, but on its own, I could really take it or leave it.
What piques my interest, however, is the Mountune upgrade when packaged with a slew of thoughtful Ford Performance add-ons. There’s a new short-throw shifter, torque-biasing differential, front strut tower brace, lowering springs, and a special cat-back exhaust system – all in, $3,132. Rather than just becoming a faster Focus, these accessories make for a more tactile hot hatch than before. With power, you need poise. And this car has it.
- As far as the power boost is concerned, you don’t really notice the 23 hp. What you can feel is the torque, especially right off the bat. Instead of hitting you after initial throttle tip-in, this car’s acceleration feels more linear, and more balanced on the low end. It’ll happily rev high and play nice in third and fourth gears during spirited, backroad driving, but that initial push is much smoother than in the standard car.
- The short-throw shifter works well and feels great. But I never really had a problem with the Focus ST’s standard shifter, so it’s not a life-changing upgrade.
- Generally, I don’t really like lowering springs on most performance cars, because they can often ruin the ride and throw off overall proportions, depending on the car’s wheel/tire package. But that isn’t the case here. In fact, I find that the ride quality is actually improved compared to the stock ST, and several of my colleagues agree. I don’t know how Ford did it, but the lowered setup is actually better in day-to-day driving scenarios. Bravo.
- The steering is unchanged, which is fine, though torque steer is still present. (I don’t care how sophisticated the front diff is – routing 275 hp and 296 lb-ft through the front two wheels is a challenge, period.) This Focus ST feels flatter in corners, but only just – the difference is minor, and only noticeable when you’re really pushing hard.
- My favorite part of the package is the exhaust. It sounds great, with a loud, low presence that’s never boomy or obtrusive from inside the cabin. You can definitely hear the difference from outside the car, though, and it’s a nicely tuned sound that isn’t too shouty. Oh, and props to Ford Performance for ditching the ST’s funny-shaped center exhaust in favor of some fat, twin pipes. The visual enhancement alone is enough for me to love this upgrade.
- The rest of the experience is standard Focus ST. That is to say, the optional Recaro seats keep you snug (see the video below), the interior is sort of a cluttered mess, and especially in Tangerine Scream, tuner fanboys point and give thumbs-up when you pass them on the road.
So let’s address the elephant in the room: pricing. It’s always an issue when discussing tuner cars or aftermarket specials. The car pictured here is $36,992, which is more than the more powerful, all-wheel-drive Focus RS is rumored to cost. But the problem isn’t the price of the add-ons – $5,102, including a $69 blue induction hose not mentioned earlier – it’s the fully loaded, $31,890 donor car. Add all these upgrades to a lower-spec Focus ST and you won’t break the bank.
What’s more, the beauty about the Ford Performance and Mountune kits is that they both come with warranties, and won’t void the stock Focus ST warranty. That’s worth some of the added cost alone. Still, I can’t help but wonder what a similarly tuned version of the Fiesta ST would be like. This may be the most fun Focus I’ve ever driven, but I’m willing to bet that littler Fiesta would still be my preferred cup of tea.