Many of my non-enthusiast friends have asked me why they always see me driving a Ford Focus. They know I’m a huge car geek, and that I care about special cars. They don’t realize I’ve been a fan of the Focus since it was launched in North America in late 1999. As I noted in earlier posts in this series, I loved my daily driver Focus when I lived in England. It’s frustrating that many Americans see the Focus as a cheap, basic economy car. Given the features and available options, it’s anything but.
Here’s how I see my latest daily driver, the Ford Focus ST:
It has a lot of high-end features
The latest Focus can be had with items found only in luxury cars not long ago. This includes a configurable 4.2-inch instrument cluster color screen, an eight-inch touchscreen (MyFord Touch), HD and satellite radio, USB/SD media hub, ten-speaker Sony stereo, navigation, SYNC voice control, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated mirrors, heated leather Recaro power seats, steering wheel controls, Bluetooth telephone and audio streaming, keyless entry, and push-button start. Pretty impressive.
But they’re not always well integrated
Less impressive is how all of these features are inelegantly integrated into the Ford Focus ST's interior. Considering the German simplicity of the Volkswagen Golf/GTI, the Ford makes you wonder if its interior designer had attention deficit disorder.
The steering wheel alone has nineteen buttons, including five buttons to control the screen in the instrument cluster, five buttons for the audio system, five more buttons for the Ford SYNC system, and four buttons for the cruise control. While the buttons are easy enough to use after some practice, the setup lacks simplicity.
The deeply raked windshield and long A-pillars result in a long dash, giving the compact Focus a claustrophobic feel, despite its ample interior space.
MyFord Touch is its worst feature
The MyFord Touch system simply is not friendly, nor intuitive. It’s plagued with glitches, even after my local Ford dealer’s software update. The system locks up regularly and my iPhone 5 inconsistently pairs via Bluetooth. I make a lot of calls from the car and I usually must wait at least five minutes after startup before I can make or receive Bluetooth calls.
MyFord Touch isn’t any better for playing music. The Ford Focus ST conveniently handles both SD cards and USB (as well as a 3.5mm auxiliary-in cable). So, I inserted a 32-gigabyte SD card fully of music, and it has sat in the Focus’ card slot ever since. I have not added or removed music, but MyFord Touch regularly takes time indexing music instead of allowing me to actually listen to it.
This is usually when I switch to satellite radio. Often, the screen won’t react to any inputs and I’ll be stuck on one satellite radio station. Other times, MyFord Touch automatically switches from satellite radio to the SD card mode when I start the car, and resets to the same David Bowie song each time. If I try to change songs, the system won’t allow it, as it’s busy indexing all the music once again. I am all for lower-priced cars getting technology from higher-priced cars, but only if it works. I recently spent a day in a 2013 Ford Super Duty, and I have to say, MyFord Touch needs a serious rehash.
But overall, it’s a great car
I really enjoy the hot hatch, but there are too many details where Ford seems to be trying too hard—or not hard enough in the case of MyFord Touch. Fortunately, I find these problems easy to forget when I can find the right place to use the car like a car, and not like a smartphone – on a smooth, twisting back road. The mammoth midrange power, slick gearbox, strong brakes, and huge cornering grip results in serious, VW GTI-killing pace and a very large grin my face. The Ford Focus ST is a special car, but it needs some tweaks.