OUR production schedules have been unkind to the Ford Focus Zetec S Turbo. If this review had appeared six weeks ago, when the car was in our clutches, the intro would have gone along the lines of: “All hail the Ford Focus Zetec S Turbo – the most powerful new Focus you can buy.”
But now that July has come and gone, and the thunder-stealing Focus ST is here, strutting its near-250bhp stuff across UK showrooms and making fans of fast Fords go weak at the knees, that’s no longer the case. So, do we just shrug our shoulders, say: “Thanks Zetec S Turbo. It was fun while it lasted,” and leave it at that?
No, because the S Turbo is a fine car with lots to recommend it – above-average muscle, impeccable road manners and a modest thirst, wrapped in a subtle bodykit that will earn its driver an approving nod from the perfomance car cognoscenti, without registering on the radar of angry people who will froth at the mouth when they see an ST for the first time.
The Zetec S Turbo’s party piece is its 1.6-litre engine. It won’t have escaped your notice that reduced-capacity turbocharged petrol motors are, to borrow a phrase from my friends on the fashion desk, “trending right now”.
Everyone is at it, from Fiat to Ford, VW to Volvo. They’ve all cottoned on to the fact that, by sacrificing a few cc for a little bit of forced induction, their cars can breeze through strict emissions tests, yet still pack enough punch to pull the skin off a custard.
Of course, where there’s a turbo, there’s always a boffin with a box of tricks ready to eke a bit more power from under the bonnet.
And so it is with this Focus, which develops a healthy 178bhp. Don’t go thinking of it as a hot hatch, though (since that’s the ST’s job) – think of it as a comfortable cruiser with a taut chassis and muscle on tap for when the occasion demands. So there’s no hot-hatch-style scream from the engine, just a pleasing exhaust note which is wuffly enough to qualify as sporty, but never intrusive.
Tall gears blunt its acceleration a bit, although the upside is a decent return at the pumps. Treat it gently and Ford claims you’ll see 47mpg on the trip computer. Explore the turbo’s potential, which you will, and you most certainly won’t.
A thumping 199 lb/ft of torque takes the petrol Focus into diesel Focus territory, but while the diesel runs out of puff at 4,000rpm, the petrol Focus will still be giving its all right as the needle rises nearer 6,000rpm.
Ford have been making Focuses (Focii?) long enough to know a thing or two about cabin ergonomics, and it’s reflected here. There’s room for five, the controls are where you expect them to be, and the driving position is spot on. Zetec S touches include an engine start button, alloy pedals and a slightly posher dashboard than the rest of the range.
Presumably, the ST’s dash is posher. And it’s faster, and louder, and turns more heads. Yeah, whatever. The Zetec S is almost as much fun, and cheaper to buy and cheaper to run. Sounds like the perfect Ford formula to us.
CAR Ford Focus 1.6 Zetec S Turbo
PERFORMANCE Max speed 138mph; 0-62mph 7.9secs
MPG (combined) 47.1mpg
CO2 EMISSIONS 139g/km
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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