FOCUS ST3 - 1 Week Ownership
A car that rewards a light, right foot.
For those of you who haven't been following my car shopping escapades. I recently bit the bullet and traded in my aging Jag for something a bit newer and hopefully a bit more reliable.
The old X-Type 3.0 V6 AWD
Now before I start on the ST3, the Jag WILL be missed. I loved that car, much like your love that great uncle. You know the one, he's a bit decrepit, always in and out of hospital, has a serious drink problem, but always makes you smile!
Bear with me for the odd analogy, the Jag basically was 12 years old - in human years that's about 87. However it wasn't a spritely, healthy 87, it was more of a osteoporosis ridden, on dialysis, living with cancer 87. Yes, it was mobile but it needed regular checkups and treatment to keep the grim reaper at bay. And yes. Things broke on a regular basis.
The drink problem isn't fine, single-malt whisky like your great uncle. It's petrol. Normal use was showing my < 15 mpg. If I wanted to see more I really had to do long runs. It liked a drink! So does your great uncle. Keeping the Jag topped up was probably actually more expensive than keeping uncle Ben in whisky.
The making you smile bit wasn't regaling you with tales of loading tanks onto boats on D-Day. Or any other 'liberating France and sticking it to the Nazis' stories. It's the way it drove, the way it sounded. The way it was a do-anything car. (Except 'be economical' and 'be reliable' at least!) It was an estate, very handy. AWD, good in the snow. You never had any problems getting to the petrol station to top up. (Apart from the odd breakdown anyway.)
Bottom line - I liked that car and I WILL miss it.
Well, when I went to look at the Focus I did so because it ticked a lot of boxes. Leather seats, decent amount of power (Specifically more than 231 BHP - after all, who wants to downgrade?) Bit sporty, bit smaller than the Jag but still practical, and blue. I realise this last point might seem trivial, but after owning about seven silver cars in a row, I decided whatever I had it would NOT be silver. In the eighties it was red, because metallic colours were expensive and brown was just too seventies. Literally every other car of that era was red. Now it's silver. I'm really sick of seeing silver cars, especially on my drive. I nearly had Tangerine Scream. Yes, it would have been easy to spot in a big carpark, but no I didn't fancy tearing around in an ASBO mobile and getting pulled over just for having a shouty coloured car.
When you look at the on paper comparison the Focus ST3 looks a LOT like the X-Type. Except for estate and AWD, they appear a very similar car.
HOWEVER, they are NOT similar cars to drive. I learned this on the test-drive of the ST3. It really changed my perception of what I wanted. The ST3 did NOT drive like the Jag. It wasn't comfortably and cossetting and easy. In the Jag, you could slap your foot down hard on the accelerator and turn the wheel and the car behaved. It did most of the work for you. It FOUND traction and gripped. The Focus doesn't! On the summer tyres that come as standard on wet, wintery roads, you can't accelerate hard. At least not without inducing massive wheel-spin and nearly torque-steering into the kerb.
I don't know what the figures are, but it FEELS, like the ST3 has masses more torque. Almost too much torque! It's NOT undriveable however. If anything I'd say it makes the car DRIVEABLE! It's actually more engaging. You have to think about how you drive it, you have to read the road more and you have feel what the car is doing adjust the way you're driving more. It's firmer, but it's not a harsh ride. You DO find yourself taking more care to avoid pot holes and bumps. This might sound like an annoyance. To some people it maybe even IS! However I actually quite like feeling like I have a little more work to do.
I AM concerned about the coming Driverless Car revolution (drivetribe.com/p/NEqe10KLTteMV3_h6nAKcg/DpiCkRmXQ2-7fw9XzN872Q) and for good reason. I'm a bit like a factory worker, standing there, screwing things together, while watching the boss swan around the factory with a robot catalogue under his arm. I can see the grim reality facing us. There may well come a point when you aren't allowed to drive a car on the roads in the UK. Yes, super estates are bloody useful cars and great for getting you about (www.drivetribe.com/p/J27kagI1SrGsuK5SkX6SHA/bZajaQt2TQGySdF8E6DmRA) but getting something like the ST3 gives you something different. It gives you a job, it gives you a chance to feel satisfaction at driving a car well.
So despite my extolling the virtues of the super estate, I say go and get yourself a car that you HAVE to drive. Get a car that will punish you if you're careless. Get yourself a car that needs real skill to get the best out of and enjoy it.
There may come a time when you can't! (At least in the UK)
Back on topic. After owning the ST3 for a week, I'm loving it. I'm getting 25 miles per gallon and a lot more SMILES per gallon the Jag. So far, definitely no regrets. (Though I will miss the Jag, it was a great car too!)
[ICT] Irreverant Car Talk