Ford have been a particular favourite of MotorMartin for quite some time now, perhaps it was growing up in the environs of Essex surrounded by XR3is, RS Turbos and XR4x4s (if you were lucky) but fast Fords have always been high up on the wish list here at MotorMartin Towers. The idea that the average worker could drive to work all week in their XR2i and then let lose at the weekend has perhaps been the defining feature of Ford’s Performance Division products for the last four decades or so and long may it continue. And so, when the following arrived on the newsdesk up on the top floor of MotorMartin Towers, it appeared to confirm what MotorMartin has known all along, that a Fast Ford makes performance available for all, regardless of where you’re from or where you’re going too.
Hot hatches – sporty small cars with powerful engines – were once the preserve of “petrol head” car fans, but are fast becoming a mainstream choice for car-buyers who are a far cry from the stereotypical “boy racer”, Ford data shows.
Ford have confirmed to MotorMartin that their hot hatch sales across Europe are booming with more than 22,200 Focus RS, Focus ST, and Fiesta ST models sold during the first three-quarters of 2016. Indeed orders for the acclaimed Focus RS have reached more than 9,100 since launch.
Customers choosing practical performance models are increasingly ranking equipment levels and compact size as key purchase decisions according to Ford themselves, as well as powerful engines and driving experiences that better combine ride comfort with driving dynamics and on this front, Ford have a distinct advantage as their cars are tuned by award-winning Ford Performance specialists.
Ford’s Focus RS, Focus ST petrol and diesel, and Fiesta ST– now available in five-door bodystyle for the first time – also offer a number of technologies that enhance daily driving. These include Ford’s SYNC communications and entertainment systems, Quickclear windscreen for effortless defrosting in winter weather, and heated seats – helping keep the latest generation of hot hatches comfortable and practical all year round.
New findings from Ford sales data shared with MotorMartin, shows the average age of hot hatch customers has increased from around 38 years old in 2010 to 42 years old in 2016. Ford data also reveals that 8 per cent more women bought hot hatches in 2015, compared with 2010.
Ford futurist and global consumer trends manager, Sheryl Connelly, has identified a trend for durable, multi-function products that meet customer desire for a “Swiss Army Life”.
“The Swiss Army Life is all about self-reliance. In response to the trend, consumers are increasingly drawn to products that deliver in terms of versatility, adaptability and utility,” Connelly informed MotorMartin. “Perhaps this is even truer for Millennials who seem to be pioneering new paths and are careful to invest in products that can support them through many different lifestyles and life stages.”
Sarah Stringfellow, from Brentwood, U.K., is typical of new buyers who are attracted by hot hatch versatility and who confound the usual stereotype. The 31-year-old drives a top specification Focus ST3 with EcoBoost petrol engine.
“The Focus ST appealed as it was fast, looked great and wasn’t too big, with plenty of room for shopping or luggage for weekends away. What I hadn’t expected was the real sense of luxury inside,” Stringfellow said. “Of course, it’s the power and the way it drives that I really love. In fact, I’m now beginning to hanker after a Focus RS!” And who can blame her? A quick look at MotorMartin’s sister site, BlackTopMedia.co.uk, gives us their chief road tester Tony Yate’s opinion from his recent time spent with an RS Focus and is well worth checking out.
More practical hot hatches also continue to hold their appeal with a dedicated customer base as those buyers grow older and experience lifestyle changes. Having a family no longer rules out owning a hot hatch as an everyday car, and performance car fans who could not afford their dream car in their younger years are now able to consider a modern hot hatch in later life.
“There remains a hardcore of hot hatch fans who believe nothing with more than three doors is worthy of the hot hatch description, but as the market, and buyers, have matured I think there’s less of a stigma attached to the five-door bodystyle,” said Dan Trent, editor of popular car enthusiast website Pistonheads. “I’m a perfect example – now I’ve got kids I couldn’t run a three-door car and if the option of a five-door version is the difference between having a hot hatch or not, then I’m all for it!”
Ford have confirmed to MotorMartin that the Ford Focus RS five-door hatchback features a 350PS 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol engine, Ford Performance All Wheel Drive and Selectable Drive Modes– including an industry-first Drift Mode that allows controlled oversteer drifts.
Rather incredibly, in MotorMartin’s opinion, the Ford Focus ST is offered with a more than powerful 250PS EcoBoost petrol or 185PS TDCi diesel engines in five-door hatchback or wagon bodystyles whilst their amazing Ford Fiesta ST three-door and five-door hatchbacks deliver 182PS from a 1.6-litre EcoBoost petrol engine, a 1.6! Also offered is the much anticipated, new 200PS Fiesta ST200 – available in three-door bodystyle only.
Earlier this year Ford also introduced a new ST-Line range of models that offer Ford Performance-inspired styling and powerful, fuel-efficient engines. ST-Line models include Fiesta, Focus, Mondeo and the recently announced new Ford Kuga.
As mentioned at the top of the piece, Ford has a strong history of popular hot hatches in Europe dating back 35 years to the Fiesta XR2 so it’s no surprise to MotorMartin that this year Ford expect to sell more than 200,000 performance cars globally, including Mustang, Focus RS, and Focus ST and Fiesta ST – nearly double the volume from just three years ago.
Long may it continue.
Where will you go?