Does Ford’s all-new Focus ST hot hatch have what it takes to rival the best?
Fast Fords are a big deal in the UK, with the Blue Oval’s hottest models being value by enthusiasts for decades and decades. Once extreme models that could be a handful on public roads, they’ve increasingly become usable, sensible performance models. But not ones that typically sacrifice on the fun factor.
And usability definitely comes into the latest Focus ST, which sits neatly between the standard Focus and the upcoming RS model, which is expected to produce nearly 400bhp from the factory.
The latest ST uses a detuned version of the previous-generation RS models engine, and the same as what’s in the current EcoBoost Mustang. It also gets a new electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD), which controls the power being sent to the front wheels. New ST-specific suspension, steering and rev-matching technology also features.
But does it all come together in practise?
Under the bonnet of the new ST lies a 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol engine, which Ford knows like the back of its hand. In this guise it produces 276bhp – making it the most powerful Focus ST to date. There’s also a sizeable 30bhp increase on the previous car.
With 420Nm of torque being sent to the front wheels, it’s key that the eLSD helps to handle how the power is distributed. The torque steer of hot hatches of days gone by doesn’t cut it in today’s market. But it works. Put your foot down and even at lower revs, there’s a great power delivery.
A six-speed manual gearbox helps to get the power on the tarmac, too, with a seven-speed automatic ‘box being rolled out later in the year.
As with the previous ST, a diesel option is also available for those who want the looks without the bills. It’s a 187bhp 2.0-litre unit that promises 59mpg.
Ride and handling
The ST’s performance stacks up on paper, but how does it transfer to the real world? Well, rather well.
Even in the tightest of bends on our Alpine test route, the eLSD managed the power output well, giving you plenty of confidence to push out of a bend at the other side. The body also stays remarkably composed, even when its being pushed to the limits. It certainly feels more like an ‘RS’ than ever before. A thrilling exhaust note, super direct steering and excellent brakes only add to the overall package.
Our one small gripe is that in ‘Sport’ mode, bumpy sections of the road could leave it unsettled, which might not be ideal on Britain’s broken roads. We’ll have to wait to sample the new Focus ST before being able to say that definitively, though.
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Interior and equipment
Subtlety is key in the cabin, with the ST’s interior hardly looking dissimilar from any Focus ST-Line. Some ST badges and faux carbon fibre trim are the few giveaways that you might not be in a normal Focus. Until you turn the key, of course.
Recaro sports seats also work wonders in the Focus ST. They’re well-judged – offering plenty of support and corner-hugging ability, but without being uncomfortable or too hardcore for longer trips.
And little practicality is lost next to the standard five-door Focus hatchback. It’s also worth remembering that the Focus ST is also one of the very few hot hatches available in practical Estate form, meaning that there’s next to no compromise on practicality.
Standard equipment is impressive, with entry-level models coming with adaptive cruise control, wireless charging, a B&O sound system and those wonderful bucket seats.
On the options list there’s also a performance pack. This is the one for true hot hatch enthusiasts, as it adds a Track driving mode, rev matching and launch control. If you care about driving, it’s a box worth ticking.
With the ST receiving a noticeable increase in power, it’s unsurprising that prices have shot up a notch. It’s perhaps a touch expensive next to rivals, with prices starting from £31,995 for the petrol hatch tested here. The diesel ST hatch comes in at £29,495.
As with most hot hatches, running costs should be comparatively low next to sports cars. Ford claims a fuel economy figure of 35.7mpg is possible, with CO2 emissions of 179g/km.
The diesel is the one to choose, though, if running costs are important. Ford claims the diesel can return 59mpg, along with CO2 emissions of 124g/km.
Ford has managed to succeed in producing one of the best hot hatches on sale with the new Focus ST – important given how competitive this sector is at the minute.
With the help of new performance technologies, it feels like a huge step forward next to the last ST, and a genuine rival to the best.
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