- Awesome pace but practical too
- Stunning good looks and generous boot capacity
- Available as a hatchback or estate
- Some rivals are more powerful and better to drive
- Pricey for a Focus - even a high performance one
- No-one will ever let you go in front of them – it’s so aggressively styled
Ford has a reputation for delivering the goods when developing high-performance family hatchbacks and the Focus ST is further proof of that.
But the difference between this car and some rivals is its versatility. Yes, it will deliver ridiculously quick pace through the switchback bends, but it’s calm enough to feature on the school run too.
And there is enough space for passengers to sit comfortably and take along plenty of luggage too thanks to the well-sized boot.
Customers can choose from a petrol or diesel version with the former available with manual or automatic transmission. It is on sale in hatchback or estate design.
On The Road
The Ford Focus has been an overwhelming success story for Ford with a wealth of choice available to customers. At the top of the tree sits the ST model – an aggressively styled high-performance model that ticks all the right boxes for driving purists.
We tested the petrol version with a 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine delivering 280PS of power and 420Nm of torque (a 2.0-litre 190PS diesel model is available).
Our car, which was an ST Edition model so top range, featured a six-speed manual gearbox although buyers can opt for an auto transmission if preferred. When it comes to performance, it’s not for the faint-hearted with a 0-62mph sprint time of 5.7 seconds and maximum speed that is limited to 155mph.
The gear shifting is sharper than the standard Focus for constant power and acceleration through the high rev range. And there are drive modes to really crank up the handling. These are called Normal, Sport, Race Track and Slippery with a button that offers instant access to the Sport setting without toggling through the modes.
There are faster hot hatches out there, but few deliver the all-round package of the Focus ST that will fly through the country lanes delivering outstanding grip and pace into bends. But it has a much calmer side and can be used as a day-to-day model with gentler driving manners to match.
The front-wheel drive Focus ST generates a lot of power and that translates into awesome performance. It reaches motorway cruising speeds at the blink of an eye and it has the agility to cope well with busier traffic in city centres. But where this model truly excels is on the quieter B roads where it can be unleashed a little.
It grips unbelievably well through tight bends with an electronically controlled suspension limited-slip differential set-up for improved traction. In addition, the car’s body sway is minimal, so no matter how enthusiastically it’s driven, it feels well-grounded and confident.
With improved steering responses compared to the standard Focus, the wheel feels perfectly weighted with precision accuracy and ample feedback in all settings. That is a plus point in a car with such powerful potential.
Adjustable suspension is a standard feature on the Focus ST which makes it a lot more forgiving during day-to-day driving, although it is firm enough to assist with more aggressive performance too. Even in Normal mode, the suspension is still quite firm, but it is gentler than some rivals.
The Track mode is best left for just that as it will probably be too hot to handle on public roads with fiercer acceleration and performance settings.
With aggressive, muscular styling and bundles of black detailing, there’s no denying the sporting or menacing appearance of the Focus ST when approached from any angle.
Stand-out design cues on our test car included a black painted roof and mirror caps that contrasted perfectly with the car’s Azura Blue paintwork. There was a high gloss upper front grille, adaptive LED headlights, LED rear lamps, a performance rear spoiler, dual exhaust pipes, plus black 19-inch alloys complete with red brake calipers.
Moving inside, the interior is equally imposing in its design with a dark headliner, part-leather Recaro sports seats in ebony black with metal grey piping and blue stitching, a heated leather sports steering wheel also with blue stitching, metallic sports pedals, a head-up display and lots of ST badging.
There is a clutter-free feel to the car which is just as well considering its driving potential, with a main touchscreen being the focal point, along with a neat driver information display.
When driven in the more ‘sensible’ settings the Focus ST is fairly refined with good insulation protecting occupants from engine, road surface and wind noise. Flick across to the dynamic settings though and expect the exact opposite with the engine and exhaust note exaggerated to match the dynamic performance.
In The Car
Behind the Wheel
With a powered front driver’s seat and plenty of manual steering wheel adjustment, getting an ideal driving position in the Focus ST is a simple enough process. The sports seats are very comfortable and offer ample side bolster support through tight bends.
There are not too many controls, switches and buttons to speak of with most systems accessed through the eight-inch colour touchscreen where the likes of the Ford SYNC 3 system is located. This includes a DAB radio with 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen premium audio system and 360-degree sound, a navigation system, plus full Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity.
The 12.3-inch digital cluster behind the wheel offers clear speed and rev readouts and can be adjusted to taste and there is a head-up display that is also handy with such quick acceleration on offer.
A Ford Pass Connect modem and app system, which was introduced on the Focus, allows the driver to connect their phone and receive live updates via in-car wi-fi. It is free for 12 months and then there is a monthly fee (£3.99 at the time of this review).
Switching through the drive modes is easy enough with a red button offering quick access to Sport mode. In addition, the separate panel for all the climate control settings means less driver distraction on the fly.
The driver visibility is okay apart from over-the-shoulder due to the wide B pillars blocking the view slightly.
Space & Practicality
Developing a Focus that is a driver’s dream car is one thing, but this is a Focus after all so needs to deliver on the practicality front too. And it does just that. Despite all the sporty interior design cues, the five-door model can easily accommodate a couple of back seat passengers or three if they don’t mind a bit of a squeeze.
Leg space is impressive as is the amount of head room for a hot hatch model. However, the rear windows are quite narrow and tinted so it can feel a little claustrophobic, especially with black headlining too.
The boot is well sized and can swallow 273 litres of luggage increasing to 1,250 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat. This is slightly less than other Focus models due to the mini spare wheel and B&O sound system eating into storage space. If more room is needed, then the Focus Estate ST offers extra capacity ranging from 541 to 1,576 litres (also with the mini spare and B&O sound system).
There are also a number of handy storage compartments scattered throughout the car, including a deep central bin with separate tray, glovebox, door pockets with room for a water bottle, two cup holders up front and a further two in the fold-down rear armrest, a couple of deep trays, seat back nets and hooks in the boot to prevent shopping bags toppling over.
The Ford Focus ST is a high-performance hatchback with a price-tag to match. While the entry-level Focus model can be snapped up from £22,215, our test car in ST Edition guise was priced at £35,785.
According to official figures, under stricter WLTP testing, the car could deliver a combined 34.4mpg with carbon emissions of 185g/km.
This CO2 figure would lead to quite expensive first year running costs with a road tax bill of £895 dropping to the standard fee of £155 after 12 months.
Although our car did not have any optional extras fitted, there are a number of packs that can be added. But it’s worth keeping an eye on the final cost because if it creeps above £40k the taxman will hit you for another £335 per year for five years as part of a Premium Rate levy.
The test car sits in insurance group 34.
Quality & Reliability
Ford certainly raised the bar on the latest generation Focus when it comes to quality with a range of upmarket materials and upholstery, along with soft touch surfaces. It took on a more premium feel and the model has received positive customer feedback when it comes to reliability.
The Focus ST boasts part-leather powered sports seats that not only offer excellent levels of support, but feel high-end in their build quality too. As does all the switchgear throughout the cabin.
The Focus ST comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty and this also includes roadside assistance for one year in the UK and throughout Europe.
Policies can be extended to four years/80,000 miles or five years/100,000 miles. There are also options to extend the services plans.
Safety & Security
When it was tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating, the latest Ford Focus was awarded the maximum five stars and the car is packed with systems to protect occupants and other road users.
Features include pre-collision assist with autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane keeping aid with lane departure warning, electronic stability control, hill-start assist, post collision braking, a tyre pressure warning system, adaptive cruise control and a full suite of airbags.
For added peace of mind, the Focus ST is fitted with a Thatcham Category One alarm system to keep intruders at bay.
The Ford Focus ST offers the very best of both worlds. It can be the regular day-to-day mode of transport taking mundane tasks in its stride, but is very eager to show its full potential when allowed. Pricey, but if performance is your thing, it’s worth every penny.