Ford Focus ST review
The Ford Focus ST hot hatch gains a big power boost to make the most of the standard car's impressive dynamics.
Launched in 2012, the newest Ford Focus ST is the latest in a long-line of Fast Fords that bring high performance thrills at accessible prices.
Whilst the latest Focus ST keeps the sporty chassis and impressive handling of its predecessor which Ford first unveiled in 2005, the newest Focus ST now has a smaller engine and a 2.0, four-cylinder EcoBoost under the bonnet. However, with an increased power output of 247bhp, not only is the newest Focus ST quicker than the old car, it can more than take the fight to its hot hatch rivals, as it matches the Renaultsport Megane 265 for performance, and beats the Volkswagen Golf GTi.
While Fast Ford fans will be eagerly awaiting the arrival of an even hotter Focus RS, for now they will have to make do with the ST as Ford is playing its cards close to its chest on that one. Available in only five-door guise, the Ford offers the Focus ST in three trim levels - the entry level ST, mid-range ST-2 and range-topping ST-3. There's even a Focus ST Estate for those who need extra boot space.
In addition to its superb dynamics and aggressive styling, another highlight of the Ford Focus ST is its price. Starting from around £22,000, the Focus ST undercuts its main hot hatch rivals by a few thousand pounds.
Our choice: Focus ST-2
Despite belonging in the same hot hatch category as the Golf GTi, the Focus ST is the opposite to the Volkswagen in terms of style.
While the Golf is subtle about its sporting credentials, the Focus ST is every inch a proper Fast Ford, thanks to its gaping mesh grille, 19-inch alloy wheels and a wide range of colours which includes Tangerine Dream for ST-2 and ST-3 models. While it may not be understated, the Focus ST certainly looks the part.
Ford carries over the Focus ST's sporty exterior over to the inside, and decks every car out with a wide range of standard kit. The entry level ST gets front Recaro sports seats, contrasting piping, carbon fibre trim, extra gauges, sports' steering wheel, metal pedals and gear lever, and a whole raft of ST badges. Like the exterior then, the interior of the Ford Focus ST is anything but subtle.
Further up the range, Ford gives the Focus ST-2 half leather trim, dual climate control and a heated windscreen, whilst the range-topping ST-3 is further softened by luxuries such as heated seats, full leather trim, and and bi-xenon headlamps.
Instead of continuing with the thirsty old 2.5-litre 5-cylinder engine from the old Focus ST, Ford has taken a more economical stance with the latest fast Focus by fitting it with a version of its 2.0-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine.
Fans of the original car will be happy to know that the new Focus ST offers more power over its predecessor (247bhp compared to 225bhp), and is good for 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds.
More good news comes in the form of Ford ensuring that its latest Focus ST sounds as good as the old car, thanks to a sound symposer which enhances the engine note to deliver a purposeful, growling soundtrack.
If 247bhp is not enough, Ford's official tuner, Mountune, can - like on the smaller Fiesta ST - bolt on a performance upgrade which boosts the Focus ST's power to 272bhp, and torque to 400Nm. In addition to taking all of 90-minutes to fit from a Mountune approved Ford dealer, it'll also set you back around £1,200.
The Mountune upgrade is an official upgrade, so it won't void the car's warranty. However, while the kit gives the Focus ST plenty of mid-range grunt, the additional boost in power is a little too much for the chassis to handle.
It is worth noting that the Focus ST only comes with a slick, six-speed manual gearbox, but when this is mated to a new front-wheel drive chassis and a torque vectoring system which ensures maximum traction, it makes the Ford Focus ST one of the best handling cars in its class.
Conversely, despite its extremely reactive steering and sporting credentials, the Ford Focus ST is also a remarkably capable long distance cruiser, thanks to its quiet cabin and hugely supportive Recaro seats. If a criticism had to be made, it'd be that the Focus ST's ride at low speed is a tad too firm.
As with all other cars in the Ford line-up, the Focus ST is well screwed together and it is evident that Ford has worked hard to ensure the cabin is a real step-up over the last car.
Ford has also made the Focus ST one of the safest hot hatches around, thanks to standard traction and stability control, a torque vectoring system, good brakes lots of airbags and a maximum score of five-stars in the Euro NCAP ratings.
Furthermore, you can make your Focus ST by opting for Ford's Driver Assistance Pack that adds safety collision avoidance, blind spot monitoring and lane keep assist.
The bad news surrounding the Focus ST, however, is that Ford did not fare well in our 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, where it finished a lowly 23rd out of 32 manufacturers.
Ford's decision to only make the Focus ST in five-door hatch or estate guises adds a welcome dose of versatility over three-door rivals.
While the hatch more practical than the Renaultsport Megane 265 as a result of its hatchback tailgate and split/fold seats, the Ford Focus ST has less boot space than the Volkswagen Golf GTi - the Volkswagen can take 380-litres of luggage, as opposed to the 316-litres found in the Focus.
Happily, though, the interior of the Focus ST maintains the practicality of the standard Ford Focus, and a large glovebox, deep door bins and plenty of cup holders are more than accommodating for general family odds and ends.
One possible criticism of the Ford Focus ST, is that due to the heavily sculpted nature of the Recaro rear bench seat found in the range ST-3 cars, three adults can only fit in the back at a squeeze.
Due to the new 2.0 EcoBoost engine found in the Ford Focus ST, complaints surrounding the old car's strong thirst for fuel should be addressed, as the latest car returns a combined cycle of 39.2mpg, plus CO2 emissions of 169g/km.
Despite the obvious improvements that Ford has made in this area, The Focus ST still loses out to the Volkswagen Golf GTi which claims a combined economy of 47.1mpg, and 139g/km of CO2.
While Ford doesn't offer a pre-paid servicing pack like many of its other hot hatch making rivals, scheduled maintenance costs should be reasonable due to the mass market nature of the Focus ST.
The residuals of the Focus ST are, however, alarming for potential buyers - our experts predict that it will struggle to hold onto 40 per cent of its new value after three years.
Buyers should also expect their Focus ST to eat through front tyres as a result of all that power.