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.
The Ford Focus ST is part of a long-line of fast Ford hot hatches with high performance thrills and everyday usability at accessible prices.
The latest Focus ST now has a smaller 2.0-litre, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine under the bonnet - downsizing from its predecessor's five-cylinder 2.5-litre unit.
Don't let this fool you, though. The sporty chassis and impressive handling have been preserved, and the Focus really can take the fight to its hot hatch rivals, the Renaultsport Megane 265 and Volkswagen Golf GTI. Despite the reduction in engine capacity, the current ST has an increased power output over the old car with 247bhp and a top speed of 154mph.
While fans of the previous Focus RS will be eagerly awaiting the arrival of an even hotter version, for now they will have to make do with the ST as the range-topper. Ford is staying tight-lipped about the possibility of a Focus RS coming any time soon but has hinted that the car is a possibility. The Focus ST comes in three simple trim levels - ST, ST-2 and ST-3. For those who need some extra space, there's even a Focus ST estate available.
On top of aggressive styling and superb dynamics, another highlight of the Ford Focus ST is its price. Starting from just over £22,000, the Focus ST undercuts its main hot hatch rivals by a decent amount of money.
Our choice: Focus ST-2
The Focus ST couldn't be more different from one of its main rivals - the Volkswagen Golf GTI - when it comes to styling. While the Golf is subtle about its sporting credentials, the Focus ST is everything you'd expect from a fast Ford.
It certainly looks the part, thanks to a gaping mesh grille, 19-inch alloy wheels and a wide range of colours including Tangerine Dream orange available on ST-2 and ST-3 models. It's by no means understated, but that's what this type of car is all about.
The sporty theme is continued on the inside of the Focus ST, too. Every car is kitted out with a wide range of standard kit including front Recaro sports seats, contrast piping, carbon fibre trim, extra gauges on the dash, a sports steering wheel, metal pedals, a metal gear lever and a generous distribution of ST badges throughout the cabin.
Further up the range, Ford gives the Focus ST-2 half leather trim, dual climate control and a heated windscreen, while the range-topping ST-3 is further softened by luxuries such as heated seats, full leather trim, and bi-xenon headlamps.
As with the exterior, then, the interior of the Focus ST is anything but subtle.
Ford has taken a more economical stance with the latest Focus ST, replacing the thirsty old 2.5-litre 5-cylinder engine from the previous generation with a 2.0-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder EcoBoost unit. This engine provides more power than the old model - a boost of 22bhp to 247bhp - and will sprint from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds.
To ensure the latest car sounds as good as the old car, a sound symposia has been fitted by Ford to enhance the engine note. This delivers a purposeful, growling soundtrack that will no doubt please fast Ford enthusiasts.
If 247bhp is not enough, though, Ford's official tuner, Mountune, can bolt on a performance upgrade that 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 that 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.
Ford has worked hard to ensure the latest Focus is a step up over the old car, with an improved cabin and a general feeling of solidity.
The ST is also one of the safest hot hatches on the market, thanks to standard traction and stability control, a torque vectoring system, strong brakes and suite of airbags throughout the cabin. These combine to help the Focus ST achieve a maximum score of five-stars in Euro NCAP's crash safety tests.
In addition, Ford offers options such as a Driver Assistance Pack that adds safety collision avoidance, blind spot monitoring and lane keep assist to make the Focus ST that bit safer.
It's not all good news, though. Ford didn't fare well in our 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, finishing a disappointing 25th out of 33 manufacturers.
Ford's decision to make the Focus ST available in five-door hatch or estate body styles means a welcome dose of versatility has been brought to the hot hatch class. However, while the hatch is more practical than the Renaultsport Megane 265, the Focus still has less boot space than the Volkswagen Golf GTI - the two cars offering 316-litre and 380-litre load bays respectively.
Happily, though, the interior of the Focus ST maintains the practicality of the standard Focus hatchback. This means general family paraphernalia can be kept in check with a large glovebox, deep door bins and plenty of cupholders.
However, the Focus ST isn't the perfect family car. Due to the heavily sculpted nature of the Recaro bench seat in the rear of ST-3 models, three adults can only fit in the back at a squeeze.
Issues surrounding the old car's strong thirst for fuel have been addressed with the latest model. The new 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine returns a combined cycle of 39.2mpg, plus CO2 emissions of 169g/km.
However, these improvements still can't quite match those of the Golf GTI, with comparable figures of 47.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 139g/km.
Ford doesn't offer a pre-paid servicing pack like many of its hot hatch rivals, but thanks to the mass market nature of the Focus ST, scheduled maintenance costs should be reasonable. Buyers should also be aware that the Focus ST is likely to eat its way through tyres as a result of all that power.
Depreciation is where Ford always falls down, and the Focus ST is no different. Residual values are alarming for potential buyers, as our experts predict that the ST will struggle to hold onto 40 per cent of its value after three years.