Ford Focus ST review
The latest high-performance Ford Focus ST is at the front of the hot hatch pack
The Ford Focus ST is the car that promises to deliver high performane thrills to the man on the street. With a 247bhp 2.0-litre EcoBoost turbocharged petrol engine and sporty chassis, it matches the Renaultsport Megane 265 for power and beats the VW Golf GTI. It should also be much more economical than the five-cylinder car it replaces. And while the sound it makes isn't as distinctive as its predecessor's, it still sounds purposeful. No three-door version is available this time - Ford says not enough people bought the last one, so it's five-door only. One highlight of the Focus ST is its price - they start from around £22,000, which is a few thousand pounds less than its main rivals.
Our choice: Focus ST-2
The Ford Focus ST certainly looks the business, with a gaping mesh grille, centre exit rear exhaust, muscular bodykit comprising a front splitter and rear wing, plus 19-inch alloy wheels. With a wide range of bright colours, such as Tangerine Scream, it stands out more than a VW Golf GTI, despite being only available in five-door form. All versions of the GT get Recaro sports seats for the front occupants, contrasting piping and carbon fibre trim, extra gauges, a special metal gearlever, sports steering wheel and metal pedals along with a host of ST badges. The ST-2 adds half-leather trim for the seats, dual zone climate control and a heated windscreen. Trade up to the ST-3 and you benefit from desirable extras such as heated seats, full leather trim and bi-xenon headlamps.
The Focus ST gets the most powerful version yet of the company's 2.0-litre EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It replaces the old 222bhp 2.5-litre five-cylinder unit and has more power with 247bhp, and is good for 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds. Ford has ensured that the new ST sounds as good as the old one with the use of a clever sound symposer that delivers a purposeful, growling soundtrack when accelerating hard. All models get a slick six-speed manual gearbox, as there's no automatic option. With torque vectoring ensuring maximum traction and a new front-drive chassis, the Focus is one of the best handling cars in its class. The steering is reacts extremely quickly and is packed with feedback, while the car's line through a corner can be subtly adjusted by lifting off the throttle. Yet the Focus is also a remarkably relaxing long distance cruiser, thanks to its quiet cabin and hugely supportive Recaro seats. The only fly in the ointment is the firm low speed ride.
For buyers wanting more performance, Ford's official tuner, Essex-based Mountune, offers an upgrade kit that boosts power and torque to 272bhp and 400Nm respectively. The kit is a little too much for the chassis to handle, but does give plenty of extra mid-range grunt. If you do want the upgrade, which includes a new air filter, air crossover duct, intercooler and ECU remap, it'll cost £1,225 for a silver-finished kit, or £1,275 for black. This excludes the 90-minutes labour required at a Mountune-approved Ford dealer. As it's an official upgrade, adding the kit doesn't affect your warranty.
With standard traction and stability control allied to torque vectoring and strong brakes, plus a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating and lots of airbags, the Focus ST is a very safe car indeed. Better still, the optional Driver Assistance Pack adds city safety collision avoidence, blind spot monitoring and lane keep assist for less than £1,000. It's a bit too early to predict reliability, but the standard Focus is solidly built and a real step up in quality over the last car, so we expect a strong performance in this area. However, that didn't stop Ford putting in a below par performance in our 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, where it finished in a low 23rd out of 32.
Like all the best hot hatches, the Ford Focus ST is as adept at carrying people as it is blasting down back roads. The five-door layout adds a welcome dose of versatility, while the heavily sculpted Recaro rear bench will accomodate three adults at a pinch. And as with a standard Focus, the interior is full of useful storage for family odds and ends, including a large glovebox, deep door bins and plenty of cupholders. It's not all good news, though, because the boot of the Ford will swallow just 316-litres of luggage, which is 64 litres less than the VW Golf GTI. Still, with a hatchback tailgate and split/fold seats, the ST is a more practical machine than the three-door Renaultsport Megane 265.
One thing that owners didn't like about the old ST was its thirst for fuel. The new model is much better, returning 39.2mpg combined – the previous car did about 25mpg – and emitting around 169g/km of CO2. Still, that's not impressive as the VW Golf GTI, which claims 47.1mpg and 139g/km. And with all that power, expect the ST to eat through front tyres at an alarming rate. And while Ford doesn't offer a pre-paid servicing pack like many of its rivals, scheduled maintenance costs should be reasonable. However, its the weak residuals that will shock most potential owners, with our experts predicting that the ST will struggle to hold onto 40 percent of its new value after three years.