Ford Focus ST-2

Ford's ST-2 is powerful, good value and easy to bond with

  • Engine note, compliant ride, value, styling tweaks, refinement, steering feedback, big dealer network
  • Can feel nose-heavy, driver’s seat too high, economy, boot, lacks instant engine response, image

After the Clio 197, which displays brilliance and frustration in equal measure, the Focus ST makes for a welcome companion. We’re big fans of the Ford, and despite facing two younger, fitter rivals here, the big five-cylinder turbocharged Focus feels right at home as it leads our quartet from Somerset to the A4061 in South Wales’ Rhondda Valley. Stretched between Price Town and Treorchy, it’s a dramatic stretch of tarmac, consisting of sweeping bends and tight turns.

The Focus ST felt right at home on the faster, straighter section. Punchy, full of torque and with tall gear ratios, it sets the benchmark for outright speed and effortless, long-legged performance. After t

After the Clio 197, which displays brilliance and frustration in equal measure, the Focus ST makes for a welcome companion. We’re big fans of the Ford, and despite facing two younger, fitter rivals here, the big five-cylinder turbocharged Focus feels right at home as it leads our quartet from Somerset to the A4061 in South Wales’ Rhondda Valley. Stretched between Price Town and Treorchy, it’s a dramatic stretch of tarmac, consisting of sweeping bends and tight turns.

The Focus ST felt right at home on the faster, straighter section. Punchy, full of torque and with tall gear ratios, it sets the benchmark for outright speed and effortless, long-legged performance. After the Clio 197, it comes as a spot of light relief, knowing you needn’t keep the 2.5-litre engine spinning above 5,000rpm all the time. Instead, you can stay in a higher gear and use the 320Nm of pulling power to take a more relaxed approach.

But when the roads start to tighten and the corners come at you thick and fast, the ST begins to feel its size. At 1,437kg, it’s 101kg heavier than the Golf GTI and 232kg more than the featherlight Cooper S. You notice it, too. Body control isn’t as tight as the other cars – there’s more vertical movement at speed – and roll is ever-present. The ST also gets unsettled by mid-bend lumps and bumps more than the other cars, shuddering and skipping across them.

But the Focus doesn’t give up without a fight. Despite its weight issue, the ST wins you over with a big helping of character. The warbling five-cylinder engine note is easily the best of this bunch, the steering is full of feel and fast-acting, the chassis is never less than willing, and the grippy front end has good turn-in.

If you choose to switch off the standard ESP system, you can explore the outer limits of tyre grip, safe in the knowledge that this is a vice-free chassis. And if you lift off the throttle when you start to lose grip, the ST helpfully tucks the car’s nose back on course without any drama. In short, it may be big and bulky, but the Focus feels every inch a feisty hot hatch that’s eager to please.

As with the Golf, and to a lesser extent the Clio, the Focus makes for a practical purchase. Settle into the Recaro driver’s seat, and there’s acres of space around you, while the rear bench and boot are similarly roomy.

Yet versatility doesn’t come at the expense of excitement, and with its colour-coded seats, red ST logos and collection of gauges on top of the dashboard, you feel as if you’re in something a little bit special. The quality and desirability don’t hit the high notes struck by the Golf GTI or Cooper S, but nevertheless the Ford feels robust. We can’t help but think that the ST doesn’t do itself any favours for showroom appeal when it comes to the styling, though.

The standard Focus has a dowdy appearance, and the ST version appears a little thuggish, with somewhat contrived detailing. There’s no subtlety to its looks – instead it’s rather brash and obvious, although it certainly has visual impact.

Perhaps, though, showroom visitors will be won over more by the price than the styling. The three-door £18,995 ST-2 undercuts the similarly equipped Golf GTI by £1,365, while opting for the five-door adds £600. But can the Ford’s all-round appeal beat the sporty Cooper S and Clio?

Details

Price: £19,595Model tested: Ford Focus ST-22.5 litre/222bhpChart position: 3WHY: Named as our hot hatch of the year at New Car Honours (Issue 915), the Ford Focus ST is quick and charismatic. Representing good value for money and offering practicality as well as personality, it’s the most powerful car here, thanks to a turbocharged five-cylinder engine.

Economy

With five cylinders and a thirsty turbo to feed, the ST has an even bigger appetite for fuel than the Clio. That said, considering its size and weight, the fact it only proved 0.4mpg worse in our hands isn’t bad.

Residuals

It’s cheaper to buy than the VW, but three years down the line, the ST will have lost more money. That said, a 48.0 per cent retained value rating isn’t bad, but if it becomes a more common sight, expect that to suffer.

Servicing

You should be able to keep your ST fully maintained over three years for about £500. The 12,500-mile intervals aren’t the longest, but with 714 dealers, you won’t have to travel far to get it seen to.

Tax

Filthy! That’s the best way to describe the ST’s 224g/km emissions. Sitting in a lofty 31 per cent tax bracket, it’s easily the most costly car to run, and is nearly twice as expensive as the MINI.

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