Ford Focus ST-3 Mountune

Tuning tweaks up power, but does blue oval feel special enough?

They know a thing or two about fast Fords at Mountune. The specialist firm gave the Fiesta ST a final shot in the arm earlier this year, and now it has come up with a performance package for the hot Focus. It boosts power from 222bhp to a sizzling 256bhp, which is enough to make the ST-3 the most potent car in our line-up. But is the extra punch enough to see off its competitors?

As the improvements take the form of an engine upgrade, you’ll be hard-pressed to identify the Mountune car from the outside. While its Honda, VW and Renault competitors stand out thanks to their fresh paintwork, alloy wheels and carbon panels respectively, there’s nothing to set the tuned Focus apart.

In order to spot the differences you need to lift the bonnet. Here you will find a larger intercooler, as well as an uprated air filter and a revised engine management system. The package is priced at £1,120, although that doesn’t include fitting, so you need to budget for one-and-a-half hours’ labour at local rates for installation.

From the driver’s seat we felt a little disappointed because, aside from a garish badge stuck on the centre console, the cabin appears untouched. You do get plenty of equipment as standard, including comfortably padded Recaro racing seats, xenon headlamps and a heated windscreen. However, some unique touches would add to the sense of occasion.

This car is all about performance, though, and the distinctive burble of the five-cylinder engine raises expectations before you even turn a wheel. The extra power certainly makes for relaxed cruising, and performance is nothing short of startling. At the test track the Mountune ST blasted from 0-60mph in a mere 6.6 seconds in streaming rain.

The tweaked Focus is at its best when its power is used sparingly, though, because the turbocharged engine delivers a rush of acceleration, accompanied by plenty of wheelspin. Without a clever differential to help traction the ST is a bit of a hooligan on the track, feeling unwieldy where the Renault and Honda seem finely honed.

In damp conditions under full throttle, the steering wheel writhes in your hands as the tyres scrabble for grip.

While the Ford is undeniably fast, it lacks the finesse of its competitors.

Hit the circuit and the key to a good lap in the other cars on test is to carry speed through the corners. In the Focus, you simply have to concentrate on slowing down enough to get around bends, before using the blistering straight-line performance to post a fast time.

This machine is much more at home on the road, where its suspension absorbs bumps more effectively than in either the Honda or Renault. It’s also more refined than its extreme rivals. The only dent in its everyday usability is fuel economy: a 19.8mpg thirst is unacceptable.

Details

Price: £21,965 (+1.5hrs labour)Model tested: Ford Focus ST-3 MountuneChart position: 3WHY: Produced with tuning firm Mountune, will fastest Focus yet feel overcooked in this company?

Economy

Only the circuit-tuned Renault displayed a greater appetite for unleaded than the fast Ford, which returned a mere 19.8mpg. Residuals are hard to gauge, while CO2 emissions of 224g/km make it the most polluting model here. Road tax costs £210, just like the rest of the cars in our group, but company drivers face a bigger tax bill despite its competitive list price. The ST-3 comes with xenon headlamps, leather Recaro seats and climate control all as standard.

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