Used Ford Focus ST review
A full used buyer’s guide on the Ford Focus ST covering the Focus ST Mk3 (2012-2019)
The Focus ST hits the spot for many reasons. Not only is there a choice of body styles, but you can also choose your fuel. In fact, it’s so talented that it scooped our 2012 Best Hot Hatchback award, and won our sister title Carbuyer’s prize twice, most recently in 2017. And what was true then is just as true now; the Focus ST’s talents, affordability and wide-ranging appeal make it easy to recommend. Given that you now need little more than £10k to buy one, what are you waiting for?
No other automotive brand can match the affordable performance pedigree of Ford. For more than 50 years the company has been building fast cars that combine power, practicality and sporty looks with a healthy dose of attainability.
It all started in the sixties with the Lotus Cortina, and continued through the seventies with a raft of hot Escorts. By the eighties the Fiesta and Escort were getting the RS and XR treatment, and this has carried on into the 21st century. While the ST isn’t the hottest Focus now available (so far there have been three generations of the RS), it’s more affordable to buy and run, more popular and easily quick enough by most standards.
- • Ford Focus ST Mk3 (2012-2019) - Hot hatch is a fun and desirable buy; here’s how to bag a good used one.
Ford Focus ST Mk3
The first examples of the Mk3 Focus ST were delivered in September 2012. Buyers could pick from ST-1, ST-2 and ST-3 trims, all with a 247bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo engine and a six-speed manual box. There were hatchback or estate body styles, priced from £21,995 and £23,095 respectively.
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A facelifted Focus ST reached showrooms in February 2015, bringing with it a 182bhp 2.0 TDCi diesel-powered option. At first this was available only with a six-speed manual transmission, but from spring 2016 the ST TDCi could be hooked up to Ford’s PowerShift dual-clutch gearbox.
In January 2015 independent specialist Graham Goode Racing had introduced a package of performance upgrades, but eight months later Mountune released a Ford-approved kit (which didn’t affect the warranty) that took power to 271bhp.
Ford Focus ST reviews
Which one should I buy?
There are no STs to avoid; the manual and automatic boxes work superbly, while the petrol and diesel engines offer decent performance and refinement. Their driving characteristics are very different, and the diesel is slower (8.1 vs 6.5 seconds from 0-62mph), but the TDCi is far cheaper to run.
The entry-level ST-1 comes with 18-inch alloys, air-con, keyless go, DAB radio and Bluetooth. ST-2 spec adds part-leather seats, upgraded Sony hi-fi, automatic lights and wipers, a heated windscreen and auto-dimming rear-view mirror. The range-topping ST-3 features full leather trim, rear parking sensors, heated front seats, bi-xenon headlamps, power-folding mirrors and LED daytime running lights.
Option packs when the ST-2 and ST-3 were new included Style (bringing red brake calipers and illuminated scuff plates) and Driver Assistance (AEB, blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning).
Alternatives to the Ford Focus ST
The Volkswagen Golf GTI is the closest rival. This petrol hot hatch comes in manual or automatic form, while there’s also a diesel GTD that’s offered as an estate, too. Skoda’s Octavia vRS is also available in all of these guises, so that’s worth a look as well. While the Skoda is great value and a bit bigger than the Focus, the Golf is very polished, and thus desirable – but prices are high. Neither is as much fun to drive as the Ford.
SEAT’s Leon Cupra is related to the Golf and comes in similarly varied guises, except there is no diesel. If you’re after a petrol hot hatch, the Renault Megane R.S. might suit. It’s a riot to drive and looks great, although it’s harder to find on the used market.
What to look for
Standard-fit tyres are Goodyear Eagle F1s; Michelin Pilot Sport 3s are a popular swap, and are generally regarded as preferable.
The ST’s suspension is firmer than the standard Focus’s, and the wheels are bigger; check that you don’t find it too uncomfortable.
When fitted, the illuminated sill plates can be more trouble than they’re worth. The bulbs fail too readily, and this is likely to irritate.
Check that the high-level brake light isn’t full of water. Condensation is a problem. If you spot this issue, a new light will be needed.
The ST isn’t much different inside from a regular Focus, so quality and visual appeal are okay, but nothing special. The Recaro sports seats are a highlight; they’re comfortable and supportive, but not great if you have a fuller figure. And while the rear is fine for three children, the rising waistline can make it feel cramped. Boot space stands at only 316 litres, or 1,101 litres with the seats down.
Regardless of the engine fitted, the Focus ST needs servicing every 12 months or 12,500 miles. Its check-ups are sequential: Minor (£219), Intermediate (£239) and Major (£369). The last of these is due every third year/37,500 miles. After 10 years/125,000 miles, fresh coolant is needed (£70), as is a new cambelt (£339).
Ford offers monthly payment plans to help spread the cost of maintenance. However, because it doesn’t sell packs that allow several years’ worth of discounted servicing to be paid for at the time of purchase, no used STs will come with pre-paid maintenance.
The third-generation Focus has been recalled five times, but only two included the ST. The first, in September 2017, was for side and knee airbags potentially failing to deploy; the fix involved new airbags and sensors.
Diesel STs could suffer from a damaged oil sump and consequent leaks due to an incorrectly calibrated engine control module. A software update in March 2018 fixed it.
Driver Power owner satisfaction
For a model that’s recently been replaced, the standard Focus impressed with 33rd place in the Driver Power 2018 new car satisfaction survey, although it did less well in the used poll, coming 60th. While both surveys were for the Mk3 as a whole, nearly all owners reviewing the ST on carbuyer.co.uk gave it five stars, thanks to its performance, usability, affordability, reliability and value.