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Ford Focus ST diesel vs Volvo V40 & VW Golf GTD

Ford has added a diesel to the Focus ST line-up - but can it see off sizzling V40 R-Design and class-leading Golf GTD?

Can you have your cake and eat it? Over the past few years, the emergence of performance diesel hatchbacks has given drivers access to a tempting mix of thrills and frugal real-world fuel economy. 

Best hot hatchbacks

Up until now, the Volkswagen Golf GTD has topped the class, but there’s a new group of hot diesels ready to snatch its crown. First up is the new Ford Focus ST diesel. It offers a near-identical power output to the GTD and is also £675 cheaper; but can it match the VW’s practicality and versatility?

Volvo’s latest V40 D4 R-Design is a more leftfield choice. It’s also the most powerful and efficient of the trio on paper, but it still has to live up to its hot hatch billing – an area where previous quick Volvos have always struggled.

All three cars share the same recipe yet deliver subtly different results, so we hit the road to find out which tastes best.

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Ford Focus ST review

Volkswagen Golf GTD review

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Volvo V40 review

For individual reviews, click the links above. To find out the result of this triple-test, scroll down the page...

Head-to-head

Equipment

Hot hatches have to be usable in the real world, which means kit is important. The Focus ST gets plenty of standard tech, including cruise control and heated seats, while the V40 features less. Its options list is also pricier than VW’s, which is why our car cost £33,000.  

Performance

Although these three cars share a similar approach, each delivers a very different driving experience. The Ford is characterised by its tenacious grip and punchy engine, while the VW feels smoother and more refined, treading the line between hot hatch and everyday usability with greater balance.

The Volvo puts the emphasis more on the side of comfort rather than performance, and is subsequently less involving to drive.

Boot space

The Golf’s boot is the biggest and most practical, helped by the luggage compartment sitting flush with the rear bumper. There are large lips in the V40 and the Focus, and both have curvier boot lids which reduce the size of the opening. The Ford’s load bay is by far the smallest of our trio.

Verdict

1st place: Volkswagen Golf GTD

The Golf GTD retains its crown as the best fast diesel hatchback on sale thanks to an unbeatable mix of performance, practicality, fine handling and fuel economy. It feels a cut above the Ford and the Volvo, so if you want one car to perform many tasks but don’t want to compromise when it comes to excitement, the VW should be at the very top of your wish list.

2nd place: Ford Focus ST diesel

Ford has taken a while to make an alternative hot hatch, but its initial effort is superb. The Focus ST diesel is a great driver’s car, with a grippy, composed chassis and a powerful engine. It can’t quite match the Golf for usability or quality, but if you value how a car drives over all else, the Ford triumphs. It’s cheaper, too, even if the interior doesn’t feel as classy as the VW’s.

3rd place: Volvo V40

The Volvo can’t live up to the Volkswagen or Ford in any one area, which is why it finishes third here. There are many things to like about the V40 R-Design but, despite its big power output, the engine doesn’t quite feel as gutsy, the chassis isn’t as able, the interior isn’t as slick and practical and the price isn’t as appealing as its more capable, better-equipped rivals’.

Key specs:

 VW Golf GTDFord Focus ST-3 2.0 TDCiVolvo V40 D4 R-Design Nav
On-the-road price/total as tested£26,670/£29,330£25,995/£25,995£26,545/£33,000
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£13,703/51.4%£11,911/45.8%£11,993/45.2%
Depreciation£12,967£14,084£14,552
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£995/£1,991£933/£1,866£988/£1,977
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,178/£1,964£1,190/£1,983£1,260/£2,100
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost26E/£376/B/£2026E/£371/B/£2027E/£362/A/£0
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£384 (3yrs)£570 (3yrs)£220/£340/£220
    
Length/wheelbase4,268/2,631mm4,362/2,648mm4,369/2,647mm
Height/width1,442/1,799mm1,471/1,823mm1,439/1,857mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,968cc4cyl in-line/1,997cc4cyl in-line/1,969cc
Peak power181/3,500 bhp/rpm182/3,500 bhp/rpm187/3,500 bhp/rpm
Peak torque380/1,750 Nm/rpm400/2,000 Nm/rpm400/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission6-spd manual/fwd6-spd manual/fwd6-spd manual/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel50 litres/space saver60 litres/space saver62 litres/sealant
Boot capacity (seats up/down)380/1,270 litres316/1,215 litres324/1,021 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,377/548/1,600kg1,464/561/N/A1,451/427/1,500kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient10.9 metres/N/A12.4 metres/N/A11.2 metres/0.31Cd
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealersVariable/22312,500 (1yr)/78118,000 (1yr)/109
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.19th/31st23rd/29th11th/17th
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./points94/89/65/592/82/72/598/75/88/5
    
0-60/30-70mph7.7/6.8 seconds8.1/7.3 seconds7.9/6.9 seconds
30-50mph in 3rd/4th2.9/4.8 seconds2.8/4.3 seconds3.0/4.5 seconds
50-70mph in 5th/6th6.0/8.2 seconds5.5/7.2 seconds6.1/8.1 seconds
Top speed/rpm at 70mph143mph/1,900rpm135mph/1,950rpm143mph/1,950rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph49.6/34.5/8.7m52.2/36.9/9.2m51.1/38.2/9.5m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph47/72/61/68dB47/72/62/71dB47/70/62/68dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range52.5/11.5/577 miles52.0/11.4/686 miles49.1/10.8/670 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined55.4/76.3/67.3mpg56.5/74.3/67.3mpg67.3/78.5/74.3mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined12.2/16.8/14.8mpl12.4/16.3/14.8mpl14.8/17.3/16.3mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket144/109g/km/17%146/110g/km/18%154/99g/km/15%
    
Airbags/Isofix/parking sensors/camSeven/yes/yes/£165Six/yes/rear/£165Eight/yes/£325/£375
Automatic box/stability/cruise control£1,415/yes/yesN/A/yes/yes£1,550/yes/£225
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/£1,720/£360Yes/yes/yesYes/£600/£500
Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go£540/yes/£360£525/yes/yes£550/£1,200/£550
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/Bluetooth£750/yes/yes/yes£250/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes
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