Ford Focus ST review
The Focus ST is a fast, fun and affordable hot hatchback that also comes as an estate
If you believe motoring is meant to be enjoyed, then the Ford Focus ST could be the family hatchback for you. There are faster hot hatches, but few share the Ford’s mix of great handling, punchy performance, and affordable practicality. It’s an accessible confection of family-friendly fun that has made the Focus ST a winner in previous guises, and the latest update has done nothing to dampen our enthusiasm.
New engines – including a punchy diesel – add a new dimension to performance, while styling, suspension and interior upgrades bring a little more sophistication to the party. There are compromises, of course, but Ford’s hottest Focus demands fewer of these than most of its rivals.
With fast Fords like the GT supercar, Focus RS hatch and even the F-150 Raptor pick-up earning plaudits, it's easy to forget about Ford's ST range. The Fiesta ST is a cracking hot hatch, while the Focus ST is also worth considering if you want a great-value fast family car.
We say fast family car rather than hot hatch, because the Focus ST is offered as a five-door hatch or an estate. Both can be had with either a 247bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol or a 185bhp TDCi diesel, while the latter can be had with either a six-speed manual gearbox or Ford's Powershift auto.
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As you would expect, the petrol ST is the faster of the two, with a 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds, which is competitive with most of its front-wheel drive hot hatch rivals, while the TDCi manages the same sprint in 8.1 seconds (the auto model is faster, at 7.7 seconds).
In corners, the Focus ST handles well, although it's not quite as enthralling as some of Ford's other performance models. There's lots of grip, decent feedback through the wheel and a torque vectoring system helps keep torque steer at bay and helps the ST in corners.
The ST gets sportier bodykit than the standard Focus, although Ford does offer ST-Line trim on the standard range to give it a bit of a visual boost. The key identifiers of the full-fat ST are the honeycomb grille up front, 18-inch wheels and centre-exit exhaust sticking out of the back bumper. There's also an exclusive colour on the options list, and choosing Tangerine Scream (above) really helps the ST shout about its performance. If you don't want to draw attention, then there are the usual white, black, red and blue options, while standard colours are either red or grey.
As well as having a choice of body styles and engines available, the ST also comes in different numbered trim levels. There used to be a Focus ST-1, but now only ST-2 and ST-3 are offered. Both versions feature 18-inch alloys, Ford SYNC infotainment with voice control and DAB radio, plus sports suspension and Recaro seats. On top of this, the ST 3 adds leather electrically adjustable seats, eight-inch touchscreen and xenon lights.
The Focus ST has been around for a little while, and there are a number of rivals out there that either have more power, handle more sharply or manage both. Our favourite front-wheel drive hot hatchbacks are the Honda Civic Type R, Hyundai i30 N and SEAT Leon Cupra, while the VW Golf GTI is also still a strong contender in the class. Elsewhere, the Peugeot 308 GTi is back on form, while the Skoda Octavia vRS offers more practicality to go with similar performance.
If you're looking at the Focus ST Estate, then its rivals are estate versions of the Leon Cupra and Octavia vRS, while the diesel ST again sees the Octavia vRS TDI go up against it, while the VW Golf GTD is also worth considering. Like the Focus, both of these models come as hatchbacks or estates, too.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe Focus ST is a fast, fun and affordable hot hatchback that also comes as an estate
- 2Engines, performance and driveSuper handling and punchy performance from both petrol and diesel variants make the Focus ST a hoot to drive
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsNew diesel offers economy that belies the ST’s performance, but Focus depreciation is going to smart…
- 4Interior, design and technologyUnderstated it ain’t, but dramatic style inside and out reflects the Focus ST’s character
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceFab up front, but cramped in the back and boot space is limited. Plenty of doors, though
- 6Reliability and SafetyOnly ‘the nut holding the wheel’ might compromise a full-house safety package, but Focus ST reliability is less assured