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In-depth reviews

Ford Focus ST review

The Ford Focus ST is neither the fastest nor the cheapest hot hatch, but it’s up there with the very best

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

  • Hatch and estate body styles
  • Torquey petrol engine
  • Lots of driver tech
  • More powerful rivals
  • Expensive to buy
  • Firm ride
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​Over the years the Ford Focus ST has developed into a terrific all-rounder, and ranks among the very best hot hatches on the market right now.

It’s not perfect of course, with a lofty starting price and a lack of practicality hindering the overall package, but many will see these shortcomings as a price worth paying for such a talented machine. And while others have moved the game on when it comes to tech, the latest Focus ST still comes with the very best stuff that Ford has to offer to keep it in the running.

About the Ford Focus ST

Not long after the Mk4 Ford Focus was launched in 2018, the hot Focus ST version came bounding in with petrol and diesel engines. The former is a 276bhp 2.3-litre EcoBoost unit that shares components with the previous entry-level Ford Mustang’s powerplant, while the 187bhp 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel was perfectly placed to take on hot diesel Octavia vRS and Golf GTD models from Skoda and Volkswagen.

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A recent facelift brought in refreshed front-end styling and additional interior technology. Ford also streamlined the range, removing the diesel engine – which isn’t a huge shock given UK buyers buy petrol hot hatchbacks in much higher numbers.

Prices start at around £37,000 for a manual petrol model, which may seem a lot, but is broadly on par with close rivals. Other hot hatches stand out by offering more power, or better in-car technology, however, so how does the Focus ST fight back?

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In a word, handling. Ford has found a sweet spot with the Focus chassis (as with the smaller Fiesta ST) that makes it come to life in a corner. The performance when you turn the wheel is truly breathtaking, so much so that you can almost feel the half a century of experience that the US manufacturer has behind it making sporty cars.

As mentioned, competition is certainly fierce, with the Cupra Leon, Volkswagen Golf GTI and the impressive Hyundai i30 N all vying to snare keen drivers. More upmarket offerings include the BMW M135i, Audi RS 3 and Mercedes-AMG A35. You could also consider the much more expensive Honda Civic Type R or used examples of the aggressive and exciting Renault Megane RS.

In addition to the five-door hatch bodystyle, there’s also the Ford Focus ST estate version offering more load-lugging capacity to go with the driving fun. Both the hatch and estate petrol models are front-wheel drive only and offer 0-62mph times under six seconds.

The optional Track Pack offers an even sharper hot hatch experience by adding manually adjustable KW coilovers, upgraded brakes, lighter 19-inch alloy wheels and Pirelli P Zero rubber helping to raise the ST to another level. Alternatively, the Performance Pack adds launch control, a shift light, rev matching and continuously controlled adjustable dampers.

However, neither of these come cheap. The estate model also costs an additional £1,300 over the hatchback, and opting for the seven-speed automatic gearbox adds a similar amount to the ST's price tag. By comparison, the i30 N starts at roughly £2,000 less, while the Cupra Leon is a fraction dearer in top-spec guise but offers more power and performance than the ST.

Standard kit on all Focus ST versions is impressive with eye-catching 19-inch alloy wheels in a dark-grey finish, LED headlights and tail-lights, sports seats, keyless entry, a 12.3-inch digital driver's display and 13.2-inch touchscreen running Ford's SYNC 4 infotainment system, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Solid Race Red paint is a no-cost option, with five other colours currently available including eye-catching Mean Green.

For an alternative review of the Ford Focus ST, visit our sister site carbuyer.co.uk...

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