Ford Focus ST review - Engines, performance and drive
Lots of driver-orientated tech trickery keeps the Focus ST up-to-speed with the competition
The previous generation Focus ST model was certainly being out-muscled by rivals from Honda, Renault, SEAT, Volkswagen and even Hyundai with the i30 N. Ford recognised the need to upgrade the ST’s driving tech and returned with the new, fourth-generation car ready and fit for action.
The 2.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine delivers 276bhp through the front wheels and a whopping 420Nm of torque, ensuring plenty of low-down grunt to help fire the car through corners and back out. Ford has also given a nod to its motorsport heritage by including rally car-like anti-lag technology. Driving purists will welcome the six-speed manual gearbox, although it doesn't offer the most precise of shifts and could be more rewarding when it comes to mechanical interaction.
The ST’s steering is now 15 percent faster than that of a standard Focus, while the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres help improve front-end bite. There’s an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential to assist with finding better traction, and the chassis gets adaptive dampers for the first time.
Also debuting on the ST are drive modes that are able to alter throttle response and the noise the electronic sound enhancement system makes to augment the engine note. Buyers opting for the £850 Performance Pack will get launch control and rev matching for downshifts, plus an extra Track driving mode that puts the dampers and engine in their most aggressive setting.
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The suspension is firm, even in Normal mode, and the ride can be quite bumpy on the UK’s pothole-covered roads. But, the ST’s chassis is its key strength, it’s composed through quick corners and those trick dampers offer enough adjustability to take tight turns with confidence.
Cranking things up a bit is the optional Track Pack which adds manually adjustable KW coilovers, 10 per cent larger front brake discs and 19-inch Ford Performance wheels are wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tyres – a grippier compound than the standard car’s Michelin Pilot Sport 4s. The uprated Brembo brakes deliver phenomenal stopping power, but also have added benefits on the road. We found the standard ST’s system a little grabby, but this set-up is easier to moderate at more gentle speeds.
0-62mph acceleration and top speed
Over the years, Ford has experimented with different powertrains for the Focus ST, but has now settled on a turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine to power the family hot hatch.
The turbo unit is an evolution of the previous Focus RS engine, although it doesn’t make as much power, at 276bhp. The extra displacement compared to the 2.0-litre units of most rivals gives the ST a strong torque figure of 420Nm. There’s also an anti-lag function that helps to keep the turbo spinning to boost throttle response.
All this means the ST is able to dash from 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds and hit a top speed of 155mph. The estate version is no slouch either, at just a tenth of a second slower than the five-door hatch.
The engine note has a little augmentation to give a slight burble under acceleration, but it still sounds quite natural. The exhaust is a bit more muted than some rivals, but still backfires on full-bore upshifts. It also has a switchable auto-blip mode for the throttle, which means that any driver can downshift as if they’ve nailed the perfect heel-and-toe change.
The now-discontinued 2.0-litre diesel ST model produces 187bhp and 400Nm of torque, with sprint times of 7.6 and 7.7 seconds for the hatch and estate, respectively.
In this review
- 1Ford Focus ST reviewThe Ford Focus ST is neither the fastest nor the cheapest hot hatch, but it’s up there with the very best
- 2Engines, performance and drive - currently readingLots of driver-orientated tech trickery keeps the Focus ST up-to-speed with the competition
- 3MPG, CO2 and running costsDespite a high list price, the Focus ST is cheaper to insure than rivals and offers solid fuel economy
- 4Interior, design and technologyIt’s packed with standard kit, so you’ll want for nothing if you opt for the Focus ST
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceAvailable in hatchback or estate car form, the Focus ST offers flexibility few in this class can match
- 6Reliability and safetySafety comes as standard with the Focus ST, and reliability shouldn’t be an issue, either