Ford Focus ST review - Engines, performance and drive

Lots of driver-orientated tech trickery keeps the ST up-to-speed with the competition.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

Engines, performance and drive Rating

4.0 out of 5

  • Hatch and estate body styles
  • Torquey petrol engine
  • Lots of driver tech
  • More powerful rivals
  • Expensive to buy
  • Firm ride

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 £250 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.

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.

Engines, 0-60 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 on to 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 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.

Most Popular

UK van speed limits: all you need to know
Tips & advice

UK van speed limits: all you need to know

What's the speed limit for a van in the UK? It's not always the one you'll see posted on the road. We explain all
8 Oct 2020
New 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport turns up the wick to 296bhp
Volkswagen Golf GTI Hatchback

New 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport turns up the wick to 296bhp

The new Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport adds more power and gets an aero overhaul
13 Oct 2020
Tesla Model 3 line-up tweaked as new 400-mile Model S Long Range Plus arrives
Tesla Model 3 - front action
Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 line-up tweaked as new 400-mile Model S Long Range Plus arrives

Tesla Model 3 and Model S receive spec adjustment, with extra tech and updated software increasing range across the board
16 Oct 2020