When Ford launched the excellent Mk4 Focus last year, one of the big questions was: ‘When will the Focus ST be available?’ Well, the wait is over, because the answer is: ‘Now.’ If you’ve been considering buying a new hot hatch, that fact will be music to your ears, because the latest Focus ST is one that you definitely need to consider.
Of course, we all know how good the ‘standard’ Ford Focus range is, with its comprehensive array of engines and trim levels. There’s a Focus for everyone, whether you want to maximise your fuel economy, increase the level of luxury, or want to combine the best package for everyday family life. That’s exactly why the Focus has been such a storming success for Ford.
Now, with the arrival of the Focus ST, the level of sportiness has been raised a significant notch… or three. This is the Focus which has been imbued with the same attributes that make the smaller Fiesta ST such a riot. Only in the Focus, the package demonstrates a more mature basis while also managing to deliver a wider range of ability.
Let’s get down to the real heart of the ST; its engine. Tucked away under the bonnet is the most powerful engine ever fitted to a Focus ST. Out goes the 247bhp 2.0-litre engine fitted to its predecessor. In its place is a retuned version of the 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbocharged Ecoboost engine used in the recently retired Focus RS. In the ST, the unit delivers 276bhp, which makes the car good for 0-62mph in just 5.7secs. That’s eight-tenths faster than the previous ST.
Like the ST before it, the newcomer delivers all its power via the front wheels. Good to know then that the rims are shod with bespoke Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber. It also helps that the car has a quick-shift, sporty six-speed manual gearbox and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential (eLSD). If you want to lose a pedal, there’s a seven-speed auto gearbox with paddleshift arriving later in the year.
The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that the ST rides lower than the standard Focus. Ford has dropped the ride height by 10mm by introducing a heavily revised suspension configuration. The new package also firms up the anti-roll bars and increases damping stiffness.
If you find that the ‘standard-fit’ adaptive dampers — with Normal and Sport firmness settings — aren’t enough for you, fear not. Tick the option box next to ‘Performance Pack’, and you get access to a Track mode. As you would expect, this tightens things up considerably further. It even includes a rev-matching function for the manual gearbox.
The three drive modes — Normal, Sport and Track — also sharpen the responses and characteristics of the throttle, electric power steering and stability systems. This latest ST also benefits from a new anti-lag system.
Ok. Now we’ve got the technical bits out of the way, what’s the Focus ST like to drive? The answer, in one word is: stunning!
The first thing you notice is, it’s fast. There’s absolutely no reason to question Ford’s performance figures. Reassuringly, with new, larger and stronger brakes — 330mm/302mm discs front/rear, performance pads and an electronic brake booster — the ST stops quickly too. And because it’s lighter than the RS, the ST actually stops better than its four-wheel drive sibling.
The steering is pinsharp too; and its immediacy is almost telepathic. Turn the wheel — even by the slightest degree — and the response from the ST’s front end is instant. Think go-kart sharp. It takes a few minutes to get used to it, but once you do … boy, it’s fun. The agility the ST performs won’t just have you smiling, you’ll be beaming.
Working in tandem with the diff, firm suspension, and Michelin tyres there’s a tenacious amount of grip. Honestly, you’ll find yourself looking for the twistiest route you can find when you go out driving.
Both. It’s worth mentioning here that there’s also a diesel ST and an estate version. Both keep pretty much to the successful recipe of the petrol hatch. The diesel is a 187bhp, 295lb/ft 2.0-litre, only available with the manual six-speed box, propels the ST to 62mph from standstill in 7.6s (7.7s for the estate).
Externally and internally, both the petrol ST and diesel are pretty much identical. Ford has been quite subtle with the ST badging on the flat-bottomed steering wheel and the excellent, eight-way adjustable Recaro seats. Cloth — my preferred choice — comes as standard, though leather is an option.
Across the range there’s a price spread of £3600. The five-door hatch starts at £29,495 for the diesel, rising to £31,995 for the petrol. The estate costs £30,595 and £33,095, respectively, for the diesel and petrol versions. Ford has yet to confirm the price of the auto gearbox.
There’s no denying Ford has hit the nail on the head again with this new Focus ST. It captures everything that’s appealing about a modern-day hot hatch. Sure, some people will find the ride too firm, even in ‘Normal’ mode, but that’s missing the point.
Ford has created the ST to perform, both on-the-road and on track. In achieving that, there is a certain firmness. But that’s what you would expect if you buy an ST. If you want something softer, there’s a myriad of other choices available across the comprehensive Focus range.
For me, the Focus ST is a cracker. And if you’re seriously considering a new hot hatch, you definitely need to put this on your test list.
|Model||Ford Focus ST|
|Engine||4-cylinder, 2261cc, turbocharged, petrol|
|Power||276bhp at 5500rpm|
|Torque||310lb/ft @ 3000-4000rpm|