Ford Focus ST review
The Ford Focus ST is the quickest hot hatch Ford currently sells and it’s one of the most practical fast family cars around. Some less roomy alternatives are a little quicker, however
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The Ford Focus ST is a high-performance family hatchback that’s just as suited to the school run as it is quick country-road blasts. Like the VW Golf GTI, it’s based on a sensible family car but has a seriously powerful engine shoehorned under its bonnet.
To help make sure you don’t mistake this speedy ST model for a standard Ford Focus, it comes with a new grille design, a sportier front bumper, a roof-mounted spoiler, larger alloy wheels, LED headlights and a pair of large exhaust tips.
Inside, the changes are a little more subtle, but you’ll certainly spot the Recaro sports steering wheel (with an ST driving mode shortcut button), ST-embossed gear knob, alloy pedal trims and ST-branded loading screens for the infotainment system.
Speaking of which, the ST gets plenty of infotainment tech as standard that’d cost you extra in the standard Focus. You get sat-nav, an upgraded B&O stereo and smartphone mirroring for Apple and Android phones that lets you use your favourite navigation and music-streaming apps through the car’s built-in screen.
Just like the standard car, the Ford Focus ST’s roomy cabin means passengers will be more comfortable than in the back of an Audi S3 or VW Golf GTI. Boot space is pretty generous too, but the Skoda Octavia vRS, Honda Civic Type R and Hyundai i30 N all have slightly roomier load bays.
The new Ford Focus ST is the latest in a long line of fast family cars that show being fun to drive doesn’t necessarily have to come at the expense of practicality
If you fancy a Focus ST that’ll happily lug lots of heavy items around, the 2.0-litre diesel model is worth a look. It produces a modest 190hp but it has almost as much torque as the 2.3-litre turbocharged petrol version and costs less to run.
That being said, if you’re looking for sports-car-baiting performance in your next hot hatch, the 280hp petrol engine is the way to go. It’ll sprint the Ford Focus ST from 0-60mph in less than six seconds and comes with a clever limited-slip differential to help maximise grip when you accelerate hard out of sharp corners. Unfortunately, despite this clever diff, the Focus ST suffers from some pretty dramatic torque steer – put your foot down and the steering wheel pulls noticeably to the right.
Keen drivers will appreciate the Focus ST’s standard six-speed manual gearbox with shorter throws than the standard car, but if you find yourself regularly stuck in traffic – or do lots of long journeys – you might be better off waiting for the optional eight-speed automatic.
Whichever gearbox you pick, petrol models come with adaptive suspension as standard. It’s pretty supple in its most comfortable setting, but rather too firm for road use in Sport and Track modes. You’ll be better off leaving it in Normal mode most of the time, and only dipping into the ST’s more focused settings on especially smooth stretches of country road.
If you fancy using your Focus ST for regular track days, however, the firm suspension works alongside the super-fast steering to make the ST feel super nimble in tight corners. To really live out your Ken Block fantasies, however, you’ll need the Performance pack. It comes with launch control for maximum acceleration and automatic rev-matching to help you execute perfect downshifts when braking.
It doesn’t just cover all the important performance-car bases; the Ford Focus ST is pretty relaxing to drive for long periods, too. In addition to its comfortable adaptive suspension, you can get it with some clever cruise control systems that’ll accelerate, brake and steer for you to keep you within your lane.
It’s no motorway mile-muncher, but it’s impressively easy to live with – as all the best hot hatches should be. Sure, there are faster, more fun alternatives out there, but the Ford Focus ST is still a very good fast family car that’s worthy of a place on your shortlist.