£22,520 - £27,980 Price range
39 - 67 MPG
The Ford Focus is a hot (or fast) hatchback that is based on the regular Focus. It joins a crowded market that includes the Honda Civic Type R, Volkswagen Golf GTI, SEAT Leon Cupra, and the Renaultsport Megane.
The Focus is seen as a great all-rounder. It’s cheaper to buy than a Golf GTI, better in the corners than the SEAT and easier to live with than the Renaultsport Megane, which is quite noisy on the motorway.
Stiffer suspension than the standard car minimises body lean in corners, but the ride is still comfortable enough for bumpy UK roads.
Buyers can now buy a Focus ST with a diesel engine, which has lots of power for overtaking and returns excellent fuel economy. The petrol model is quicker still, though, making it the more popular choice with buyers.
Although the Ford’s 316-litre boot is small for the class (a Golf has 380 litres) passenger space is decent enough, with room for four adults. The interior doesn’t match the quality seen in the Golf GTI, but the ST gets some go-faster touches over the normal Focus such as sports seats and extra dials.
All cars come fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels, a sharp-looking bodykit, DAB digital radio and an infotainment system with voice control. MyKey is also fitted, which can limit the car’s speed and audio volume – ideal for parents loaning their car to a new driver. Our Focus ST trim level guide explains the various versions in more detail.
There’s nothing overly special about the Focus ST’s interior. It’s still the same environment you’ll find in a regular Focus, albeit jazzed up with a trio of gauges on the centre console and a set of grippy Recaro seats in the front. That means it also has the regular Focus’s slightly set-back gear lever, which a few testers take issue with – it’s not in the most comfortable place.
Ford Focus ST passenger space
Where the Focus really scores is its usability. The cabin is the same as in the normal Focus so space is plentiful and the Recaro seats are very supportive in all the right places. However, they seem to be positioned a bit higher than those in the Golf GTI.
Ford Focus ST boot space
That relatively unchanged interior means it’s just as practical as any other Focus, even if the hatchback’s boot is a little small.
Still, you can solve that by opting for the Estate – a rare option in the hot hatch market.
Check out our internal and external dimensions guide to help you work out if the Focus ST will fit into your lifestyle.
Here, the Focus ST really scores – it’s cracking fun to drive. Where do we start? According to the experts, “handling balance is pretty much spot-on”, retaining the “old car’s magical pliancy” when you’re driving fast over bumps. Cornering is “flat” and “confident”, the brakes “not fazed by repeated stops on twisty mountain roads”, and overall it has a “loose and playful feel”.
If one aspect of the car is criticised, it’s its torque vectoring system. It’s meant to help the car swing around corners under power, but according to critics it “struggles to contain the ST’s tyre scrabble and torque steer” when accelerating out of bends at low speed.
Track-day enthusiasts should be aware that the ST’s torque vectoring system works using the front brakes. This method is perfectly suited to use on the street but, during the extreme speeds and cornering velocities achieved on a track, it has a tendency to overheat the front brakes after a few laps.
You get a choice of 2.0-litre petrol or diesel engines. Although the petrol doesn’t sound as sporty as the five-cylinder engine in the previous Focus ST, it still has a lot of character.
Ford Focus ST specs
Critics love the power (247hp) and the lump of torque available from low revs, and although it does make for unruly cornering if you’re a bit heavy-footed, there’s plenty of performance to be enjoyed – 0-60mph passes in 6.5 seconds and it’ll stop just short of German super saloons at 154mph flat out. Reviewers say it’s eager and flexible, with good throttle response.
The diesel gets 182hp and 295lb ft of torque – enough to propel it to 62mph from a standstill in 8.1 seconds. Despite its plentiful power it still averages 67.3mpg while emitting just 110g/km of CO2. Critics say it doesn’t accelerate with the sheer potency of the petrol but its strong in-gear pull makes overtaking smooth, swift and easy.
Despite the Estate's marginal extra weight, it's also no slower than the hatch, with a 6.5-second 0-60 time and 154 mph top speed. Economy is similarly strong when you aren't going crazy, at 39.2 mpg.
Part of that is down to the performance, with 247 bhp on offer and a 250 lb-ft slug of torque from just 1,750 rpm - enough to scrabble to 60 in 6.2 seconds and on to 154 mph. Scrabble you will, too - there's certainly enough torque to trouble the tyres.
Testers don't miss the five-cylinder tune, praising its "grunty" induction growl, but below 3,500 rpm it's sedate enough to deal with daily use. It's a cracking engine.
The Ford Focus ST comes with a decent level of safety equipment that was enough to ensure the car scored full marks when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP.
However at just £550, the Driver Assistance pack (which makes the car even safer) is hard to ignore. That sum bundles together lane departure warning, which gently steers the car to keep it in a lane on the motorway, and headlights which dip automatically when they sense an oncoming vehicle. The Focus ST also gets automatic emergency braking, which works at speeds of up to 31mph and can perform emergency stops when a collision is imminent and the driver hasn’t started braking.
The Focus ST offers excellent value for money. At £22,520 it starts almost £4,000 less than a VW Golf GTI, and £3,000 less than a less practical, slightly more hardcore Renaultsport Megane . Equipment levels are still relatively good at this price, but there’s so much room to move with the Ford’s pricing that you can get a top-spec model for the price of its closest rivals. Or an Estate. Fuel efficiency is also good, with 39 mpg from both hatch and estate.
Having trouble deciding which colour looks best for your new Focus ST? Have a look at our colour guide examining each shade in detail.
Some testers say you shouldn’t bother with the ST’s sat-nav system – the screen is tiny and it’s all a little out of date. Those who tow need to look elsewhere because the ST’s central exit exhaust means you can’t fit a tow bar. You can spec your Focus with the Mountune package too – it bumps power to over 270 hp and cuts the 0-60 time to under six seconds – and you can still get it for far less than the price of a Golf GTI.
The Focus ST is an excellent car. It’s fast, fun to drive and more practical than most rivals, yet costs less than almost all of them. Few testers miss the old five-cylinder engine as the new one is more powerful and almost as tuneful, and it returns some of the handling magic that other Focus have lost with the recent generation.
It’s highly recommended, but keep an eye out for the facelifted model coming soon.