£24,210 - £30,300 Price range
41 - 67 MPG
The Ford Focus ST estate is just as fun to drive as the hatchback, but even more practical thanks to its bigger boot.
Its 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine makes it seriously rapid, but given the performance on tap it doesn’t cost the earth to run. The diesel version, meanwhile, can manage fuel economy of nearly 70mpg.
With improvements to the car’s interior quality and the latest version of the company’s Sync voice activation and infotainment system, the ST estate is a bit of a Swiss Army Knife car – it has the right tools for almost any job.
You’ll not spot any difference leaping from the Focus ST hatch to the estate, until you open the boot of course. That means you get the same slightly fussy and occasionally ergonomically baffling dash – though this has been blended out a little with the facelift. There’s precious little difference between the regular estate and the ST in fact, with only the required Recaro sports seats, a smattering of badges and a pod of gauges sitting atop the centre stack to mark it out from its slower cousin.
Of course where the estate leads over the hatch is cabin space. With the rear screen moved backwards there’s more room for the back seat passengers heads and boot space is up from 316 litres to 476 litres. This isn’t spectacular for the class though – the Focus estate is slightly less roomy than some of its rivals hatchbacks – so temper your expectations in terms of outright space. Right now the 624-litre boot in the Honda Civic Tourer leads the class.
The elephant in the room for the Ford Focus ST is the old car. Just about every outlet concurs that the current model just isn’t as good to drive as its predecessor and there’s a lot of finger pointing at the electric power steering as being less engaging than the old hydraulic setup – though for 2015 this has been recalibrated for the better. However it’s still rated as amongst the very best in its class, with most putting it right at the top of the pack.
If anything this makes the estate even better, given that it retains all of the ST hatch’s handling traits. In addition to being a pretty storming back road driving machine, it’s still pretty pleasant in the ride department, eating motorway miles and dealing with urban driving equally well. That makes it one of the easiest fast estates to live with everyday.
Should you do a lot of town driving you’ll need to be aware of the engine torque at low speeds. The engines are pretty potent and Ford has had to employ a ‘Torque Vectoring System’ to prevent excessive wheel slip or “torque-steer”, where the reaction of the front wheels is to add steering lock and cause tugging on the steering wheel. It’s not a perfect system, despite a revision this year, so take care not to overdo the loud pedal in traffic
While most buyers will want to head straight for that 246hp 2.0 petrol engine, there’s also a 182hp 2.0 diesel on offer.
The petrol unit is the obvious performer here, knocking out a 0-60mph sprint in 6.6s and dragging the Focus on to 154mph – nearly 2 seconds quicker and 20mph faster than the diesel. You’ll be thankful of the diesel every time you visit a petrol station with a 60% better fuel economy (67.3mpg to 41.5mpg).
Again, there’s a ghost haunting the petrol car – the old ST carried a five cylinder engine which made a very distinctive noise, while the new one is a regular turbocharged four cylinder. To improve the aural pleasure, Ford pipes some induction noise into the cabin – it’s slightly artificial, but it’s a fair attempt. In any case it sounds better than the diesel!
Neither the Focus ST nor the Focus Estate have individual crash test scores, so we have to rely on the data from the hatchback’s EuroNCAP test in 2012. It scored well in all areas, achieving 92 per cent for adult occupant protection, 82 per cent for child occupant protection, a more than respectable 72 per cent for pedestrian protection and 71 per cent for the safety assist systems offered.
If you go for the ST-2 and ST-3 trims you’ll get as standard a Driver Assistance Pack, which includes a blind spot warning system, traffic sign recognition, automatic high beam, and cruise control which also maintains position in lane for you. You can also specify parking distance sensors and a rear view camera, but ST-1 drivers miss out on all of these things.
It’s generally held that the most expensive Focuses are the least appealing from a value for money point of view – and starting at £23,295 the ST Estate is the most expensive of them all. The ST-1 misses out on a number of features we see on its peers and even leaking into cheaper cars further down the pecking order, making it particularly poorer value.
Given the relative lack of space and the tendency for Fords to depreciate pretty quickly – though the ST may plummet a little less than other blue ovals – it doesn’t make a very strong case for itself on wallet-friendliness. Still, it’s cheaper than the hatchback version of its old enemy, the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
The Focus ST Estate is a case of finesse. In ST trim it improves on just about every aspect of the Focus hatchback and in estate form it gains even more. As an all-rounder it’s a car you shouldn’t skip over lightly.
But the price is the price. It’s a steep ask, whether for the lowest specification of ST which skips on some of the toys or for the more expensive higher spec models. The boot isn’t especially big either, so if space and value are higher on your checklist than driving and performance you’ll want to look elsewhere.