First Drive

First Drive: Ford Focus ST

The story:
Ford’s performance ST model joins the new Focus range launched last year, coming in 190hp diesel and 280hp petrol form, and five-door hatch or estate.
Category:Lower Medium
Key rival:Volkswagen Golf GTD
Ford Focus ST Ecoblue Estate
Price:£30,305
MPG:50.4mpg
Emissions:125g/km
On sale:August 2019

 

Ford has completed its new Focus line-up, for now at least, by dropping an ST-shaped cherry on the top of a range that has already expanded to include five-door hatch, estate, posh Vignale trim and the faux-crossover new Active model.

The ST comes in two forms, with the 190hp diesel being considerably more attainable than the 280hp petrol as a company car, given there is a 54g/km difference in favour of the diesel. The ST diesel also costs £2500 less than its more powerful ST sibling.

First Drive-August 2019-Ford Focus ST-Image 3Both cars are available in five-door hatch and alluring rapid load-lugger estate form. The estate, which we drive here, costs an additional £1100, but solves the Achilles heel of the hatch, namely poor boot space. The hatch is expected to account for 90% of sales, however.

This is the most powerful diesel Ford has ever put into a Focus.

As is Ford’s forte, the Focus ST handles impeccably, being nimble, secure and balanced through bends, while the engine makes a most un-diesel-like growl.

The only warning for potential diesel drivers is to maybe not try the petrol version, because it makes the diesel feel like a diet ST, compared to the full-fat popping and crackling 280hp version.

First Drive-August 2019-Ford Focus ST-Image 2The diesel hatchback doesn’t get the petrol hatchback’s clever suspension as standard – it’s part of an £800 option pack, and not available on the estate at all. Meanwhile, the diesels don’t receive the clever differential technology that is required to deliver the petrol’s higher power so impressively without spinning the front wheels. Nevertheless, the diesel delivers good acceleration, but only if the revs are kept in a fairly narrow powerband, whereas the petrol can be driven rapidly in third gear alone in most situations.

Driving them back-to-back makes the diesel feel like a quicker, even better-handling Focus, whereas the petrol ST is a proper hot hatch.

The performance version of Ford’s company car king can be picked out by the black mesh grille, bigger front bumper and rear spoiler, while the major changes inside are the Recaro part-leather sports front seats, sports steering wheel, alloy pedals and ST-embossed gearlever and scuff plates. Still, it’s fair to say that the interior doesn’t feel that big a step up from the ST-Line trim, apart from those impressive sports seats.

Paul Barker

The verdict

The Focus ST looks great and makes an appealing case as an efficient performance diesel, but it can’t help feeling a little lukewarm compared with the full-fat petrol ST.