Ford Focus ST - First Drive

An outstanding effort that easily matches or exceeds the standard set by its predecessor. David Wilkins delivers one of the earliest reviews

David Wilkins

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-charged petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual
Power: 250PS at 5,500 rpm
Torque: 340Nm at 1,750 rpm
Fuel consumption (combined cycle): 39.2mpg
CO2 emissions: 169g/km
Top speed: 154mph
Acceleration (0-62 mph): 6.5 seconds
Price: from £21,995 (estate from £23,095)

At last, the ST high-performance version of the third-generation Ford Focus has arrived, and on the face of it, the new car faces a bit of an uphill struggle. First, the latest ST has to re-establish itself in the market after a break of over two years since its predecessor bowed out – and the old model is a hard act to follow; with its magnificently characterful Volvo-derived five-cylinder engine, it provided a particularly attractive blend of sporty refinement that has rarely been seen in affordable cars with mainstream badges before or since. Now the Volvo engine has gone, replaced by something that on paper looks a lot more ordinary - Ford's own turbocharged two-litre petrol four.

On top of that, the new ST is being billed as the “first global performance Ford” and will have to appeal to customers not just in the old one's traditional EU markets but also in new territories such as Russia and North America. In fact, as part of its maker's “One Ford” policy, which is designed drastically to simplify Ford's model range and operations, the ST will be produced in near identical forms in Saarlouis in Germany and Michigan in the US. On the face of it, the need to cater for such a wide variety of customers seems like a recipe for a dumbed-down, undistinguished, lowest common denominator car unlikely appeal to sophisticated European enthusiasts. And as if all that weren't enough, the Focus range already contains one mega-star, the headline-hogging three-cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost version that's been wowing professional testers and ordinary punters alike with its extraordinary mix of performance, refinement and economy. The new ST, no matter how good, is going to struggle for airtime in the face of the adulation that car has been receiving.

Well there's no need to worry about any of that, because the new ST turns out to be an outstanding effort that easily matches or exceeds the standard set by the old one, and the attention-grabbing 1.0 EcoBoost is just going to have to get used to sharing the limelight from now on.

First performance, which is, after all, the point of a car like the ST. With a top speed of 154mph and a 0 to 62mph time of 6.5 seconds, the new car is certainly quick, but at the same time it returns 39.2mpg (combined cycle) and 169g/km in official tests, an improvement of 20 per cent compared with its thirsty predecessor. The impressive on-paper figures can't really tell you much about the qualitative aspects of the new ST's performance, though – the way it sounds, the way it delivers its shove. Those were areas in which the old car excelled, thanks to that warbling five-cylinder engine and a wonderfully cushioned drive-train. The new car's turbo-charged four delivers a generous 250 horsepower but the big surprise is that Ford has succeeded in giving it almost as much character as the old one. A lot of effort has gone into tuning the exhaust, while a “sound symposer”directly relays engine noise into the cabin in order to provide a sportier experience. In practice, that means a nice gravelly undertone to the ST's engine note but only under hard acceleration or at high revs. The rest of the time, it's extremely refined and quiet, as Ford has exploited the engine's strong torque to provide long gearing.

But impressive as the latest ST's drive-train is, it's this car's chassis behaviour that really sets new standards. Every Focus ever made has been a magnificently fluid handler, but the latest ST operates on a completely different level. Its outstanding body control and damping show why Ford was able to topple Peugeot all those years ago as the maker of the best handling mainstream cars - and why nobody has seriously threatened its position since. The variable ratio steering, which takes on a more direct ratio away from the straight-ahead, works well too. Best of all, the new ST combines its cornering prowess with superb ride comfort; in fact, it must be one of the best riding cars of its size or price – a staggering achievement.

Unlike the crude fast Fords of old, the new ST doesn't really shout too much about its abilities. There are no garish body-side decals and no big show-off spoilers, although there are some more subtle body mods. Instead, it stands out in less obvious ways – there's a choice of unusually vivid colours, including “tangerine scream”, a sort of metallic orange that recalls a popular launch shade for the old ST, and a distinctive “double hexagon” exhaust tailpipe also marks out the ST from other Focuses. In the UK, there will be three trim levels. The basic ST (which costs £ 21,995 in five-door hatchback form) has features such as 18 inch-alloy wheels, Recaro seats, keyless start, an alarm, a DAB radio, and Bluetooth. The ST-2 (from £23,495) adds partial leather trim, rain sensitive wipers, and a self-dimming mirror, as well as a few other bits and bobs. The £25,495 ST-3 gets just about everything you could ever need, including leather trim, heated front seats, bi-xenon headlamps and LED daylight-running lights. Unlike the last ST, this one will be available not just as a five-door hatchback but also as an estate, for a premium of £1,1000; there should be plenty of orders for cars of both body styles before UK deliveries start in September.

Suggested Topics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Client Account Executive

    £23000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Account Executive is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Telemarketing Executive

    £7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Full Time position available now at a growing...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree:...

    Ashdown Group: Reporting & Analytics Supervisor - Buckinghamshire - £36,000

    £34000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Analytics & Reporting Tea...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future