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First drive: Ford Focus ST. Image by Ford.

First drive: Ford Focus ST
A barrel load of relatively small tweaks make the new Focus ST a real contender for hot hatch honours once again.

   



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Ford Focus ST

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

The facelifted Ford Focus ST now comes with the option of a diesel engine, and it's good, but five minutes behind the wheel of the petrol model is all you need to confirm that it's still the choice of the petrolhead. Subtle tweaks to the engine and calibration of the steering in particular improve the driving experience no end, and it feels of higher quality than ever.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Ford Focus ST3 Hatch
Pricing: starts at 22,195; as tested was 25,995
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 159g/km (Band G, 180 per year)
Combined economy: 41.5mpg
Top speed: 154mph
0-62mph: 6.5 seconds
Power: 250hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 360Nm at 2,000- to 4,500rpm

What's this?

It's the facelifted Ford Focus ST, resplendent in its new styling front and back, an improved interior, more equipment and what appear to be comparatively modest updates to the engine and chassis. The headline news is the introduction of a diesel engine to the line-up, so now buyers can choose petrol or diesel, five-door hatchback or estate, depending on their needs. The purchase price doesn't really come into the equation either, as the petrol and diesel variants cost the same. As ever, UK buyers can choose between ST1, ST2 and ST3 trim lines, and prices start at 22,195, which is about a hundred quid less than before. The vast majority opt for the ST3 and ST2 specifications, and that's set to continue, though Ford expects 50 per cent of ST buyers to go for diesel power. Here we test the petrol model.

How does it drive?

If you glance at the tech specs you'll see that the basic recipe for the Focus ST is unchanged. It's powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine as before and maximum power and torque outputs are the same as before. However, a recalibration of the ECU, plus some modification of the intake system, have led to what feels like better response to throttle input now, without any delay at low engine speeds. Despite that it retains a chunky torque curve in the mid-range so arguably there's no need for any gear other than third.

Which is a shame, as the six-speed manual gearbox is smooth and slick. It, and the distinctive engine note (utilising a sound symposer), combine to encourage the driver to perfect blipping of the throttle on downshifts. The pedals are well-spaced to allow this and their weighting is perfect. The brakes in particular are easy to accurately modulate and were fade-free in our test on challenging mountain roads in Spain.

The Focus ST still struggles to put all of its torque down cleanly at times, especially on a wet road, but Ford has improved things. Along with wide-ranging tweaks to the suspension components themselves, the electric power steering system has had a recalibration. The result is a noticeable lack of torque steer as you power through a corner, even when there is a dearth of traction, so the steering wheel doesn't writhe about in your hands. Sure, the wheels can spin up if you're clumsy with the throttle, but in general, it's better controlled than before. So much so that there's no fear in selecting the ESC Sport mode, as its loosened reins allow the ST to flow a little more naturally.

We'll reserve judgement on the ride comfort until we test the new Focus on UK roads, but initial signs are good - even on the stylish 19-inch alloy wheels and lower profile tyres that come with the popular Style option.

Verdict

When we tested the new Focus in its standard format last year we said it had the potential to knock the Volkswagen Golf off its pedestal as the best car in the C-segment. The newly formed Ford Performance division seems to have done it again with the new Focus ST, targeting the everyday usability, quality and comfort of the Golf GTI while adding an extra dollop of enjoyment to proceedings. The new model is certainly more than just a pretty new face.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

5 5 5 5 5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Shane O' Donoghue - 22 Jan 2015



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2015 Ford Focus ST. Image by Ford.2015 Ford Focus ST. Image by Ford.2015 Ford Focus ST. Image by Ford.2015 Ford Focus ST. Image by Ford.2015 Ford Focus ST. Image by Ford.

2015 Ford Focus ST. Image by Ford.2015 Ford Focus ST. Image by Ford.2015 Ford Focus ST. Image by Ford.2015 Ford Focus ST. Image by Ford.2015 Ford Focus ST. Image by Ford.



2015 Ford Focus ST. Image by Ford.
 

2015 Ford Focus ST. Image by Ford.
 

2015 Ford Focus ST. Image by Ford.
 

2015 Ford Focus ST. Image by Ford.
 

2015 Ford Focus ST. Image by Ford.
 

2015 Ford Focus ST. Image by Ford.
 

2015 Ford Focus ST. Image by Ford.
 






 

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