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First UK drive: Ford Focus ST diesel. Image by Ford UK.

First UK drive: Ford Focus ST diesel
Does the latest Focus ST do more to seduce us, now we’re back on home soil and in the EcoBlue model?

 



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Ford Focus ST EcoBlue

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

If you read our first review of the latest Ford Focus ST, you might think it got a bit of a lukewarm reception. So can it better convince us of its merits, now that we're driving a diesel version on the roads of the UK?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Ford Focus ST EcoBlue 2.0 manual hatchback
Pricing: Focus ST from £29,495 for car as tested
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual with Torque Vectoring
Body style: five-door hot hatch
CO2 emissions: 125g/km (VED Band 111-130: £170 first 12 months, then £145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 58.8mpg
Top speed: 136mph
0-62mph: 7.6 seconds
Power: 190hp at 3,500rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 2,000-3,000rpm
Boot space: 375-1,354 litres

What's this?

A Ford Focus ST that drinks from the oh-so-suddenly very, very unfashionable black pump. And our first chance to get a go in the ST Mk4 on our own roads, following a... 'meh' first drive of the 280hp petrol model overseas a month or two back.

Ford has long offered diesel versions of its warm performance models, of course, so it was probably always on the cards that this fourth take on the Sports Technologies family hatch would get a compression-combustion motor. But with customers fleeing the fuel in their droves, does it make any sense for Ford to keep selling this particular ST?

Well, given that we found the fast Focus most pleasurable in its softer settings after our first drive, maybe the diesel is actually the better-suited engine to the car's nature. And it lacks for some of the more intense chassis hardware of the petrol model, as it doesn't have the electronically controlled limited-slip differential; something we felt was corrupting the steering in the more extreme drive modes in the petrol, so maybe this is a good thing.

However, the ST EcoBlue (it's not called the ST TDCi any longer) is still not what you'd call cheap. At 29-and-a-half for a 190hp hatchback that does 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds, we're beginning to wonder whether this isn't a machine that's way overpriced. So, time to try it out on the gnarly, sodden roads of Cumbria. Oh, and in a handy little side-note, while we're focusing on the diesel ST for our public-highway testing, we were in the vicinity of M-Sport, Ford's rally partner outfit, which has just had a brand-new test track installed. So we also got the chance to try out a petrol ST hatch in the very environment we were craving at the international launch; we reckoned Sport and Track were too much for the roads, so time to give them a whirl on... on... well, on the track.

How does it drive?

Hmm. We're still not blown away by the Focus ST. For a start, this 2.0-litre diesel engine is fine enough, being one of those robust and relatively rev-happy lumps that feels like it has a sporty edge, rather than just being a modestly more potent turbodiesel. But, even with sound augmentation, it can't hope to hold a candle to the soundtrack of the 2.3-litre petrol and it certainly doesn't have the reach and punch that you'd expect of what is, when you boil it all right down (to a thick reduction, perhaps?), a fast Ford.

Then there's the steering. It's still too stodgy and too eager to self-centre, even without the machinations of the e-LSD. It's better, of course, than the petrol model with the e-LSD in its most aggressive settings, but it's still not the purest steering rack in the hot hatch game and, by Ford's own lofty standards in this department, it is something of a disappointment. And the ride remains too firm; in fact, here in the UK, on some of the Lake District's most hemmed-in and ropey back roads, the ST even felt too nuggety in Normal mode, never mind stepping it up into Sport or Track. Which we did, and quickly switched back again, because the ST's ride on such surfaces became borderline unbearable.

What's frustrating about this, and the original review of the petrol ST, is that it's clearly not a bad car - it's a long way from being poor, let's be clear. The refinement levels are most impressive and the diesel does make sense as a long-distance vehicle with a bit of hotness mixed in; it would probably add up best as an Estate with the automatic gearbox, but Ford has confirmed only the petrol ST will get the forthcoming twin-clutch self-shifter so that particular spec of diesel Focus ST wagon will be denied to us. Furthermore, underneath all the electronics is a decent mechanical chassis on the ST, which resists understeer gamely, possesses a good amount of throttle adjustability and which is generally just nicely sorted. Again, this is a Ford hallmark, although just because it's expected of this marque doesn't mean we should ignore the engineering that has gone into it this particular Focus.

And then the brief couple of laps, in soaking wet conditions, in the petrol ST on the M-Sport test track proved just how much fun the Focus ST can be, when it's in the right settings for the right conditions. Sport and Track, simply too much for the public roads, finally come into their own on the velvet-smooth surfaces of a newly-laid race circuit and the Focus ST begins to dance around wonderfully at the limits of adhesion. It'll tail-out-tweak into a lovely neutral stance if you need it to, while the grip and body control levels are both immense. However, we'd still gripe and say that only one track-focused setting is really required, so Track should have been just that while Sport ought to be usable on the roads. But it isn't. Or, at least, it isn't if you want to enjoy the Focus ST on the UK network as much as you possibly can.

Verdict

We're still waiting to be thoroughly wowed by the Focus ST Mk4. It gives you glimpses of greatness, in terms of its chassis set-up and the fluency of its damping in Normal mode, and then frustrates you with things like mediocre steering, rigid shock absorbers in Sport/Track and, on the petrol, the over-aggressive exertions of the e-LSD. That it's not exactly cheap and not exactly stand-out in the aesthetics department (it looks too much like a regular ST-Line Focus, unless it's finished in Orange Fury) doesn't help its cause, and - shorn of its mighty 2.3-litre petrol motor - the EcoBlue diesel feels even less like it should wear the 'ST' badging. We're still trying to love the Focus ST, though, so we're going to see if we can bag an ST Estate EcoBoost at some point for a longer assessment. For now, regrettably we have to say there are a number of better C-segment hot hatches to pick than the Ford.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 13 Sep 2019









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2019 Ford Focus ST UK drive. Image by Ford UK.2019 Ford Focus ST UK drive. Image by Ford UK.2019 Ford Focus ST UK drive. Image by Ford UK.2019 Ford Focus ST UK drive. Image by Ford UK.2019 Ford Focus ST UK drive. Image by Ford UK.

2019 Ford Focus ST UK drive. Image by Ford UK.2019 Ford Focus ST UK drive. Image by Ford UK.2019 Ford Focus ST UK drive. Image by Ford UK.2019 Ford Focus ST UK drive. Image by Ford UK.2019 Ford Focus ST UK drive. Image by Ford UK.








 

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