The heart of the range may be a five-door hatch, now propelled by a rollicking 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine. Downsizing be damned, this one has actually been upsized. It starts life with a six-speed manual, although an optional seven-speed auto arrives a few months into its life. And you can have a diesel, and/or an estate. We’ll explore why you might want to, and might not, later in this review.
It’s no motorway mile-muncher, but it’s impressively easy to live with – as all the best hot hatches should be. Sure, there are faster, more fun alternatives out there, but the Ford Focus ST is still a very good fast family car that’s worthy of a place on your shortlist.
And there are other innovations at play in the alternative engine – the 2-litre diesel. With 187 bhp and 295 lb-ft of torque, the engine is the most potent diesel ever fitted to a Focus. That’s thanks in part to some clever engineering, which includes steel pistons that keep their shape better when they’re hot and a variable-geometry turbocharger that can adapt to provide maximum performance at varying throttle positions.
Rivalling the VW Golf GTI and Hyundai i30 N, the much-anticipated Focus promises to major on handling and speed, with Ford claiming that the car “builds on the class-leading driving dynamics” of its predecessor. The company has also fitted the most powerful engine ever offered on a Focus ST.
The brake servo is energised by an electric pump, so can compensate for fade when you’re going for it on a track, or down a mountain pass. Suspension is of course lowered (-10mm) and stiffened and supported by 18- or 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres. The steering is quicker too.
If you fancy using your Focus ST for normal track days, however, the firm suspension works alongside the super-fast steering to form the ST feel super nimble in tight corners. It comes with launch control for maximum acceleration and automatic rev-matching to help you execute perfect downshifts when braking.
Because the petrol’s diff is electrically controlled, you also get more lock-up (and hence more torque-steer) in the sport and track mode. The new servo also allows sharper brake response within the upper modes. And although the dampers are adaptive in all the Focus ST hatchbacks, they don’t have different programmes unless you get the Performance Pack, when you get a more keenly-damped car by ramping up the mode.
If you’re in the diesel you have to content yourself with 187bhp peak power. It’s clear this is definitely the second-string powertrain, even if Ford pleads that this ST diesel is actually more powerful and twice as torquey as the original Focus ST170. It has no external badges, and the price list calls it EcoBlue.