Ford Focus ST car review - a hot hatch with the engine to match

The latest Focus ST boasts more horsepower than ever before

Hot versions of Ford’s hatchback models have captured the imagination of car enthusiasts for generations. From the likes of the Sierra RS Cosworth that tore up rally stages back in the late eighties, to the Fiesta and Focus – both in RS and ST versions - that people know and love today. 

The Blue Oval brand has been catering for those who want a bit of extra bite for their buck for years, but whilst the Focus ST has earned a cult following, it hasn’t quite been able to reach the top of the turbo charged table, with some of its competition faring better with petrol heads looking for power and performance.

Ford’s answer to this? Create a new ST version of the Focus, one that is more powerful and responsive than ever before. Here we look at whether the latest offering can match up to others in the field of ST performance cars. 

Let’s start with the engine

The engine is a detuned version of that found in the previous-generation RS and current EcoBoost Mustang. 

After much demand, it finally gets an electronically controlled limited-slip differential (eLSD) to control power through the front wheels, there’s rev-matching on downshifts, new drive modes, and ST-specific suspension and steering. A more than decent set of kit. 

The ST also gets its own version of the now-familiar 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder engine that has served Ford Performance so well. With 276bhp, it’s the most powerful Focus ST ever – in fact you’re getting 30bhp more than the old version served up.

Perhaps even more impressive is its 420Nm of torque, which is available in the middle of the rev range - while peak power is higher at 5,500rpm. Putting your foot down even at lower revs gives a punchy response, but if you’re not in the mood for full throttle mode you can short shift and still feel a kick.

A diesel engine is also available for those who are less focused on pure performance and want lower running costs. 


Good on paper, better on tarmac

So far, so good on paper, but what about on the Tarmac? Well, here’s the good news: it’s brilliant. Not perfect, but what is? It’s still in a new league compared with the outgoing version.

Even in tight corners, the eLSD manages power output to smoothly-but-rapidly shunt you out of corners, with the front wheels occasionally skipping across the rough Tarmac to let you know you’re on the limit before you step over it. Ease off and you’re brought right back into line.

The exhaust note sounds great, the steering is direct, and the brakes are superb. One thing to highlight is that in Sport mode, the occasional bumpy section of road could unsettle the car.

That said, in Normal the ride is impressively comfortable.

A sport-trimmed family car

There tend to be two ends to the hot hatch spectrum. You can either go subtle and subdued like the Volkswagen Golf GTI, or teenage bedroom poster wannabes like the Honda Civic Type R. The Ford leans towards the Golf’s ethos, looking more like a sporty-trimmed family car than a performance monster.

When it comes to the look and style of hat hatches, you tend to find those that are subtle and subdued or those auditioning for the next Fast & Furious film. This Ford leans towards the subtle and subdued, pulling off a sport-trimmed family car feel rather than a “first to cross the line wins” look.

With more angular bumpers, twin-exit exhausts and bigger alloy wheels, the ST turns the temperature up just enough to match its performance.

Subtle interiors

Inside, subtlety is the order of the day. ST badges and some fake carbon-fibre trim is all that really distinguishes the ST from any other Focus. This will appeal to those who want their hot hatch to blend into everyday life. However, those wanting something a little sportier looking for their £30,000, may want to look elsewhere.

The stand-out feature of the interior, though, is the Recaro bucket seats. They offer enough side bolstering to keep you in place in corners without getting in the way when you’re changing gear. As always with Ford, the driving position is spot on.

Although the interior stays predominantly subtle, on the outside you get all the sporty bodywork you’d expect from a hot hatch.

On-board equipment includes selectable drive modes, adaptive cruise control, a B&O sound system, wireless charging and an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system. 

The performance pack option adds a Track driving mode, rev matching on downshifts, launch control and a shift indicator light. This really enhances the driving experience and should be a serious consideration for anyone craving extra turbo-styled thrills.


With the help of some impressive upgrades; the Focus ST can call itself a genuine rival in a highly-competitive market. A definite win for the famed Blue Oval. 

For more information on the ST, visit


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