- New sports variant of the five-door hatch and estate
- Two new engine choices: one petrol, one diesel
- On sale now, from £29,495- £33,095
Ford's fastest Focus, the ST, is now officially on sale in the UK, and we've finally had a drive in a UK-spec car.
Announced in February 2019, the new Focus ST is looking to build upon the sporting character of the Focus, while taking the fight to the likes of the Honda Civic Type R, Hyundai i30 N Performance, and Volkswagen Golf GTI.
All signs point towards the same path trodden by previous Ford Focus ST. It receives more power and performance-enhancing technology for across-the-board improvements, while still maintaining the essence of day-to-day convenience.
What's under the bonnet of the 2019 Ford Focus ST, and how much bhp does it have?
Like previous generations of the ST, there's a diesel version on offer. It's a 2.0-litre packing 190hp and 400Nm, and it should be rapid and fun enough to see off the popular Volkswagen Golf GTD when you're caning it, and around 50mpg when you're not. But the real interest in the range is the petrol version, which will – like its predecessor – appeal to enthusiasts who love the old car's slightly rebellious image.
The petrol ST gets a 2.3-litre turbocharged engine, making 280hp and 420Nm. That's powerful enough to do the 0-62mph sprint in 5.7 seconds. But it also gives Ford enough headroom to build a suitably lairy range-topping RS. Don't expect that to appear until well into 2020, though.
There are two transmission options, a six-speed manual gearbox, and a seven-speed auto. Rev-matching tech can be added to the manual as part of the ST’s Performance Pack to smooth out gear changes and excite those drivers chasing every tenth of a second. Oddly, the hatchback comes with both options, whereas the estate only comes with a manual.
Does more power mean all-wheel drive?
No. Like the previous ST, this one will be front-wheel drive only. It does have a new electric limited-slip differential for the petrol car, a first for Ford, to help put all that power down on the road. But the diesel hasn’t been entirely left out, it features torque vectoring for better roadholding and balance under braking.
There is also sharper power steering, refined rear suspension, stronger brakes and optional continuously controlled damping for five-door petrol models aimed at delivering greater cornering stability.
Three drive modes called Slippery/Wet, Normal and Sport are included, and there is a more specialised track mode included with the Performance Pack which allow more precise adjustments.
What about the styling?
We like how subtle it is. That might be in contrast to what buyers want, though. Ford has included Recaro sports seats in the front, exhaust amplification while in sport or track modes, a flat-bottomed sports steering wheel, aluminium gear knob, and alloy pedals for added sports car experience.
There are also some styling tweaks on the outside including ST exclusive alloy wheels, a larger, steeper rear spoiler and a redesigned front grille, while the Performance Pack also offers red brake callipers.
Ford Focus ST driving impressions
As soon as you lower yourself into the firm Recaro seats, fire up the crackling engine, and prod the Sport button on the steering wheel, you know it means business.
The car we tried was the petrol hatchback, fitted with the optional Performance Pack. This means different drive modes, rev matching, and launch control.
In comfort mode, the suspension is genuinely good at absorbing bumps and not relaying too many of them back to you. Sport is harder, but generally supple enough for a typical B road in Britain, while making it sharper all round. Race is torturous on anything but a smooth race track. Sport and Race bring exhaust pops and bangs, electronically elevated by the audio system in the car. If you're childish, which you probably are if you're reading this, you'll love them.
The engine itself is a 2.3-litre lifted out of the old Focus RS. It's slightly detuned, but it still pulls with the ferocity you'd expect for a car sporting 276bhp. There's not a hint of turbo lag, either.
Despite all this seriousness, on track, the Focus feels like a playful thing. With the stability control turned off it will gladly get loose and slip into a slide. With all traction control systems kept on, it still feels more playful than a VW Golf GTI, but never unsafe.
Lock to lock is two turns, and it actually has a faster steering rack than the Fiesta ST. So the steering is super quick, elevating the hyperactive feel.
Brakes are heavy duty too, and didn't fade even after quite a few serious braking maneuvers on a closed road.