Ford's fourth generation Focus ST is now smarter, classier and more dynamically adept. In hatch or estate guise, with petrol or diesel power, it's a car that's now easier to get the most from. And a machine you can enjoy to the full on your favourite road without afterwards having to pay for it with the kind of over-firm ride you simply don't want in everyday traffic. Ultimately, so many quick cars can feel.... well, rather irrelevant. Here's one that's anything but....
There are plenty of very significant changes over the previous generation model. We'll start with the fresh engine line-up, which offers 12% more power and 17% more torque than before. There are two units on offer; an entry-level 190PS 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel and the powerplant you'll probably prefer, a 280PS 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol unit. Buyers choose between a 6-speed manual gearbox or a new quick-shifting 7-speed auto transmission. Selectable Drive Mode technology is introduced on a Focus St for the first time, enabling drivers to adjust the car's character to suit the kind of drive experience they want. The various settings tweak steering feel, throttle response, stability control thresholds and, on petrol models, suspension response too, courtesy of the 'CCD' 'Continuously Controlled Damping' system that's standard on the EcoBoost models to further improved the sophisticated 'SLA' multi-link suspension set-up.
Go for the petrol derivative and you also get an 'e-LSD' Electronic Limited Slip Differential. The system uses hydraulically activated clutches to limit the engine torque delivered to a wheel that has reduced traction on the road surface, and redistributes up to 100 per cent of available torque to the wheel with more traction to counteract wheel spin that can hamper acceleration through, and out of, corners. You'll want to know how fast it is; well, plenty quick enough. Thanks to 420Nm of torque, the EcoBoost petrol version uses the most free-revving Focus ST engine ever and sprints to 62mph in less than six seconds.
One area where the previous third generation Focus ST clearly regressed was stance. Ask any petrolhead and they'll tell you that the way a car sits on its wheels is a pretty fundamental part of its visual appeal. Some cars look squat, muscular and purposeful. The third generation ST never really managed that. There was just too much air under its wheel arches and the front end looked high and gawky. Remedial work has very much been conducted with this latest model. The body kit gives it a lower, wider stance, the bonnet is more aggressively sculpted. A larger, more steeply angled rear roof spoiler increases downforce to support the Focus ST's driving dynamics. A twin exit tailpipe configuration borders the aggressively styled rear diffuser element, and improves practicality by delivering the towing capability that was prevented by the centre-exit tailpipes of the previous generation Focus ST.
The cabin is well trimmed, featuring a great set of Ebony coloured part-leather-trimmed Recaro sports seats with cushion tilt and length adjustment. Other neat touches include a grippy sports steering wheel, an ST-embossed aluminium gear knob and scuff plates, alloy pedals, metallic hexagonal and satin silver decorative elements, plus metal grey stitching for the seats, door inserts and centre console.
Let's be clear: the previous MK3 model Focus ST was a very good car indeed. But it wasn't as involving and rewarding as its little Fiesta ST stablemate. It wasn't the car it could have been: now it is. This fourth generation Focus ST is now the very definition of what a car of this kind should be, a guilt-free fast hatch with near-supercar performance and technology that's relatively affordable and perfectly practical.
We're promised here a class-leading ride and handling balance, there's estate versatility if you want it and you get the option of low diesel running costs if that's needed. All without compromise in a car that deserves to be remembered fondly in a fine tradition of fast Fords.Click here to find out more about our Ford Focus ST range