The New Ford Focus ST Has Advanced, But Has It Sacrificed Character?

The Focus ST has always been a working class hero, with plenty of power and not quite enough sanity, but the new version seems to have forgotten its roots
The New Ford Focus ST Has Advanced, But Has It Sacrificed Character?

Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise that Ford has thrown the kitchen sink at the new Focus ST. The most recent version had fallen flat, forgotten in a landscape dominated by better-resolved GTIs, Cupras and a certain letter N.

Its dynamic problems were twofold: it was too lairy, tending to torque-steer pretty wildly if clobbered out of a bend, and it didn’t have a limited-slip differential to control the resulting wheelspin.

The New Ford Focus ST Has Advanced, But Has It Sacrificed Character?

If you were more restrained and taught yourself to be better; to drive up to the chassis’ limits rather than beyond them, it flowed fairly well, but then it lacked the fizzy character that hot hatchbacks should possess. However you drove the petrol car it just wasn’t quite right; the diesel option actually felt like a more cohesive package.

Back in the days of five-cylinder, fuel-guzzling heroics, during the 2000s, the ST was a charismatic, charming and always respected choice. It was heavy at the front and was skittled by plenty of rivals when it came to handling, but that wasn’t the point. It was a simple recipe, served up a feast of fun and it worked. So should its successor, but against the old five-pot car it seemed as flat as that half-drunk bottle of Coke you left in your boot and forgot about.

The New Ford Focus ST Has Advanced, But Has It Sacrificed Character?

Ford has obviously taken this fall from grace quite personally. The simple blue-collar approach has been canned and there’s a hitherto unimaginable shift towards complex technology. The new 276bhp car will have an electronically-controlled limited-slip diff that works pre-emptively based on factors like grip and steering angle, selectable drive modes for the first time, active dampers and an anti-lag system derived from the GT supercar. Blimey.

There’s rev-matching if you’re the lazy type that doesn’t want to learn how to do it manually, launch control, new Steering Torque Disturbance Reduction software for the electro-mechanical power steering and a bespoke variant of Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4S tyre. Bigger stoppers now provide four times the fade resistance of the old ST’s setup, Ford says. The 0-62mph sprint will be done in under six seconds, it adds. It all seems rather… serious.

The New Ford Focus ST Has Advanced, But Has It Sacrificed Character?

Now, we have to note that some of these technologies are optional: rev-matching, launch control, Track mode and red brake calipers (+10hp?) all come with the Performance Pack. We don’t have prices as yet, though speculation puts the launch model – the flagship ST-3 – at something like £28,000, which is £2000 more than the last one began its life at.

With the Performance Pack it’ll be well over £30,000, but that’s still fair dinkum for a class where the Honda Civic Type R is £31,000-£33,000, the VW Golf GTI also starts at £31,000 and the Hyundai i30 N Performance costs £29,495. So far, so reasonable for Ford? Maybe, even if we’ve just been reminded what a relative steal that Hyundai is…

The New Ford Focus ST Has Advanced, But Has It Sacrificed Character?

The problem here is a buzzing little fly of a thought that snuck into my ear upon reading the press release. The Focus ST, right back as far as the ST170, has always been a straightforward example of brilliant chassis setup without frills. It was a chassis tuned for fun with a precise front end, an active rear one and an engine that placed an emphasis on driver skill. Ford’s chassis masters proved that suspension needed no special tricks to achieve the right balance of ride and control.

Shifting ethos entirely and introducing so much technology is as blatant an admission of ‘failure’ as the ST’s engineers could make over the old car. Worryingly, it’s also an admission that they’d lost confidence in their own ability to recreate the magic without using extra technology. As a result the new car may be brilliant, but it won’t necessarily feel like an ST has historically felt. Some of that old-school, Ford-specific character will inevitably fade as the car aligns more closely to the chassis spec of its rivals.

The New Ford Focus ST Has Advanced, But Has It Sacrificed Character?

There’s another thing. If £28,000 is correct, it’s in line with the market. But how much cheaper would it have been if there were no adjustable modes, a generic mechanical differential and no anti-lag? If the dampers had only one – ideal – setting? If the tyres were off-the-shelf items? It could be thousands less.

Don’t tell me all the gadgets are necessary. There’s a very strong argument for the differential after the shenanigans of the old car, but beyond that the bulging bag of gimmicks are – or should be – superfluous for an ST.

The New Ford Focus ST Has Advanced, But Has It Sacrificed Character?

Ford has already rattled the market’s coconuts with this badge. The last two Fiesta STs went on sale with a simple but outstanding dynamic package that blew every rival out of the water despite the car costing way less than most alternatives. It was a formula that proved (twice) that a hot Ford was a winner and a bargain. That’s what ST should stand for. A long, winding drive may eventually leave me raving about the spicy new Focus, but for now I fear that it might have become… derivative.



If Ford had realased the new ST with the minimum amount of equiments, the ST would have been criticized because of the lack of equipement, even if they were been options. The price is, i guess, in the premium section, and car brands want to go in the premium section.

02/19/2019 - 09:23 |
18 | 0


In my opinion it fills a void though. Something to fit snuggly between the Civic Type R/Golf R and the GTi/i30N range in cost… if these estimates are accurate. And that’s good news! More choices to make it more of a spectrum between entry hot-hatch and ¿luxury-hot-hatch? and less of a hard switch between distinct classes.

Neat! Now…. they just need to address their ENORMOUS mistake of not offering at LEAST the RS and ST line cars for North America. 580 million people here. And this is one of them who is seriously bummed about them killing off the lineup :(

02/19/2019 - 19:13 |
2 | 0

Ford is the new Apple

02/19/2019 - 09:52 |
0 | 3

Have you heard of a little company called Tesla?

02/19/2019 - 15:26 |
2 | 1

Ford are simply just moving with the times, if anything, they’re late, all this technology had already been in use by other hot hatches for nearly a decade. You can’t criticize one of the world’s biggest car companies for being modern. Satisfying purists is not what will make them money. We need to stop forgettint that car companies are a business first and foremost.

02/19/2019 - 11:26 |
11 | 0

In reply to by bcrm

They have to satisfy both if you think about the fact that someone buys the ST (or the RS) is an enthusiast, not the average Joe. You have to offer a car that is technologically advenced, comfortable, useable daily and affordable. Hard thing to make, the ST is a good prpduct for that

02/19/2019 - 12:04 |
3 | 0

thinking on 2019 fiesta st, I don’t think will be a blame to the st lines since now Focus ‘s category increase technology. Also he RS would be a 48v AWD regarding the media.

02/19/2019 - 12:05 |
1 | 1
Dave 12

Harsh words for the mk3! Got to say for me it’s been the best car I’ve ever owned and chief amongt my reasoning is value for money. I bought mine in 2013 fully optioned with 5k miles for £18k and its still cracking along pushing the 100k mark with only a new set of springs. It’ll be a pity to lose that value. What’s a golf GTI? Double that?

02/19/2019 - 12:12 |
0 | 0

The mk2 ST with it’s 5-cylinder was always one of the best handling hot hatches. Easily outhandles a mk5 or mk6 GTi for instance. Modern hot hatches have grown too soft and heavy. I mean the quickest time a mk3 Focus RS has managed to get round the Ring’ was 8:06 driven by a test driver, and YouTube is full of amateurs in t-shirts driving their mk2 RS’s well below 8 minutes round the same track. I think the best ever hot hatches in this size are the Focus RS mk2, Megane R26, Megane RS mk3 and the latest couple of Civics.

02/19/2019 - 13:24 |
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Chewbacca_buddy (McLaren squad)(VW GTI Clubsport)(McLaren 60

If that’s the case then get a Fiesta ST

02/19/2019 - 14:07 |
0 | 0

Well us Americans arent getting it anyway so why tf does it matter.

02/19/2019 - 15:25 |
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Dave 12

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

That’s the most American sentence I’ve seen all day!

02/19/2019 - 18:41 |
3 | 0
White Comet

Here is car-maker strategy:

  1. make good cars. good price
  2. don’t make them anymore
  3. remake KINDA good cars with higher price
02/19/2019 - 18:04 |
2 | 0



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