Ford would be mad not to use the lack of RS as an opportunity to make a more potent ST. After all, the Blue Oval isn’t averse to making faster special STs, as proven by the Fiesta ST200. It’s surely a question of when, rather than if, for the Focus. But since the ‘when’ isn’t here just yet, we have to turn to the aftermarket for an ST with added thrust.
Essex-based Mountune has provided just that with the Focus ST M330. Proving the ST’s 2.3-litre Ecoboost engine - shared with the entry-level Mustang and related to the old RS lump - has plenty of potential, the £599 pack’s only hardware modification involves a freer-flowing panel air filter.
Engine software is then controlled via an OBDII Bluetooth device and a mobile phone app, which gives the option of running the car as standard, or in a ‘Performance’ mode to unlock more power. Set to the latter, you’re looking at increases of 49bhp and 70lb ft, giving new figures of 324bhp and 380lb ft. That’s almost the same power as the old RS, and comfortably more torque.
0-62mph now happens in 5.2 seconds instead of 5.7, but to replicate that figure, you’ll probably want to use the tweaked launch control mode; all that extra shove means the M330 loves to light up the front tyres if you get too greedy with the throttle.
On the move, however, the enlivened ST puts its power down to the tarmac with minimal fuss. Ford’s bespoke electronically-controlled locking differential is clearly being taxed a lot more here, with the odd bit of wheelspin felt in some corners, but for the most part, it’s all in hand. With the increase in power, this ST gives that pleasing sensation of a car with an output which it can handle, but only just. Torque steer has increased a touch, but again, it’s nothing to worry about.
There’s an unavoidable increase in turbo lag, but the pause between putting your foot down and the twin-scroll snail waking up is well within the realms of acceptability. Once you’re there, and preferably over 2500rpm, the M330 feels especially punchy.
The mid-range is a force to be reckoned with, solving one of the issues we found with the Focus on the twisty launch route last year. The stock ST is a late bloomer for a turbocharged car, requiring the revs to be over 3500rpm for the engine to get into its stride. The gearing meant that in a lot of tighter corners, you were given the choice of holding third and the car bogging down a touch as the revs dipped below that point, or dropping to second and hitting the unpleasant soft limiter.
No such issue in the M330; there’s so much torque, you can hold third and even fourth, confident that there’ll be enough shove to pull you out of the corner. It never feels like too much, though. As with Mountune’s M52 Golf R we drove last year, it almost feels like an official factory effort, so neat is the execution.
The exhaust system on the test car is standard, although there are some added pops and bangs triggered by the updated software. They seem to appear with a relative degree of spontaneity, so they’re OK in our book. The brakes were standard, too, although there were times the extra pace felt like it should be accompanied with some meatier stoppers.
Other stock ST issues remain, such as the ride being too firm in Sport and Race (and you can’t slacken the adaptive dampers independently), and the steering’s unnaturally strong self-centering attitude. Which is also worse in Sport. With the Ace card of more power than all of its rivals up its sleeve, though, all of that becomes more forgivable.
But to answer our original question, is it an effective RS substitute? For the most part, the answer is yes, and the value of the transformation is far greater than the mere £599 outlay. But because it’s no longer warranty-friendly like Mountune packs for the previous-gen Focus and Fiesta ST, we can’t go as far as calling it a no-brainer, despite it making for a hugely tempting option for any owners wishing to increase performance in a non-invasive way.
Most importantly, the M330 proves how much potential the ST has waiting to be tapped into, through either aftermarket or official means. Your move, Ford.