While the Ford Focus ST is no longer quite enough to make our list of the best hot hatches, it’s still a mighty fine performance machine. And now an updated one, because Ford has pulled the wraps off the new facelift model.
Like before, it’s available as a hatch or as a roomy wagon, and comes with a 2.3-litre EcoBoost motor churning out 276bhp. We’d wondered if Ford was going to give the Focus ST a dollop more power to compete with the Cupra Leon, Renault Megane RS and Mercedes-AMG A35, but no. Its 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds is undoubtedly quick, but also decidedly middle-of-the-road when it comes to hot hatches. You could always put a call into Mountune if it’s not fast enough.
There have been subtle changes, though, like the addition of an ST X pack that adds rev-matching, more aggressive throttle response, a Track mode and what Ford calls “greater leeway from the ESC system” - which sounds like a hooligan setting to us. There’s still a choice of six-speed manual and seven-speed auto ‘boxes (go manual, the torque converter makes the car slower), but no diesel version this time around. Good.
Visually, the changes bring the Focus ST in line with the recently updated Ford Fiesta ST. There are slimmer headlights with a new LED pattern, tweaked bumpers and tinted brake lights, plus a new satin grey finish for the air intakes and two new 18- or 19-inch wheel options. For the first time, you can also choose the Mean Green paint that made its debut on the Ford Puma ST.
The Recaro badging slapped across the old seats has gone; these are new seats developed in-house by Ford Performance, and are electronically adjustable. Get comfortable, look forwards and… whoa. The touchscreen is vast compared to the old one; at 13.2 inches it’s a whole five inches bigger than the outgoing version.
Oh no. There aren’t any air conditioning controls any more. You have to use the screen to change them instead. Let’s hope they’re easy to use while on the move. We should’ve expected this, given that the Mustang Mach-E makes you prod at the screen to cool down or warm up. Like the electric Mustang, the ST runs Ford’s newest SYNC 4 media system that gains better voice recognition and extra online features.
The Focus ST estate also gets a carpet that’s easier to clean, a more useful boot space area and a wet zone, if ever you want to carry some damp umbrellas or maybe a small school of piranhas. Ford has also produced a customer instruction guide on how to use the boot and its hidden features.
Prices start at £33,885, which looks about £3000 dearer than the outgoing car. But the cheap(er) and un-cheerful diesel model has been axed, so the new car is only £600 more than the old ST with the same engine. The first UK customers are expected to get their cars in early 2022.