Ford Focus ST review - the best all-round hot hatch on sale?

Quick, affordable and fun, but not perfect

Evo rating
from £25,735
  • Storming performance, price undercuts most rivals
  • Can become unruly with torque steer, cheap-feeling cabin

The Fast Ford formula is alive and well in the Focus ST: everyday usability meets serious performance at an affordable price. Replacing the notoriously thirsty five-cylinder 2.5-litre turbo motor of its predecessor with a smaller 2.0-litre, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine hasn’t just improved economy and emissions (on paper, at least) but given performance a useful shot in the arm as well. And in this facelifted car, those strengths still remain.

There's an entertaining chassis beneath the ST, with eager steering and good balance. But it's also a car that some may quickly tire of, with no LSD to tame the 247bhp the ST puts to its front wheels, and a nose that seems to react to every camber and rut in the road. Driving the ST quickly then can be hard work on bumpy UK roads, not helped by a very firm ride.

Subscribe to evo magazine

evo is 21 and to celebrate, we're returning to 1998 prices! Subscribe now to SAVE 39% on the shop price and get evo for its original cover price of £3.00 an issue, plus get a FREE gift worth £25!

However, it's hard to ignore the ST's value, with more than enough performance to take the fight to the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Vauxhall Astra VXR, the appealing option of an estate version (something denied to most other hot hatchback buyers) and an amusingly throaty induction note thanks to Ford's clever acoustics work. If you can put up with the torque steer and the slightly ropey cabin design, it's a compelling performance option.

Ford Focus ST in detail

> Performance and 0-60 time - With 25bhp more power than its predecessor, the Focus ST sprints to 62mph in 6.5sec, matching the Volkswagen Golf GTI. Read more about the Focus ST's performance here.

Advertisement - Article continues below

> Engine and gearbox - The new 2-litre turbocharged engine develops 247bhp at 5500rpm. That’s complemented by a healthy 265lb ft of torque at just 2000rpm. Read more about the Focus ST's engine and gearbox here.

> Ride and handling - The facelifted Focus car gets electric power-steering to sharpen its responses. It's let down by an unyielding ride and significant torque steer and tramlining. Read more about the Focus ST's ride and handling here.

> MPG and running costs - Expect 25-30mpg in the real world from the petrol model, and 45-50mpg from the ST TDCi. Read more about the Focus ST's MPG and running costs here.

> Interior and tech - The interior is brazenly sporting, with Recaro seats and carbonfibre trim. Ford offers a Driver Assistance pack that adds collision avoidance and lane keep assist. Read more about the Focus ST's interior here.

> Design - Ford’s facelift has tightened the Focus’s lines and done away with excess visual weight. Read more about the Focus ST's design here.

Price, specs and rivals

Diesel power represents the cheapest avenue into Ford Focus ST ownership, at a tad under £26k, although the petrol model is only slightly more expensive.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Despite the Focus ST’s competitive price tag, it isn’t found wanting in terms of standard kit. Dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights and wipers and racy Recaros comprise the entry-level ST-2 trim. Upgrade to ST-3 specification and the seats are both heated and adjustable and you’ll also gain bi-xenon headlights and Ford's SYNC3 infotainment system.

The estate version creates an extra 160 litres worth of cargo space and adds £1100 to the price. Pitching the ST estate against the Volkswagen GTD equivalent turned out unsurprising results. Neither were free of flaws, but the ST traded the VW’s refinement for a more involved and tactile experience. We chose the ST, but the conservative styling and comparatively premium feel of the German load-lugger will appeal to plenty of people who are cross-shopping the pair. The Golf’s premium position informs its higher price, almost £29k, about £1k more than the top spec ST-3 Focus ST estate.

The Skoda Octavia vRS provides another competitor out of the VW group stable offering both diesel and petrol. Unlike the Golf GTD, with which it shares its diesel engine in TDI form, all-wheel drive is available (exclusively mated to the automatic transmission). It’s our hot diesel estate pick.

There’s plenty of petrol-powered hot hatchback to rival the ST. Peugeot’s 308 GTi 270 by Peugeot Sport has a sweet, zingy turbo-four lending it true appeal and, of course, the Volkswagen GTi still remains the segment yardstick, although quite pricey with the basic car starting near £28k.

The Hyundai i30 N is arguably the biggest threat to the ST. We’ve been nothing short of astounded by it. Prices start just below £25k for the lower-powered version – pushing out the same 247bhp as the ST – with the i30 N Performance carrying a £3k premium matching the Focus ST-3 (hatch) price. Benefiting from more power, sticker rubber and an electronic limited-slip differential the i30 N Performance is not only more compelling on paper but better to drive, too.


More on Focus ST

Ford Focus ST hatchback

Ford Focus ST review - can it stand up to the Hyundai i30 N?

The Focus ST is characterful, fast and capable: everything it needs to be to take on the class leaders
3 Jul 2019
Ford Focus ST hatchback

2019 Ford Focus ST estate priced from £30,595

Fast Focus priced to compete with Honda Civic Type R and Golf GTI
16 May 2019
Ford Focus ST hatchback

New Ford Focus ST caught testing again – will it be a Golf GTI beater?

The hottest of the new generation Focus models, till the RS arrives, should have what it takes to be a class leader
25 Oct 2018
Ford Focus ST hatchback

Mountune boosts Ford Focus ST diesel

Electronic tweaks lift power by 20bhp and 37lb ft
6 Aug 2018
Ford Focus ST hatchback

Should I keep my Ford Focus ST? – evo Market

If you can’t face selling your car, take a look at the latest options to upgrade and improve it instead
2 Aug 2016
Ford Focus ST hatchback

271bhp for pumped-up Ford Focus ST Mountune

Renowned Ford tuner turns its attention to Ford's Golf GTI rival
5 Oct 2015
Ford Focus ST hatchback

New Ford Focus ST prices confirmed

News, prices and specs for the updated Ford Focus ST, which now gets a diesel-powered variant
29 Oct 2014
Ford Focus ST hatchback

Ford Focus ST buying guide

Slightly overshadowed by the RS, the Focus ST is a fast and capable hatch in its own right. Here’s all the essential buying information
3 Apr 2013
Ford Focus ST hatchback

VW Golf GTI vs Ford Focus ST

With 247bhp and a newfound appetite for corners, the latest Ford Focus ST promises to be one of the most exciting hot hatches.
6 Feb 2013
Ford Focus ST hatchback

Shelby Ford Focus ST at Detroit

Legendary American tuner Shelby gets its hands on the Ford Focus ST hot hatchback
16 Jan 2013
Ford Focus ST hatchback

Ford Focus ST prices

Ford has announced prices and specifications for the new 246bhp Focus ST, on sale from £21,995
30 May 2012
Ford Focus ST hatchback

Ford Focus ST makes its debut

Ford has taken the wraps off the new Focus ST at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show
12 Sep 2011
Ford Focus ST hatchback

Ford Focus ST revealed

The next generation Ford Focus ST has been announced, promising 250bhp from a 2.0-litre EcoBoost.
15 Sep 2010
Ford Focus ST hatchback

New Ford Focus ST hot hatchback

Ford confirms a performance version of the all-new Focus hatchback. Expect a new ST for Paris show
25 Aug 2010
Ford Focus ST hatchback

Ford Focus ST Mountune v Mazda 3 MPS

The 256bhp Mazda 3 MPS is still one of the most potent hatchbacks around, and now its been updated to make it sharper than ever before
17 Nov 2009
Ford Focus ST hatchback

Hot hatch group test: Ford Focus ST v VW Golf GTI v Audi S3 v Vauxhall Astra VXR

Think the Focus RS is pushing hatchback boundaries with its 300bhp? Think again. These tuned alternatives are much, much hotter
15 Apr 2009
Ford Focus ST hatchback

Ford Focus ST Mountune review - pictures, specifications and more

Upgrade kit takes power of current hottest Focus up to 256bhp
24 Nov 2008
Ford Focus ST hatchback

Renaultsport Megane dCI 175 v Ford Focus ST

With soaring fuel costs, the Renaultsport Megane dCi is seriously tempting, but can it rival the Focus ST away from the pumps?
3 Jul 2008