Ford Focus ST review
An imperfect hot hatchback, but one with appeal if you don’t mind some rough edges
The Ford Focus ST has often had a tough time standing out amongst the midsize hot hatch crowd. In comparison to VW Golf GTIs, Honda Civic Type Rs and new-era rivals such as the Hyundai i30 N, it has never quite had the precision or intensity to compete, often leaving that to the more aggressive RS.
Without a current-generation RS to navigate, though, this fourth iteration of the Focus ST was given some serious firepower when it was released back in 2018, laying claim to a real hot hatchback that could finally compete in the premier league.
But things have never quite come together for the current generation. There was a clumsiness to the driving experience, a lack of finesse and precision. And while the engine did the numbers on paper, its workhorse-like character lacked sparkle. The overall package was somewhat improved by the late Edition model, but it still never quite came together like the class best.
For 2022, Ford’s given the Focus range a refresh that’s carried across to the ST. Together with some updated styling and tech, there are a few other reasons why the updated ST might just have taken a few steps up the hot hatchback ladder, including an exciting new Track Pack option.
Ford Focus ST in detail
- Engine and gearbox and technical highlights – Four-cylinder engine is powerful, but lacks flexibility; gearboxes only average
- Performance and 0-60 time – The ST’s performance figures are competitive, and it feels plenty fast enough on the road
- Ride and handling – Chassis has a neutral balance, but the steering and suspension have their limits
- MPG and running costs – MPG will hover in the low 30s, but you won’t get much better than that
- Interior and tech – New digital interface dominates an inoffensive cabin
- Design – While slick new headlights make for a more aggressive face, the rest is largely unchanged
Prices, specs and rivals
Ford’s updated Focus ST is available in two body styles and with two transmissions, but gone are the varying trim levels and diesel option. As such, a five-door starts at £36,950, with the auto raising the price to £38,400. The estate is also available with both transmissions, and costs from £38,350 and £39,700 respectively.
If this sounds like a lot for a Focus, you’d be right to think so, but to compensate all STs are very generously equipped, and it’s also worth remembering rivals have seen their own price rises. Highlights of its standard kit include 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive dampers (hatchback only), a limited-slip differential and some very good sports seats that are heated and electrically adjustable. The recent updates also brought in some new Matrix LED headlights and a new infotainment system that we’ll get into later.
The aforementioned Track Pack included many of the same elements that made the previous ST Edition a definite improvement over the standard version. It costs a chunky £3000, but for that figure you get the same manually adjustable KW coilovers and flow-formed 19-inch alloy wheels, plus some new additions including a set of sticky Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres and Brembo four-piston brakes gripping larger 363mm discs on the front axle.
The ST’s closest rival in size is the Hyundai i30 N, which in its updated form is our favourite hot hatchback on sale right now. It’s perhaps the only hot hatchback in the class that has a favourable spec and price point to the Ford, starting at £35,110. It doesn’t compromise on kit, either, and comes with a far more impressive automatic transmission option in the excellent eight-speed dual-clutch ’box, which raises the price to £37,135.
If Hyundais aren’t your thing, the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport costs from a more serious £41,890 and requires a dive into the options list to build an equivalent spec to that of even a basic ST. The Cupra Leon has identical hardware to the VW and will cost you from £38,495 in the lower of two trim variants, but it’s not quite as sharp to drive as the VW, let alone the Ford or Hyundai.
At the top of the current crop is the Honda Civic Type R. It's the most technically impressive and exciting hot hatch we've ever driven, with careful engineering enhancements over the already brilliant FK8 version, more attractive styling and a vastly improved interior. You certainly pay for the upgrades though, with prices starting at £49,995.