In-depth reviews

Ford Focus ST review

Not quite a class leader, and surprisingly expensive, but the latest Focus ST can be great fun on the right roads

Evo rating
  • Strong performance; agile; entertaining chassis
  • Expensive; unnatural steering response

The Ford Focus ST story has its peaks and troughs. The first-generation car was based on the excellent Mk1 Ford Focus, but its naturally aspirated power plant perhaps didn’t exploit such a sparkling chassis. The next Focus ST had character in spades thanks to a 2.5-litre turbocharged in-line five, but was a softer, heavier car than many rivals.

The third Focus ST didn’t quite hit the spot for us though. Its engine lacked the character of the five-pot and its chassis was corrupted by an unruly front axle. Fun in small doses, but frustrating when the class standard was so high.

Subscribe to evo magazine

Subscribe today to have every issue of evo delivered straight to you. You'll SAVE 39% on the shop price, and get evo for its original cover price for a whole year!

So it falls to the fourth-generation car to rectify things, and our early impressions suggest Ford might finally have got there. Sure, it’s not as attractive as the first-gen car, nor does it sound as good as the second ST, but it’s measurably better than the third Focus ST and now stands comparison with cars such as the Hyundai i30 N, Renault Sport Mégane and Golf GTI TCR, something the old model struggled to do.

The latest Focus ST remains an imperfect car, lacking the attitude of some rivals and the impressive B-road flow of others, but with an entertaining chassis and punchy (yet controllable) power delivery, it’s become a much easier car to recommend.

Make/model: in detail 

  • Engine, gearbox and technical specs 2.3 petrol and 2-litre diesel options. Petrol’s power down on the best but more torque than most, with plenty of electronic tech to assist the driver
  • Performance and 0-60 time – Acceleration is comfortably on a par with that of rivals, and the engine feels strong, with good response and more control than before
  • Ride and handling – Ultra-quick steering might not be to all tastes, but otherwise the ST is agile, fairly engaging and quick point-to-point
  • MPG and running costs – Petrol and diesel economy figures are about what you’d expect, and the standard Michelin tyres are widely available
  • Interior and tech – Quality and refinement have improved, and in-car tech is better too, if still not quite up with the best
  • Design – Surprisingly subtle exterior styling, in more subdued colours at least. Not the most attractive hatch, but there’s not much to offend

Prices, specs and rivals

If you’re expecting a temptingly low entry point like the last Focus ST offered (under £23,000 at launch), then you might be in for a bit of a shock, as the latest ST is at minimum a £31,995 car in petrol guise.

Prices have gone up with size and power in this class, naturally, but that’s quite a step for a car that is still a notch back from the best in terms of driving experience. A Honda Civic Type R, to pick our favourite hot hatch as an example, starts at £31,870, while a basic Renault Mégane RS currently starts at £28,295 and a Hyundai i30 N Performance is £29,495.

You do get plenty of kit for your money (various electronic safety systems, adaptive LED headlights, Recaro seats, torque vectoring), but consider too that a few desirable additions are behind various different option packs – £250 for the Performance Pack with launch control, rev matching and track mode, or £400 for a head-up display for example.

And while we like the Focus, the rivals already mentioned all beat it for driving appeal. The Civic matches engagement with astonishing ability, the basic Mégane (without the Cup chassis) makes light work of a country road with agility and pliancy, and an i30 N pairs a rowdy drivetrain with excellent control.

We should probably mention the enemy within too, which also beat the Focus ST on a recent evo group test: Ford’s own Fiesta ST Performance Edition, while expensive itself at £26,495, is the best hot hatch Ford makes if you don’t need the space of the Focus.

More on Focus ST

Ford Focus ST hatchback

Dreamscience Ford Focus ST review

If your heart’s already set on a new Focus ST, Dreamscience’s tweaks offer a welcome improvement
13 Jun 2020
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

Ford Focus ST review (2011 - 2019)

Quick, affordable and fun, but not perfect
9 Nov 2017
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