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In-depth reviews

Ford Focus ST review – ride and handling

The ST's chassis is pointy and entertaining, but the steering and suspension have their limits – even in Track Pack form

Evo rating
Price
from £30,250
  • Torquey and responsive powertrain; balanced and neutral chassis
  • Doesn’t have the precision or focus of its most talented rivals

The handling of previous ST’s has often been defined by a lack of traction, and to a point the same could be said of the new one. It’s more contained in this latest ST, especially with the standard limited-slip diff, but you’re never left unaware of the power balance – especially in variable conditions.

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This is countered by an initial sense of agility, with the ST building upon a chassis that’s already better in basic form than was the case in the previous-gen Focus. It feels of the same ilk as the cars of Ford’s handling renaissance in the 1990s, with a stiff structure minimally impacted by cornering loads, good responses, excellent body control and gymnastic agility.

It also still has some playful handling traits, particularly on a track where there’s more room to exploit it, but when you’re at the top of its operating window it feels like you’re spending most of your effort managing the powertrain and its lack of linearity. The engine also makes its weight known at times – despite its locking differential the ST can fall into understeer, and does so more often than the Civic Type R.

The steering doesn’t particularly help. It’s quick at only two turns lock-to-lock, but the issue is that it lacks the finesse and consistency you’ll find in, say, a Hyundai i30 N. It moves unnaturally quickly off-centre, as if most of the car’s steering input happens in the first few degrees, and a springy, synthetic self-centring feel masks any real feedback.

The Track Pack hasn't rectified these snags, but with stiffer, adjustable KW coilovers, bigger brakes and sticky Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres, it offers more focus and a better sense of connection than the standard car. It's eager to turn in, resistant to roll and more adjustable through a corner, with a stiff low-speed ride being the trade off for this extra cornering bite. 

Even with the uprated components, the ST doesn't feel as sophisticated as the Civic Type R or Hyundai's i30 N. Those rivals are simply more natural cars to drive down a twisty road than the slightly rough-and-ready Focus, which perhaps majors more on instant appeal than depth of talent.

That won’t be a problem for some buyers, though, as its performance doesn’t come at the expense of much day-to-day usability. It’s not a perfect package, and the recent update hasn’t really fixed the two main issues that are the steering and slightly underwhelming engine.

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