The new Ford Fiesta ST!
The new Ford Fiesta ST!

Caroline drives the new Ford Focus ST.

Hot hatchbacks are rare delights in my test schedule. This January I was lucky to find the Ford Focus ST waiting for me for a review. The early days and weeks of January can have a somewhat lethargic feel. Dark mornings, dark evenings, the promise of spring still not quite there yet. So the new Ford Focus ST put some pep in my step with the energetic 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine under its bonnet pushing out a glorious 280 hp and 420 Nm of torque.

Ford has a fine pedigree manufacturing hot hatchbacks. In fact, I still talk about the 2017 Ford Focus RS to anyone who will stand around long enough to listen, the charismatic swansong of the last generation Ford Focus.

But with the launch of the new generation Ford Focus in 2018, the ST hot hatchback range has also been reinvented. The styling of this car has much improved, with a more mature, refined and lighter appearance. You can still spec your Focus ST in an eye catching shade like Orange Fury but for my test car, Ford picked signature Performance Blue (€1500) on 18” wheels with optional red brake calipers, which is more demure but had a special iridescence to it, especially at night.

Caroline and the new Ford Focus ST
Caroline and the new Ford Focus ST

Interior of the new Ford Focus ST

Inside, the Focus ST also benefits from a new interior design that is more modern and lighter looking with Ford’s new touchscreen set up in the centre of the dash with Apple Car Play and Android Auto. There are special Recaro sports seats and a ST badge on the steering wheel. Other than that, there is not much else to signify this as a fast performance model. A little more drama and atmosphere in here would be nice.

The ST-2 I drove had ST design 18” alloy wheels, front lower grille in high gloss black, front and rear parking sensors, FordPass Connect and partial leather Recaro Performance seats. It was priced from €41,099. It also included the Performance Pack for €1,500 (rev matching, shift indicator, launch control, performance suspension CCD, multi-colour ambient light and red brake callipers).

The ST-3 adds 19” alloy wheels, painted calipers, fixed full LED headlamps, rear view camera, full leather Recaro seats and power 4-way driver and passenger seats. As of January 2020, only one series, ST3, is listed on the Ford Ireland website. The ST diesel with a 2.0-litre turbo diesel with 190 hp is available from €43,971, with the ST petrol available from €45,838. All come as standard with a 6-speed manual gearbox. It’s available as a wagon for extra practicality.

Ford slots the 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine into the new Focus ST
Ford slots the 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine into the new Focus ST

What’s new for the 2020 Ford Focus ST?

The new Focus ST uses a new generation of Ford’s 2.3-litre EcoBoost all-aluminium engine and is the most powerful ever offered for a Focus ST. Advanced turbocharging technology delivers 280PS power at 5,500rpm and 420Nm of torque from 3,000rpm to 4,000rpm. It is also the most free-revving Focus ST engine ever, delivering 0-100 km/h acceleration in 5.7 seconds for the five-door model. A new electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD) enhances the cornering and stability of the EcoBoost variant by sharpening responses to changing grip levels and driver inputs.

Selectable Drive Modes technology has also been introduced to the Focus ST for the first time, enabling drivers to adjust the vehicle’s character to suit the driving scenario. Ford’s new rev-matching technology that debuted on the new Ford Mustang is also introduced as part of an optional Performance Pack for 2.3-litre EcoBoost manual models, as is Continuously Controlled Damping (CCD) that enhances the short long arm (SLA) independent rear suspension configuration for greater refinement.

The interior of the new Ford Focus ST
The interior of the new Ford Focus ST

Driving the new Ford Focus ST

This translates on the road to the most refined Ford Focus ST ever, that can slip along effortlessly before crushing corners like the true professional it is. The Focus ST’s six-speed manual transmission enables more urgent gear-changes and provides a sportier feel with a shift-throw reduction of seven per cent, compared with the standard Focus. Delivering smoother, faster downshifts, the technology briefly “blips” the throttle as the driver engages a lower gear – matching the engine rotation speed to that of the gear that is being selected. Damping stiffness has been increased up to 20 per cent at the front and 13 per cent at the rear, and ride height reduced by 10mm, to improve road-holding and response in performance driving scenarios.

On the road, I quickly found Sport mode for I was looking for some more aural delights. There’s some mighty pops and bangs available in that mode. The Focus ST can navigate corners with remarkable speed, grip and precision. It is a true professional.

The Focus ST is an icon. This new refined character is something new for the ST. Too well behaved for the most part perhaps? Depends on what side of the fence you are on. It is a very usable car for every day driving, comfortable yet always ready and able to flex its muscles down a stretch of curvy tarmac.

The Ford Focus ST is a true professional
The Ford Focus ST is a true professional

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Ford Focus ST-2
Price: 
€41,099
Engine: 2.3-litre turbo petrol engine
Power: 
280 hp
Torque: 420 Nm
0-100km/h:  
5.7 seconds
Top speed: 250 km/h
Fuel consumption (WLTP): 
8.2/100km
CO2 emissions:  
179g/km
Motor tax: 
€750 per year