2019- Ford Focus ST
Now in its fourth generation can the Focus ST still find a home in a fiercely competitive market.
OK, I’m going to get two things out of the way early. Firstly, It’s too expensive. Yes, we all know Ford are champions at discounts off the sticker price but surely even they understand that few buyers enjoy turning up to the dealer to start a game of Brucie’s Price is Right. Chanting lower and waiting for old Brucie to holla back higher. Just shy of thirty grand plus extras, Ford can’t be serious.
Second, there’s a diesel variant, why?. The ST-line diesel variant is both cheaper and more suited to its packaging. If you want a fast-looking diesel estate then the Focus ST is one of the very few choices and for very good reason, barely anyone wants them. Plump for the petrol unless you are a dedicated diesel driver, but you’ll be accepting second rate, it isn’t nearly as quick and isn’t frugal enough unless you are tender with the throttle, in which case, again the ST-Line is a better option.
There, I’ve said it, not we can move on.
Actually, there is a third problem, but by this time there is little that will echo my chime, a three-door option is sorely missed and sadly unlikely to ever be seen again.
Ford has done an excellent job with this generation Ford Focus, delivering on the promise of previous generations. Ample boot space for a pram, a set of golf clubs, suitcases, camping gear or whatever else you would like to fill it with, just not all at the same time.
Ford is also keeping up to date on the interior, it’s not a VW in here but is actually better for it. Manufacturers desperately chasing Tesla for touch screen everything should remember that whilst driving, buttons and switchgear are easier to locate, and easier to use. Plus you aren’t forced to leave smudge marks over glass surfaces that constantly need wiping down. The voice activation of the competition solves this, the Ford is for people that like touchpoints and not telling or repeatedly asking their car to do something.
Now, onto what makes this car an ST. First off the seats, clamping you around the corners with the support of a parent holding onto their firstborn on the merry-go-round. Chassis dynamics are a mixed bag, the suspension could do with just a touch more rebound, it’s well suited to smooth fast tarmac, but some of the UK’s more neglected back roads unsettled it slightly more than it should. The electric power steering is acceptable, not a touch on a hydraulic system, false weight and numbness on turn-in will disturb you. A few days and you will learn the car's attitude, but it’s an annoyance that it isn’t welcoming from the first turn of the key. A recommendation would be to drive it a week before your favourite B-road blast, otherwise, you risk a little too much over or under correction. It won’t leave you in a hedge, the chassis can take some blunt interaction without scaring you, but learn it first for a more rewarding drive.
the Ford walks a steady path and has form across several generations
Progress is strong, again the diesel isn’t bad, but it won’t stay in memory longer than it takes to lock the door. The petrol opens up sweetly and offers a few good noises. No, they haven’t recreated the five-pot soundtrack of a decade ago, but for the modern hot hatch, the Focus isn’t disappointing.
Now, I have to go back to the price, just briefly. The Hyundai I30N is offering the same deal as the focus, for three grand less, and you’re more likely to get a deal since it’s been around for three years.
Assuming you’re a devout Ford follower, and the ST is the only option, then you won’t be disappointed with the car. Although Ford has trimmed out many of their basic vehicles in the ST-Line body kit which may leave you feeling a lot less of a stand out without the shouty yellow/orange paint, to some a relief, others a tragedy.
Back behind the wheel, the seat is still too high, a constant complaint of fast Ford’s, especially for tall drivers. Having sent the car into a few quick turns at a stronger pace than necessary the brakes seem a great fit, reassuring pedal feel, and I get through the twisty sections just fine. Drive it along the same stretch with commitment and finesse and the Ford does feel rewarding, but it is a distant fourth or fifth place behind other hot hatches. I don’t normally do star ratings, however, a solid 3.5/5 is perhaps a little harsh but rounding it to four would be a disservice to those making a buying decision based on this article. There is better out there, but the Ford walks a steady path and has form across several generations. For that reason alone you should keep it on the shortlist. My lasting thought is that this would be a great hatch in petrol form, with a slightly lower seat, for twenty-five thousand pounds with a few extras. It would be much easier to forgive any aspects that are lacking, the trouble for most will be the payments. VW Golf GTI’s will demand a strong resale and so keep lease prices down for new buyers. To counter this the Ford has an honesty and fun character, give it a go.