Ford Focus ST 2020 long-term review

Ford Focus ST 2020 long-term review - hero front

What better than a hot hatch to make up for the many miles of driving we’ve missed during lockdown?

Why we’re running it: In the absence of a new RS, is the latest Focus ST good enough to be considered a credible flagship fast Ford hatchback?

Month 1 – Specs

Life with a Focus ST: Month 1

Welcoming the Focus ST to the fleet – 8 July 2020

I have been a fan of fast Fords for as long as I’ve known how to drive, a fact I owe almost entirely to my mate Ben. He was a somewhat better-resourced teenager than I, which meant that while I chugged about the place in a long succession of aged, arthritic rusting wrecks that were dead slow even when new, Ben had a Ford Fiesta XR2. The original: white paint, round headlights, pepper-pot wheels and low-profile tyres. I was hooked from the moment I drove it.

Of course, the fortunes of rapid Ford hatchbacks have ebbed and flowed over the years, but I think the company has been consistently good of late at producing a successful string of cars that combine speed, response and just a touch of back-to-basics honesty just in case you were ever likely to forget that, above all, these are cars of the people. So I’m looking forward to the months to come behind the wheel of this new and quite exceptionally orange Focus ST.

Anyone who’s paid attention to the long-termers I’ve run on these pages for the last many years will notice they’ve all had very sober colours in common: dark blues and greys mainly. This is not a coincidence: I have no desire to be noticed driving any car at all. I can remember swapping a BMW i8 for a 911 a few years back and delighting in the anonymity the Porsche provided.

Well, I’m clearly not going to be getting any of that here. But I guess if you’re going for an outrageous colour, you might as well go the whole way, and it might as well be on a fast Ford. Needless to say, however, this was not a colour I chose – it just came that way. Indeed, I had no choice in the spec at all other than to insist the car came with petrol rather than diesel power, hatchback rather than estate bodywork and manual instead of automatic gears.

So when it turned up and I started to push and prod about, I was startled by the amount of goodies and gadgets that had been loaded onto it, everything from radar-controlled cruise control to a heated steering wheel. Ford press cars used to be known by journalists as ‘Bob Wright Specials’ thanks to aforementioned (and quite brilliant) Ford press fleet man’s predilection for loading his cars with every available option, so I thought this ST might be some kind of tribute act to the recently retired Bob. But no: it’s all standard.

I’ll talk more about this at greater length a little bit further down the line. In the meantime, be advised that, orange ‘Fury’ paint aside, the only actual options this car carries are a wireless charging pad and Ford’s Performance pack, which provides launch control, a track mode, rev-matched downshift and an upshift indicator, all for a piffling £250. The car had only done 150 miles by the time it arrived, almost all accrued on its way from Ford’s UK head office in Essex to my home in the Welsh borders, so it will be a while before I get to drive it in the way I suspect it will shortly beg to be driven. And I’m fascinated by the powertrain.

The engine is a four-cylinder unit, but sourced from America where it’s more usually found in the entry-level Mustang. Its 276bhp output sounds rather modest, particularly when you consider its 2.3-litre capacity – remember Mercedes is now blasting way more than 400bhp from just 2.0 litres – but the devil appears to be in the detail.

A low-inertia twin-scroll turbo promises rapid response and more torque than some far more powerful competitors, including the Honda Civic Type R, the Mercedes-AMG A35 and the Volkswagen Golf R. It also has a form of anti-lag technology on it, where the airflow into the engine can be held open for up to three seconds after the driver lifts off, meaning the turbo compressor wheel is not slowed. And then there’s the differential, which is effectively an e-diff: open most of the time as you would want, but capable of locking up and sending half the power to each front wheel to maximise traction.

This, then, seems to be much more than just another rapid hatchback. It may look somewhat garish but deep down it seems that engineers have thought hard about how a car like this should behave on the road and not just gone down the headline-grabbing route, which, with the power that engine could clearly deliver, they could easily have done.

So far, and thanks to Covid-19, it’s only done short local journeys, but as the country opens up, so will its horizons be peeled back. What will it be like to live with relative to, say, a Golf R? How will its handling compare with the aforementioned Civic? Will the already obvious cheapness of some of the cabin fitments make me wish I’d gone for an A35 instead?

I have no better idea than you what the answers to all these questions might be. But I’m already looking forward to finding out.

Second Opinion

The last Ford Focus we had on our fleet was a vision of anonymity. It was an ST-Line model, free of the lurid paint and associated frippery of Andrew’s full-fat ST. I’m excited to find out how its excellent poise is heightened in ST form – even if it does mean drawing attention to myself. 

James Attwood

Back to the top

Ford Focus ST specification

Specs: Price New £32,510 Price as tested £33,660 Options  Orange Fury paint £800, Ford Performance pack £250, wireless charging £100

Test Data: Engine 4 cyls, 2261cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 276bhp at 5500rpm Torque 310lb ft at 3000-4000rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1468kg Top speed 155mph 0-62mph 5.7sec Fuel economy 34.4mpg CO2 179g/km Rivals Volkswagen Golf GTI, Renault Mégane RS, Honda Civic Type R

Back to the top

Source: Autocar

Leave a Reply