Ford Focus ST Estate
"The Ford Focus ST Estate is just as good to drive as the hatchback but has a much bigger boot"
- Big boot
- Fun to drive
- Advanced technology
- Firm ride
- Quite expensive
- Unknown reliability
We were already impressed by the hatchback and now the Ford Focus ST Estate has proven itself as a versatile family car that has all the qualities that keen drivers want from a hot hatch. If you need a large family car and want some performance, it could appeal more than the current crop of hot SUV models such as the Cupra Ateca and Volkswagen T-Roc R.
Part of the Focus ST Estate’s sporting appeal is that it uses the same chassis and engines as the Ford Focus ST hatchback but only weighs 35kg more. It feels virtually identical to drive, with pin-sharp reactions and incredibly quick steering helping it dive into corners at speed. In Sport mode the ride is fairly firm but the car feels more taut and agile as a result, giving you plenty of confidence when driving it quickly.
The turbocharged 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol engine with 276bhp feels just as potent in the estate, and manages to get the car from 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds, despite a lack of four-wheel drive. The petrol engine is rather thirsty, averaging around 30mpg during our test, so long-distance and company-car drivers may opt for the 187bhp diesel version instead. It might not be as exciting, but 50mpg and lower monthly bills will make it a more practical proposition for many.
Of course, there's a lot more space in the boot than in the hatchback and, despite its swoopy looks, the ST Estate can rival the Skoda Octavia vRS Estate for luggage room. Not only that, a rear-end redesign has replaced the old centre-exit exhaust with a pair of tailpipes located on the sides of the rear bumper, meaning that the Focus ST can now be fitted with a tow bar.
Hot hatchbacks and estates can no longer appeal on performance grounds alone, and the ST Estate provides some luxury via its sporty interior, with Recaro part-leather sports seats, a heated steering wheel and the latest eight-inch touchscreen SYNC 3 infotainment system. Standard equipment also includes adaptive LED headlights, lane keep assist and autonomous emergency braking - the safety systems helped the Focus score five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests. Ford owner satisfaction could be better; the brand came 23rd out of 30 manufacturers in the 2019 Driver Power survey.
A price tag of around £33,000 for the petrol version means that only hardcore driving fans are likely to see all the benefits of buying the Focus ST Estate over forthcoming performance estate rivals like the Skoda Octavia vRS and the Cupra Leon ST.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The Focus ST Estate is available with either a petrol or diesel engine, and while it's the former that gets all the headlines and starring credits in online videos, it's quite a bit more expensive to run.
Its 2.3-litre engine returns 35.8mpg according to Ford's official figures but this will drop further if you drive the ST Estate hard. In our test, we were able to achieve around 30mpg on longer journeys, with around 24-26mpg around town. Impressively, the economy is identical to the hatchback ST, so the added practicality of the Estate doesn't come with any real penalties.
Choose the diesel instead and fuel-efficiency jumps up to 50.4mpg, so it should be better suited to anyone driving lots of motorway miles or towing. It'll also be more attractive to company-car drivers, courtesy of its mid-table Benefit-in-Kind band. Both cars cost the same £145 a year in VED (road tax).
Engines, drive & performance
Adding a longer boot may make the Focus ST Estate look very different to the hatch but the chassis is virtually unchanged and the car’s weight only increases by 35kg, which is undetectable on the move. With Ford's 276bhp 2.3-litre turbo petrol engine, the Estate feels just as rapid, getting from 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds versus the 5.7 of the hatch and going on to the same 155mph top speed.
The 19-inch alloy wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres offer considerable grip in the corners, and lightning fast steering makes the ST Estate feel incredibly agile. There's a high-quality feel to its suspension that's familiar from expensive sports cars but it's still firm, and passengers may notice they're being gently shaken occasionally. Selecting the Sport driving mode makes the steering, suspension and throttle feel sharper, while body roll is reduced, making the whole car feel more focused and endowing it with even greater ability in corners.
The top petrol version also gets a clever electronically controlled limited-slip differential, which senses the best way to distribute power between the front wheels, reducing understeer and maximising traction. As a result, it's even quicker over a wet road or around a track with only the occasional temporary loss of traction if you really push it.
Interior & comfort
The latest Ford Focus Estate has taken a big step up in quality and the ST version enjoys an impressive roster of kit, along with some desirable sporty touches. Most noticeable are the excellent part-leather Recaro sports seats, holding the driver and passenger in place, without being too uncomfortable or hardcore when you just want to hop in and out of the car.
An eight-inch screen sits above the air vents and offers built-in sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with a rear-view camera. There's also adaptive cruise control, a premium B&O stereo system, heated seats and steering wheel, keyless entry and adaptive LED headlights, so you shouldn't be left wanting.
Practicality & boot space
Aimed squarely at driving enthusiasts who have families, the Focus ST Estate can lug around lots of luggage in its 608-litre boot. Fold the seats down and space jumps again to 1,653 litres, making it ideal for taking furniture to the tip or moving house. Those volumes are virtually identical to the Skoda Octavia vRS Estate, which has 610 and 1,740 litres respectively.
A repositioning of the exhaust pipes means you can now fit a tow bar to the Focus ST for the first time, opening it up to anyone with a small trailer or caravan. The petrol ST can tow up to 1,600kg (braked), while the diesel version can manage 1,800kg.
Reliability & safety
Ford has ensured all the latest safety features are fitted to the Focus ST Estate, from passive safety measures like multiple airbags, to active features including lane keeping assist and autonomous emergency braking. As a result, the standard car was awarded a five-star crash safety rating from Euro NCAP.
Reliability won't be known until customers rack up miles in production cars because quite a bit of the technology is new. At least both the engines are developments of those already seen in other models, so Ford has lots of experience with them. The brand has some work to do, judging by its 23rd place out of 30 manufacturers in our 2019 Driver Power survey, with poor scores for build quality and comfort. At least the Estate should help counter a mediocre result for practicality.