In-depth reviews

Ford Focus ST hatchback

"The Ford Focus ST is one of the most exciting hot hatchbacks on sale but is no longer a cheap option when compared with its rivals"

Carbuyer Rating

4.2 out of 5

Owners Rating

5.0 out of 5

Read owner reviews

Pros

  • Great handling
  • Impressive technology
  • Easy to live with

Cons

  • Unproven reliability
  • Artificial engine note
  • Not the bargain it once was

The hot hatchback is practically a British institution, and the Ford Focus ST - now in its fourth generation - is one of the genre's main players. Compact, agile and practical fast cars are ideally suited to our narrow and winding roads and the ST has the advantage of being based on the best-selling and best-handling family hatchback you can currently buy.

Enthusiasts may be pleased to read that the latest Focus ST is the fastest yet. But, in true hot hatch tradition, it's a fairly practical everyday car, with a decent boot and a new exhaust setup giving you the option to tow a trailer. It's not short of competition, though, from old enemies like the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Honda Civic Type R to new ones in the form of the Hyundai i30 N. Unlike many rivals, the Focus ST also comes in estate form.

To ensure it doesn't get lost in the crowd, the petrol ST (there's also a diesel version) has a 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine with 276bhp and some intriguing tricks up its sleeve. These include a new 'anti-lag' system that can keep the turbo working even between bursts of acceleration, just like a rally car, along with a clever limited-slip differential sending power to the front wheels, adaptive dampers and rev-matching software for the manual gearbox that blips the engine when you change down a gear. You'll want the manual, because the seven-speed automatic makes the ST slower and feels out of kilter with the car's hardcore setup. 

The petrol powered Focus ST can get from 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds and hit a top speed of 155mph, making it quite a bit faster than the 187bhp diesel version capable of 7.6 seconds and 137mph. Of course, the trade-off is that it's also thirstier, returning 35.3mpg to the diesel's 53.3mpg. The automatic petrol can get to 62mph from rest in six seconds and return up to 34.9mpg. 

Making the most of the extra power is a supremely talented chassis, with faster steering (now just two turns lock-to-lock) and stiffened suspension. An optional Performance Pack takes things a step further, adding the aforementioned limited-slip differential and the continuously adjustable suspension, among other things. If anything, that steering can make the Focus ST feel a little nervous on relentless British back roads, requiring the driver to get in its groove before truly gelling with it.

Inside, the Focus ST benefits from the same big step up in quality and tech as the standard model but also gains a set of Recaro sports seats, a new steering wheel and carbon-fibre style trim. The Performance Pack even adds a shift light to show you the optimum time to change gear, while features like adaptive LED headlights, adaptive cruise control and Ford's first head-up display should make driving safer.

Safety is an area in which the ST excels, with a five-star Euro NCAP crash-test score already under its belt and the latest in safety features. Along with autonomous emergency braking, the ST also has an evasive steering assist feature that can help the driver to steer around an obstacle in an emergency.

As you would expect, the Ford Focus ST is incredibly good at what it does, and boasts some of the most impressive technology in its class. But, its price has also crept up to the point it's now more expensive than the faster Honda Civic Type R, never mind new rivals like the Hyundai i30 N.

Recommended

New Volkswagen Golf GTD Mk8 vs Ford Focus ST diesel: rivals comparison
Volkswagen Golf GTD vs Ford Focus ST header image
News
30 Apr 2021

New Volkswagen Golf GTD Mk8 vs Ford Focus ST diesel: rivals comparison

Best hot hatchbacks
2021 Ford Fiesta ST Edition
Hot hatches
16 Apr 2021

Best hot hatchbacks

Ford Focus ST hatchback owner reviews
Ford Focus ST hatchback front cornering
Ford Focus ST hatchback
12 Jan 2021

Ford Focus ST hatchback owner reviews

Have You Considered

Cupra Leon hatchback review
Cupra Leon hatchback
Cupra Leon hatchback
28 May 2021

Cupra Leon hatchback review

Skoda Octavia vRS hatchback review
Skoda Octavia vRS hatchback
Skoda Octavia vRS hatchback
29 Mar 2021

Skoda Octavia vRS hatchback review

Hyundai i20 N hatchback review
Hyundai i20 N hatchback
Hyundai i20 N
26 Mar 2021

Hyundai i20 N hatchback review

Most Popular

Svelte look for all-new Range Rover Sport
2022 Range Rover Sport
Range Rover Sport
16 Jun 2021

Svelte look for all-new Range Rover Sport

Best 4x4s and SUVs
Peugeot 3008 SUV rear 3/4 tracking
Family SUVs
3 Jun 2021

Best 4x4s and SUVs

New Lexus NX is brand’s first plug-in hybrid
2021 Lexus NX
Lexus NX
12 Jun 2021

New Lexus NX is brand’s first plug-in hybrid

Best cheap-to-run cars
Toyota Prius front 3/4 cornering
Best cars
10 Jun 2021

Best cheap-to-run cars

Best new car deals 2021
Lexus UX SUV
Deals
18 Jun 2021

Best new car deals 2021

Should you use a car wash?
Car wash pros and cons
Tips and advice
11 Jun 2021

Should you use a car wash?

Best hybrid cars
Toyota Corolla Trek
Best cars
8 Jun 2021

Best hybrid cars

Best cheap cars
Dacia Duster SUV
Best cars
10 Jun 2021

Best cheap cars

Best used cars
Vauxhall Astra
Family cars
14 Jun 2021

Best used cars

Audi range gets a refresh for 2022
Audi S5 Coupe Black Edition
Audi
14 Jun 2021

Audi range gets a refresh for 2022

Speed awareness course: all you need to know
Police car - open boot
Tips and advice
3 Jun 2021

Speed awareness course: all you need to know

New Polestar 3 SUV teased
2022 Polestar 3 teaser
Polestar
16 Jun 2021

New Polestar 3 SUV teased

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Tips and advice
15 Jun 2021

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Ford EcoBoost engines: what are they and should you buy one?
2020 Ford Puma - front tracking
Ford Focus hatchback
4 Jun 2021

Ford EcoBoost engines: what are they and should you buy one?

More on Focus ST hatchback

New Volkswagen Golf GTD Mk8 vs Ford Focus ST diesel: rivals comparison
Volkswagen Golf GTD vs Ford Focus ST header image
News
30 Apr 2021

New Volkswagen Golf GTD Mk8 vs Ford Focus ST diesel: rivals comparison

How does the new VW Golf GTD compare to Ford’s diesel-powered ST?
Best hot hatchbacks
2021 Ford Fiesta ST Edition
Hot hatches
16 Apr 2021

Best hot hatchbacks

The best hot hatchbacks offer sports car thrills and performance with everyday usability and practicality for a reasonable price.
Ford Focus ST hatchback (2015-2018)
Ford Focus ST hatchback
22 Mar 2019

Ford Focus ST hatchback (2015-2018)

"The Ford Focus ST offers great value and proper performance in a practical hatchback body. It’s a bit raw, but it’s very exciting to drive"
Watchdog: Cover confusion over approved used Ford
Ford Focus ST hatchback
24 Jan 2017

Watchdog: Cover confusion over approved used Ford

Buyer looking for clarification over what recovery package is included with his Focus ST
New Ford Focus RS 2016 - prices, details and specs
Ford Focus hatchback
16 Sep 2015

New Ford Focus RS 2016 - prices, details and specs

Ford's latest performance hatchback has a top speed of 165mph
Prices announced for new Ford Focus ST
Ford Focus ST hatchback
29 Oct 2014

Prices announced for new Ford Focus ST

Order book opens for sporty Focus, which is available with a diesel engine for the first time
Ford Focus hatchback (2011-2014) review
Ford Focus ST hatchback
7 Oct 2014

Ford Focus hatchback (2011-2014) review

"The Focus is great to drive, full of technology and very refined, but a small boot means it’s not the most practical five-door around."
Best Ford deals 2014
Ford Ka hatchback
16 Sep 2014

Best Ford deals 2014

Save thousands of pounds on the cost of a new Ford with our guide to the best Ford deals
Ford Focus 2014: release date, price and specs
Ford Focus ST hatchback
2 Sep 2014

Ford Focus 2014: release date, price and specs

The new Ford Focus will cost from £13,995, arriving in showrooms in November 2014
Car sales rise for the 26th consecutive month
Ford Fiesta hatchback
7 May 2014

Car sales rise for the 26th consecutive month

Next eight months set to beat forecasted car sales by more than 100,000 units
Ford Focus ST to get diesel engine
Ford Focus ST hatchback
13 Mar 2014

Ford Focus ST to get diesel engine

Diesel Ford Focus ST arrives in summer 2014 and will rival Volkswagen Golf GTD
Geneva Motor Show 2014 videos
Audi TT coupe
6 Mar 2014

Geneva Motor Show 2014 videos

Watch our selection of videos featuring important cars from the Geneva Motor Show
Ford Focus gets efficient new petrol engine
ford focus hatchback 2013 new ecoboost engine
Ford Focus ST hatchback
12 Aug 2013

Ford Focus gets efficient new petrol engine

The Ford Focus will soon get a 1.0-litre petrol engine that qualifies for free road tax
Ford Focus hatchback (2004-2011)
Ford Focus ST hatchback
28 Jun 2013

Ford Focus hatchback (2004-2011)

“This is one of the best small family cars to drive and offers a range of powerful diesels. ECOnetic versions offer great fuel economy."
Ford Focus Electric 2013 now in production
Ford Focus ST hatchback
14 Jun 2013

Ford Focus Electric 2013 now in production

The Ford Focus Electric is now being made in Germany alongside the standard Focus

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
13 Apr 2021

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Electric car charging station
Tips and advice
3 Jun 2021

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Tips and advice
15 Jun 2021

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
24 Feb 2021

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Best car interiors
Best cars
10 Mar 2020

Best car interiors

Best electric cars
Volkswagen ID.3
Best cars
6 May 2021

Best electric cars

Best cheap-to-run cars
Toyota Prius front 3/4 cornering
Best cars
10 Jun 2021

Best cheap-to-run cars

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks
Hot hatches
9 Apr 2020

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks