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Ford Focus ST

£13,810£31,090
8/10
Overall verdict

For: 

Price, yes, but so much more besides: the Focus ST is a great hot hatch

Against: 

The diesel doesn’t quite hit the spot for us
In credit-crunched Britain, Ford’s got the formula spot-on. Affordable fun: perfect.

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Our choice

Ford

2.0T ST-2 5dr

£23,450
N/A
39mpg
6.50s
250bhp
169g/km

What we say: 

The much anticipated new Focus ST doesn't disappoint. Amazing price is icing on the cake of a fine hot hatch

What is it?

Ford’s hot Focus has joined the rest of the range in having a mid-life facelift. And with the 316bhp, four-wheel-driven Focus RS just around the corner, it’s no longer the hottest Focus around. That does give it a renewed, slightly softer role in the world though, signalled by a sparky diesel version joining the range.

And no, it’s not called the STD.

Driving

Small changes from before include retuned electric power steering and stiffer suspension. You might notice the latter; this is certainly no limo on Britain’s broken tarmac. But if you can tolerate a purposely focused ride, here’s a car with a grippy front end – thanks to some clever torque vectoring – which goads you into going faster and faster at each corner, just as a good hot hatch should.

The petrol is just as before: extremely flexible in its power delivery yet grateful for a good revving, too, allowing you to stir the snickety manual gearchange as much or as little as you like. There’ll be no paddle-shifting here. Really extend the engine out and this is a blooming fast car, swifter perhaps than even its tidy its 6.5sec 0-62mph time suggests.

The 182bhp diesel, meanwhile, is notably the less stimulating of the two cars, its 0-62mph time pegged at 8.1sec. And as the powerband wanes just north of 4,000rpm, so might your excitement. But its 27kg premium over the petrol model isn’t immediately obvious, turn-in remaining keen and precise. It just lacks the effervescence that makes the petrol such a blast.

On the inside

It’s a vast improvement on before in here, with the messy array of buttons in the pre-facelift Focus tidied up nicely by a new touchscreen media system. Happily, Ford’s kept the extra dials on top of the dash. STs get some good-looking and rather hugging Recaro seats, too, which are ace. And if you find the regular five-door Focus isn’t quite practical enough for your needs, the ST is one of the few hot hatches with an estate variant in the brochure. Happily, it gives nothing noticeable dynamically to the hatch.

Owning

Value continues to be an ST forte. Barely any buyers go for the headline £22k car, instead choosing the smarter ST2 and ST3 variants. The latter gets Ford’s swish new Sync 2 touchscreen media system and, at £25,995, it’s barely more than a base Leon Cupra, while cheaper than a basic (and 30bhp lighter) Golf GTI. And while there’s no difference in price between the petrol and diesel, unless your car choice is dictated by economy figures and CO2-linked company car tax, we’d stay petrol.

Highlights from the range

Title 0–62 CO2 MPG BHP Price
The fastest
2.0T ST-1 5dr
6.5s 159g/km 41.5 250 £22,260
The cheapest
1.6 85 Studio 5dr
14.9s 136g/km 47.9 85 £13,810
The greenest
Electric 5dr Auto
11.4s 0g/km 142 £31,090

Wildcard

How about something completely different?

Wildcard

7/10

Kia pro_cee'd GT

£14,950£23,040
The Kia Cee’d GT may lack firepower and badge cache, but it’s a surprisingly able thing to drive and ticks lots of sensible boxes, too