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Hot Hatch

Warning: paddleshifters make the Ford Focus ST slower

Ford’s 276bhp hot hatchback now offers an automatic gearbox. Weirdly, it’s not as quick

Published: 17 Jun 2020

One of the main reasons modern hypercars, super-saloons and even hot hatchbacks are so bananas-fast these days is the automatic gearbox. Stick a dual-clutch transmission – or even a conventional automatic with flappy paddles – in anything from a BMW M5 and 911 Turbo to a McLaren P1 or Mercedes-AMG A45 and they’ll instantly be able to accelerate more quickly than if a human has to dip the clutch and swap the cogs.

Except, that is, if you’re driving the latest Focus ST. Ford’s just announced a new, optional seven-speed automatic gearbox is joining the range, opposite the standard six-speed manual. And it’s not quite as quick.

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The manual Focus ST, with launch control, can get from 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds, if you can shift rapidly enough. The automatic, meanwhile, takes exactly 6.0 seconds. Both top out at the same 155mph v-max.

The gearbox changes its shift behaviour depending on what mode you’re in – there’s Slippery, Normal, Sport and Track to choose from. You can spec it in both the five-door hatch ST, or the slightly slower estate, and it’ll set you back an extra £1,450 for the pleasure of a more relaxing schlep through traffic in town.

Still, this ST now joins a rare club of cars, along with the Mazda MX-5 and Toyota GT86, which are actually quicker against the clock when a human being is left to change gear, not a computer. Maybe manuals aren’t so old-hat after all?

And don't get us started on rotary gear selectors...

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