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Is this a game of ‘when’s a hot hatch not a hot hatch’?

Pretty much. This is a Ford Focus ST, but it’s not a hatch, for a start. It’s the Estate. 

It’s also the diesel ST. And no, there’s no ‘STD’ badge, so stop yer sniggering. In fact, there’s absolutely no visual clues to separate the petrol and diesel ST wagons. Both get twin tailpipes, identical bodykits, and the same 19-inch rims with red brake calipers grabbing the enlarged discs. You get loads of space, and loads of kit, justifying the £30k sticker price.

Not until you peer inside and spot the rev counter redlines at ‘5’ – or hear it chunter away – are you made aware this ST runs on lorry fuel.

So it’s an oil-burning wagon? Should be badged as a TAXI, not an ST…

Are you sure? The ST diesel has healthy outputs: the 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder derv churns out 187bhp and 295lb ft. 

Indeed, both outputs are lower than the new 2.3-litre Focus ST petrol (good for 276bhp and 310lb ft). But for your regular go-faster diesel hatch-wagony thingy (think Golf GTD, Skoda Octavia vRS TDI, Mini Clubman Cooper SD), just under 200bhp and around 300lb ft has long been the sweet spot. And with emissions laws tightening, they’re unlikely to climb far beyond it.

Struggling for bragging rights? Well, take solace in the knowledge this Ford puts the same amount of torque through its front wheels as a Honda Civic Type R does.

Unfortunately, it does it without going via a limited-slip differential. But we’ll come back to that. 

Let’s have those juicy numbers.

Certainly. As per with a diesel, the juiciest numbers are not how quick it’ll go, but how far you’ll go without visiting the pumps. If it’s dry and your gear-changing hand is suitably limbered-up, the ST Estate diesel can do 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds. Same as a Toyota GT86. Half a second quicker than the old Focus ST diesel. 

Meanwhile, official efficiency is 125 g/km and 58mpg. Real-world, it’s rarely below 40mpg unless you’re in town, Which you shouldn’t be, in a diesel. Or Extinction Rebellion will don their gas masks and paintball you out of sight. 

Not the right time to buy a diesel, is it? 

To play devil’s advocate, there may never be a better time again than now. 

In the UK, and in Europe, most governments are a bit preoccupied with the B-word to remember about the D-word scandal. Diesel sales are certainly way down from their peak but the scaredy-cat ban being mooted a few years ago isn’t going to materialise in the immediate future, and it’ll never stop being compelling to climb aboard a spacious family car, thumb the starter button and have a 500-mile range beamed back at you on the dash. The sheer sense of freedom is a delight. 

Does it clatter and rumble?

Nope, this is very polite as four-pot diesels go, and more cultured than the last one by half. In fact, it’s too muted for its own good. In Sport or Track mode, the Focus plays a boomy burble through its speakers to make the engine’s torquey sucker-punch more sporty-sounding. The irony. 

But is it actually ‘hot’ enough to justify that badge? And those looks?

In raw pace, yep, it’s amusingly and rather instantly fast. Torque boils over almost immediately after prodding the throttle. And there’s not the usual morsel of power and then a whole heap of nothing either. By the time you’re at 1,500rpm there’s 265lb ft on tap. Another 500rpm later and the full 295lb ft lands, and sticks around until 3,000rpm, at which point you may as well shift up. No hardship – the gearshift is a short-throw peach. 

The power doesn’t send fizzes of excitement down your spine, and it’s smooth enough that you can get away with flooring it without risking stern grimaces from your passenger. It’s a very effective thing, this.

What it’s not, however, is dainty. Or very precise.

Bit of a pudding?

Yes, though we should applaud Ford for not copping out on the ST diesel. This one hasn’t been dumbed down with slow-witted steering or squidgy suspension. You get almost all of the goodies from the petrol ST – the Ferrari-fast hyperactive steering, the lower ride, the driving modes… you’re not left feeling short-changed here. Until it rains, or you demand full power exiting a bend.

All of a sudden, it’s rather apparent there’s no clever electronic front differential or torque-vectoring sorting out how and where power is supplied to the wheels. Like squabbling toddlers, both wheels think they can do the better job, and the result is mild torque-steer followed by some understeer. Lots, if it’s wet and you’re being unsympathetic with the right foot. Add in the almost literal elephant in the room – the sheer weight in the nose from the diesel engine – and the ST diesel is about as happy to tuck its nose in and start turning as a Venetian cruise liner. 

The other problem is a peculiarity of spec: if you have a diesel estate Focus ST, then even with the Performance Pack box ticked, you don’t get the adaptive dampers that soften everything off in Normal mode and tighten it up through Sport and Track mode. It’s a one-setting rule, and at town speed, it’s a touch crashy. 

Enough to put you off?

No – in fact I have to say this car thoroughly won me over. I was fully teed up to write that Ford should be ashamed of itself for dressing up a diesel airport taxi as a performance car and offering it in ST orange, and this was the biggest travesty from Ford since, well, since the new Puma. But it’s bang-on, this car.

It’s a great ‘other’ option in the Focus family. There’s the petrol hatch for the heartland faithful, the petrol estate for the heartland with a big brood, then this diesel (which also comes as a hatch, weirdly) that’s a superb GT car towing a 1576-litre boot, as a likeable, comfortable do-it-all wagon. Just take it easy in the wet. 


1996cc 4cyl turbodiesel, 189bhp, 295lb ft
0-62mph in 7.7sec, 137mph
58.9mpg, 125g/km CO2

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