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Overall verdict

The Top Gear car review: Ford Focus ST (2012-2018)

Overall verdict
A fun car with a practical side, but no longer one of the sharpest hot hatches on sale


A versatile hot hatch, with petrol, diesel, hatch and estate versions


The diesel's dull, and rivals are better nowadays


What is it?

It’s a fast Ford, one of the car world’s greatest traditions. But in the age of the all-wheel-drive RS, the ST is no longer the hottest Focus around. That does give it a renewed, slightly softer role in the world, signalled by a sparky diesel version joining the range. And no, it’s not called the STD.

It’s the third generation, following the lukewarm Mk1 ST170 and thirsty, five-cylinder Mk2 ST, and it’s sharper than both. A 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine serves up 247bhp and 266lb ft in the petrol version, while a diesel gets an identically sized engine with 182bhp and 295lb ft. The latter has undeniable appeal if running costs are a worry, but the former is what you really need for the bona fide hot hatch experience.

Or hot estate experience. Yep, like the first ST170, you can have the latest ST as either a hatch or estate. Skoda, VW and Seat offer the same with their hot hatches, too. It’s a niche, no doubt, but one the petrolhead with a family can surely get on board with.

A facelift in 2015 gave this ST a bit of an update, with retuned electric power steering and stiffer suspension, as well as the neater styling of the Mk3 Focus in its second phase. It also saw a key update to the interior, neatening up its mess of buttons and bringing more up-to-date media systems. What hasn’t changed are its wonderfully hugging (perhaps too hugging) Recaro sports seats.

Ford is about to replace the Focus, and with it will come a new Focus ST. Given the RS is now the fastest, feistiest Focus on sale, the ST will likely live on in its middle ground, offering more fun and speed than normal, but with a bit more subtlety and civility than its angrier brother. If you avoid the Tangerine Scream orange paint, that is…

Starting below £25,000, it’s also a useful £7,000 cheaper than an RS. But is it anywhere near as fun?

Highlights from the range

Title 0–62 CO2 MPG BHP Price
The fastest
2.3 EcoBoost ST 5dr
5.7s 179g/km 35.8 280 £31,585
The cheapest
1.0 EcoBoost 100 Zetec 5dr
12.1s 98g/km 60.1 100 £20,460
The greenest
1.5 EcoBlue 120 Active 5dr
10.8s 92g/km 80.7 120 £23,140