Ford Focus ST Edition review: a £36k hot hatch with extremely nerdy suspension Reviews 2023 | Top Gear
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Tuesday 3rd October
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Ford Focus ST Edition review: a £36k hot hatch with extremely nerdy suspension

£35,785 when new
Published: 29 Oct 2021


  • BHP


  • 0-62


  • Max Speed


Ford Focus ST Edition what? First Edition? Black Edition? Limited Edition?

More of a last edition, really. As keen students of the internet will have seen, Ford’s just revealed a facelift and tweaks for the Focus family hatchback. They include a new, less scary nose with a badge in the middle of the grille, a wider touchscreen inside, and the death of the diesel-fuelled ST version. 

When it comes to fast Focuses, it’s now a petrol-only zone. 276 horses and a mighty 310 torques, thanks to 2.3-litres of rather warbly turbocharged four-cylinder goodness. 

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But this... isn’t the new Focus ST?

Correct. Still has a scary face, still has a small touchscreen. This is a run-out, last-off-the-line special version of the outgoing Focus. 

Though oddly enough, it does have some bits you can expect in the new one. A digital instrument display festooned with many gauges and graphical animations, for one thing. And a new type of button for adjusting the mirrors. Didn’t think there was much wrong with old one, myself. 

Unless you’re going to spend any more time telling me about the mirror button there better be something else interesting.

Stand by. Lightweight wheels which ape the look of the optional carbon rims worn by the Ford GT and Shelby Mustang GT500 are bolted on as standard, and save a truly alarming 10kg of weight per wheel. They’re aluminium, so we can only presume the standard ST wears rims cast in lead and depleted uranium. 

Anyway, if you know anything about handling and corners and whatnot, you’ll know that lighter wheels are a very good thing. They’re easier to accelerate and brake, they don’t corrupt the steering as much when they’re turned, and they allow the suspension to be retuned to do a better job of keeping the car’s body controlled and well-supported.

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So, Ford’s gone to town on the ST Edition’s suspension. 

What have they done?

Thrown it all in the bin, and started again.

Seriously? What was wrong with it?

As everyday hot hatches go, not a lot. The standard ST gets adaptive dampers as standard, which ramp up from a cushy plushness in Slippery and Normal mode to a taut Sport setting and downright rigid Track mode. 

It’s actually one of the best bits about the latest ST – it’s one of the most versatile, everyday useable hot hatches you can buy. It’s a lot less yobbish – a lot more Golf GTI-ish – than older STs, but it’s still fun when you want it to be.

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Anyway, forget all that. It’s in the skip. 

Erm, okay. What have we got instead?

Nerdspension, courtesy of KW Automotive. They’re a British firm, which gives us hope this British B-road-friendly hot hatch hasn’t forgotten how to handle our local back lanes. 

No longer can you cycle through suspension settings at the touch of a steering wheel button. Instead, you must come to a stop. Somewhere safe. Jack the whole car up. Remove its lightweight wheels. Stack them neatly. And then set about the dampers themselves with your toolkit. 

The upshot for all this inconvenience is you have more choice than the Netflix home screen. There are 12 settings for compression (as the damper absorbs a bump) and 16 (yes, sixteen) choices for rebound (the return stroke as the damper breathes back out). 

To encourage steely-eyed cornering bravery, the whole car now sits 10mm lower than standard (this is also adjustable, front and rear) and stickier tyres are fitted. 

Ford Focus ST Edition

This is a car for Proper Driving Enthusiasts then?

Yeah, the ST Edition is for the sort of person who has an Instagram account dedicated to their car and takes forty-seven photos of it every time it’s washed. The sort of person who uses said photos as phone lock screen wallpaper instead of a picture of their other half. Possibly the sort of individual who actually refers to their Ford Focus ST Edition as their better half. 

So what? is a safe space for all those of a Driving Enthusiast persuasion. And if you take your handling seriously, are partial to a track day and dream of unlocking the optimum configuration for a perfect Nürburgring lap, then this – by a country mile – is the Fast Ford for you.

See, much as we adore the Fiesta ST, the Puma ST and the Focus ST, they’re quite frothy, funny cars. Cheeky personalities built to misbehave, but not get you into trouble. The ST Edition gets a lot more serious. It’s a proper piece of kit.

Does it feel like a whole new car?

No – but the differences really add up. Because traction is even stronger now than the already neat boggo ST, 276bhp now feels like a trifling amount. The car could easily sustain more grunt. Maybe a call to Mountune is in order.

At low speed, you detect there’s less ‘give’ in the car. It’s sacrificed that party piece of pretending it’s a normal, unsporty Focus. But you still feel clutched securely in the fabulously supportive seats and it’s still on the more tolerable side of town life than a Honda Civic Type R, or the teeth-rattling Renaultsport Megane RS Trophy. 

But like those cars, as you up the pace, the ST Edition’s trick suspension goes to work. It rounds off the harsh bits, but keeps you posted on what you need to know. It feels better planted than the standard car. More composed. Yet it’s still poised and agile – Ford hasn’t sacrificed the ST’s sense of humour in the pursuit of grip.

Course, if you did find it too tail-waggy, you could fiddle with the shocks and dial that out. Ford supplies a cheat sheet with suggested settings, but as this car doesn’t belong to and Ford neglected to supply a ‘here’s how to reset it to standard, dummy’ sheet, we left it alone.

That... sort of defeats the point.

Well, not when it was already in a rather sweet spot for fast road precision. The real value – the reason to spend the extra on the Edition – will lie in weekend play for owners tweaking and tinkering ahead of their next outing. 

You mentioned money. How much?

This is not a cheap fast Ford. Designer suspension does not grow on trees. So this ST Edition, resplendent in its new Azure Blue paint with a black wing, wheels and door mirrors, costs £35,785. And that’s big money – up there away from Hyundai i30N-kind and tussling with premium-badged machinery. And the Honda Civic Type R, if you can still find a new one.

But you know what? If you’re really into this stuff, and you get off on ‘making a car your own’, it’s worth it. 

The interior isn’t exciting, but it’s way more logical and less annoying than what you sit among in a Golf or Leon. It’ll do 37mpg if you’re careful. The B&O hi-fi is a banger. In fact, the Edition is dripping with kit. 

So, if you want an old new Ford Focus that almost has us forgiving Ford for shirking the calling to build a new Focus RS, here’s a very likeable, talented hot hatch.

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