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Ford Focus ST
The Top Gear car review:Ford Focus ST
What is it like on the road?
Small changes from a semi-recent facelift include retuned electric power steering and stiffer suspension. You might notice the latter; this is certainly no limo on Britain’s broken tarmac, and you should probably test drive it before deciding if you could live with one every day.
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.
If you’re so inclined it can have a reasonable mobile rear end, too. It’s not spitefully snappy like an Eighties hot hatch, rather agile and keen if you’re confident braking deep into a turn or lifting off the throttle mid corner.
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. With no auto option, 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 6.5sec 0-62mph time suggests.
The 182bhp diesel, meanwhile, is notably the less stimulating of the two cars, a point made obvious with the fact an automatic’s optional. Its 0-62mph time is 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. A good option if you need to run a diesel for company car reasons, but the petrol is the one for enthusiast.
All told, the ST’s a fun hot hatch, but it’s showing its age. Since it first launched back in 2012, there’s been a bit of a hot hatch renaissance, with Hyundai, Peugeot and Honda - names absent from the scene back then - now making a rival that’s more exciting to drive, easier to live with, or both. The ST’s still a laugh, but it’s now a long way from the hot hatch podium. Bring on the next one.