Ford Focus 1.0 Ecoboost Hybrid Mhev 155 Titanium X Style 5DR
Overall it feels like it's got some of the smaller Fiesta ST's cheekiness, but it's not so hyper alert that it's tricky to manage. It's more alive beneath you at regular speeds than a Golf GTI, which is nice.
Once in the bend, the ST is all enthusiasm. The nose pulls to the apex, and the rear's willing too. Grip is immense, and traction superb, especially in Sport and Track modes which keep the diff more sternly locked (sometimes predictively based on your inputs, not just reactively based on grip loss).
The springing is firm but not crazily so, and the dampers keep a solid hold, quickening the ride frequency in sportier modes. Overall it's not a hard ride, but you know you're in the hot hatch version. A resistance to suspension roar and clang does help keep things civilised.
As you'd expect from its combo of both turbo and displacement, the 2.3-litre engine is a monster of torque. There's masses of mid-range shove, especially beyond 3,000rpm. It'll rev past 6,000 happily, but there's actually little point, so you soon get into a cadence of early upshifts. That's effective if not exactly exhilarating.
An anti-lag system is copied off the Ford GT supercar and F-150 Raptor pickup. Certainly, the engine picks up again quickly after you've briefly lifted off. But if you're hitting the gas after a gentle period in third or fourth, or you've let the revs drop in a tight corner, it still takes too long to come back alive.
So think ahead and use the gearbox. Its shift is short of throw and inviting. The 0–62mph run takes 5.7secs (0.1secs longer in the auto) and the top speed is 155mph. These are good figures for a modern hot hatch. Not madness, but rapid enough to be exciting and usable in all weathers.
The sound is pretty charismatic, emphasising the sort of baritone we remember from the old five-cylinder ST and RS. Some of it is enhanced through the speakers in Sport mode – there's no actual dual-mode exhaust pipery because that's no longer legal and never was very sociable. But look at the pipes out back! They're real – no fake plastic trims here.
Around the straight-ahead the steering's not too quick, which helps main road stability. It also means it's an easy car to control when you're being rocked side to side by bumps.
Track days are definitely the ST's achilles heel – it’s much more of an everyday companion. After a few laps the tyres go gummy, the brakes cry enough and the car just feels out of sorts and rather heavy. There’s the £3,000 track pack that adds a revised bodykit, revised Track mode, 30mm bigger front brakes, adjustable suspension and Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres as standard fit if you think you’ll want to make regular use of the car on track, but it does make the car’s everyday use that little bit harsher.
Ford likes to trot out a soundbite that STs have the character of a dolphin (playful and fun) whereas RSes are like a shark (aggressive, pointy and happy to rip your head off). Thing is, Ford apparently has no plans to RSify this generation of Focus, so if you want a keener hot hatch for really serious driving, you'll be much, much better off in a Honda Civic Type R.
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