Ford Focus ST

EcoBoost

Ford Focus ST, 2023, front, action
Ford Focus ST, 2023, front
Ford Focus ST, 2023, side
Ford Focus ST, 2023, rear
Ford Focus ST, 2023, rear, action
Ford Focus ST Edition, 2021, interior

SPARE some sympathy for anyone looking for a hot hatch.

Not because of shortage of desirable models. The opposite actually - there are so many cracking cars to choose from that making a selection is mind-bogglingly difficult. Many of them are hot off the production line.

Where to start, then? Well, Ford, VW, Audi, Merc and BMW all have strong representation in the seriously fast hatchback sector. Then there's the new Honda Civic Type R - a thoroughbred if there ever was one. And an exciting upstart from Hyundai, the i30N which has dynamics to match the best.

Here we sample Ford's offering, the Focus ST. The long-time rival of the Golf GTI has performance by the bucketload together with handling that allows every horsepower to be exploited.

Under the bonnet is a 2.3-litre four turbo cylinder that pumps out 276bhp - about par for the course among competitors these days.

It sounds good, too, and when coupled to the snappy manual six-speed gearbox has a near perfect formula for driving satisfaction alongside acceptable practicality for family use.

The ST builds on decades of Ford experience on producing fast, good handling small saloons going back to the Escort Mexico in the 70s, through various incarnations of RS models - many race and rally winners.

Probably the last of the breed before the ICE age is overtaken by electrification, the ST was revamped recently and looks appropriately racy and aggressive with shark-style grille and squat stance. At £37,000, it isn't cheap but is good value set against some rivals.

Add the Track Pack fitted to the review car and the price tag swells by £3k to nearly £40,000. The pack includes adjustable suspension, P-Zero Corsa tyres, bigger Brembo brakes and some delicate styling tweaks.

With a fast steering rack and extremely firm suspension, even on a soft setting, the ST immediately feels tight and responsive. A rorty exhaust note from the large bore twin pipes adds to impression.

There's almost no body roll around curves and the steering feeds back nicely to the helm. Acceleration n is punchy, even in the higher gears with 62mph coming up in under six seconds - that's more than half a second faster than the old Focus RS.

Slam the accelerator down exiting a bend and you'll notice some steering tug, or torque steer, but it's modest and quite controllable. Adhesion is of a very high level.

The manual transmission is a joy - almost as good as a Type R - with short throw precise engagement. Ratios are well chosen for performance, yet cruising at motorway speeds is relatively quiet.

As with the standard Focus, there's reasonable space for four or even five in the cabin and the hatchback boot is generously proportion for family breaks. You get the impression that less attention has been paid to the interior design than the engineering.

There's a lot of dark plastic, a bit of carbon fibre and a sprinkling of ST badges and logos to remind you it's something a bit special.

FAST FACTS

Ford Focus ST EcoBoost

Price: £36,950

Mechanical: 2.3-litre, 276bhp, 4cyl, petrol engine driving front wheels via manual gearbox

Max Speed: 155mph

0-62mph: 5.7sec

Combined MPG: 35.3

Insurance Group: 27

C02 emissions: 183g/km

Bik rating: 59%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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