PROS
  • Entertaining to drive
  • Spacious rear seats
  • Plenty of standard equipment

 CONS

  • Rivals are faster...
  • ...and cheaper
  • Interior quality a disappointment

Is the Ford Focus ST any good?

If you’re talking hot hatches, you’ll probably soon start discussing products with a blue oval on their nose. That’s because the Ford Focus ST is the latest in a long line of pumped-up hatches from the brand and one of the most potent. Opt for the 2.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine and you get 280hp and a 0-62mph time of less than 6.0 seconds.

It’s not quite as fast as some rivals, but it’s certainly more practical with oodles of rear seat space, a perfectly usable boot and five doors. If you want even more practicality there’s a versatile estate version and even a diesel for those with an eye on fuel economy.

The regular line-up was joined by an even more focused Edition version late in 2021. This runout model ahead of a major facelift in 2022 gains lighter alloy wheels, uprated suspension and a distinctive shade of blue paint to differentiate it from lesser versions.

The ST doesn’t have an easy time of things, though. It faces stiff competition from the Renaultsport Megane, Volkswagen Golf GTI, BMW 128ti and our current favourite, the Toyota GR Yaris.

2021 Ford Focus ST seats

What’s it like inside?

The scene is set by a pair of part-leather clad Recaro sports seats with six-way power adjustment and a heated ST-specific steering wheel wrapped in perforated leather. The seats hold you tightly in place around corners yet provide good comfort as well, while the heating elements are almost too effective on their hottest setting.

A part-metal gearlever, some contrast stitching and ST branded floormats finish off the sporty makeover and there’s plenty of equipment including dual-zone climate control and a B&O stereo. Infotainment is taken care of by the same touchscreen infotainment system that proves easy to navigate if a bit basic-looking.

 2021 Ford Focus ST dash

A digital driver’s display is standard, but isn’t as customisable as the screen in a Golf GTI although the addition of a head up display is a nice touch. It’s easy to read and projects your speed and other information clearly into your line of sight.

The rest of the interior is familiar Focus, with quality proving passable but by no means opulent and plenty of space for passengers. Those in the back get more leg room than in a Golf GTI and certainly a GR Yaris, and the boot isn’t bad, either. If you want more information about the interior, infotainment and practicality, take a look at our main Ford Focus review.

2021 Ford Focus ST rear cornering

What’s it like to drive?

Two engines are on offer, a 2.3-litre petrol with 280hp and a 2.0-litre diesel with a far tamer 190hp. The former sprints from 0-62mpg in 5.7 seconds with a six-speed manual or 6.0 seconds dead with the optional seven-speed automatic gearbox. The latter takes a yawning 7.6 seconds and is only available with the manual.

We’d recommend sticking to the six-speed manual as the automatic isn’t as sharp as those found in the Golf GTI and Cupra Leon. Besides, the manual ‘box is enjoyable to use and helps you get the most out of the potent petrol engine. Sure, you can leave the engine in a high gear and feel it pull happily from less than 1500rpm, but it does its best work over 3000rpm. 

Yes, there are rivals that feel faster still, but it’s unlikely you’ll feel short changed by the way it pushes you into your seat. The noise is a bit disappointing, even with the sports exhausts popping and banging in the sportier modes.

The diesel is certainly the more economical option and has plenty of shove from low revs, but it doesn’t really feel all that fast and doesn’t allow you to make the most of the car’s agile handling. This option is due to be dropped with the introduction of the updated 2022 Focus.

The ST is great fun to drive, combining taut body control, sharp steering response and plenty of grip – all while maintaining a comfortable ride quality. The 2.3-litre petrol gets a limited slip differential as standard which boosts traction especially when exiting corners. It helps really pin the nose to the road so you can make the most of the power. It does mean the steering wheel writhes in your hands a little when you accelerate, but it’s easily controlled.

2021 Ford Focus ST front

You don’t have to drive very far in the ST before you find yourself building a rhythm down your favourite road, as a result. Think of the ST as more of a Volkswagen Golf Clubsport rival, rather than a Golf GTI– a performance hatchback that’s a little more focused on agility and grip than everyday comfort. It’s certainly more playful than both, tucking its nose into bends more keenly and proving happier to slide its tail if you like that sort of thing. A Megane RS is even more of a hooligan, though.

Performance Pack models add adaptive suspension that gets stiffer as you move from Normal to Sport then Track drive mode, giving even more breadth to the ST’s abilities. It’s certainly comfier in Normal mode although Track is too firm for the road. We also appreciated the rev matching function which makes for smoother shifts when selecting a lower gear.

There’s also a Focus ST Edition which you can tell by its unique black lightweight alloy wheels and distinctive light blue paint with a black roof. You also get motorsport-style coilover suspension that’s lower and stiffer. You can adjust it if you’ve got a set of spanners, but the standard settings provide a great compromise.

It’s certainly firmer than a normal ST, yet the uprated suspension controls body movements exceptionally well even on truly awful roads. It also makes the ST feel even more agile and entertaining and the expense of a little everyday comfort. If you’re a keen driver, it’s the one to have.

2021 Ford Focus ST rear

Should you buy one?

If driving thrills are at the top of your list of priorities but you still need a thoroughly practical car, the Ford Focus ST is well worth a look. It’s far more spacious than the GR Yaris and beats even the Golf GTI and Megane RS for rear seat space.

However, the Golf is a little classier inside, the Megane even more exciting to drive and the Yaris the ultimate hot hatch if space isn’t a concern.

What we like

The Focus’ agile handling and crisp manual gearbox make it a joy to drive, while the suspension is soft enough for day to day use if you avoid Edition models. Plentiful rear seat space and plenty of standard equipment also appeal.

What we don't like

All versions are rather pricey and the interior feels a bit low-rent especially compared to premium-badged rivals like the BMW 128ti.

(https://www.parkers.co.uk/ford/focus/st/review/)

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