Review – Ford Focus ST 3 2.5 Turbo

Usually my rentals from the local Ford dealership means a diesel Focus or Mondeo, nothing too interesting, but putting a booking in last week it turned out they’d got a Ford Focus ST in stock, though as they’ve recently been discontinued from sale, they were also selling it off soon. Right I’ll take that instead of one of the boring motors for my trip to Scotland next week then…

Ford Focus ST Review

A colleague had the same car and came back unimpressed, felt more like a 1.8 than a 2.5, I’ve got a 2.5 in my Landy and it feels no quicker. Within minutes I think I’d found the reason, I doubt he pushed it beyond 3000 revs. The Ford Focus ST trundles around docile like a regular family hatchback, trundle it up through the box and you’d never know what lies beneath, particularly when it’s in an unassuming colour such as the black one tested. But get past 3000 revs, and suddenly the turbo comes on song, the engine note rises to the gorgeous 5 pot burble, kicks you back in to the Recarro’s, and it starts reeling in the horizon like there’s no tomorrow.

Heading up the A1 handled the usual cruising speeds with ease, just drop it in to 6th, plenty of bottom end torque when speeds drop, though if you want a bit of extra boost to pull you back up to speed, 5th or 4th will quickly see the speedo back at motorway speeds. Just have to remember to back off and drop back in to 6th as the speedo will surge relentlessly beyond licence loosing speeds if you let it. Not wanting to drive all the way to Edinburgh on boring dual carriageways in a capable car, at the signs for the A68 we pulled off the A1 and started heading cross country.

Ford Focus ST front

At this point my impressions of the ST went a bit downhill, a mix of wet roads, and rough surface, along with a lot of undulations, it didn’t feel quite as planted as you’d like. You’d crash on a pot hole, then wallow for a few seconds on the aftershocks, humps in the road left you feeling queasy afterwards and it felt skittish. The ST was scoring badly. It was quick, but on these roads you just couldn’t use it, going through the mighty Kielder, even let a few rep mobiles past as they were evidently comfier at a higher pace than the ST was.

Coming home we came back down the A1 all the way from Edinburgh, whilst quite a bit of it has been converted to dual carriageway, there is still plenty of two way sections until you get to Morpeth. Here on flatter smooth tarmac, the ST turned in to an absolute stunning point to point, just wait for the gap, drop a cog or two in the six speed box, and sail past whatever is in front. The brakes are fabulous too, easily reeling the speed in before you get yourself in trouble.

Power delivery to the road was surprisingly good, the traction control very rarely kicked in throughout my three days with the ST, even in the wet, and it doesn’t even have the tricky diff of the RS. So top marks there, with 225bhp I was expecting to feel the traction control a lot…

Ford Focus ST Interior

Interior, well it’s a Ford Focus, OK it’s a Focus with some very nice (in this car heated leather) Recarro’s, but it’s still a Focus. Bad points though as they didn’t fold forward very well, so access to the two rear seats wasn’t brilliant.

I’m not keen on the fake carbon, (though it’s an improvement on the silver fake aluminium Ford were putting in the Mondeo’s a few years ago), and the radio is that shiny plastic ‘gloss’ look that seems to be all the rage. In the centre console armrest (which gets in the way of the seat belts) is a USB port for the iPod, and an aux 3.5mm stereo input. The USB didn’t work with the iPhone, but it could stream music to it via the bluetooth connection, however with my iPhone it seemed to need some voodoo each time you started the car, so OK for long runs, annoying nipping to the shops and back. The boot is typical Focus affair, so plenty of room in there for the shopping etc.

Ford Focus ST Interior side view

Nestled behind the gear lever is a start stop button, the Focus features keyless start, but this brings two further niggles.

A) Where the frig do you put your keys? Always that nag in your mind that there is potential to start the car with the keys in the car, then end up with the keys & the car far apart, and no way to start it again…

B) Having gone to all that effort, Ford, why oh why have you used the standard lower steering cowling and just put a gromitt in. It looks cheap, an afterthought. It showed up the moment you got in the car and annoyed me immediately.

Ford Focus ST rear three quarters

For the final day with the ST, I took it out round the Derbyshire Peaks on some roads I know and love. So up over Ringlow, Ladybower, over Snake Pass, Glossop & back down through Winnats Pass (following 911HUL no less). Today with a bit more experience of the car under the belt, was able to use the performance more, and it was feeling much better than the first day over the A68. It’s still horrid over humps and bumpy roads (so some hard breaking sometimes when you saw them coming), but on the good bits of road between, it covered pace so quickly, so efficiently, unless you spent 80% off your time on those bumpy roads you’d forgive it. Push too hard on the accelerator in a corner and it’ll start to understeer but lift off and it’ll tighten back up quickly, biggest issue is catching the next gear quick enough as the revs whiz round. As you start to sling a few corners together the handling encourages you to push on harder as it just keeps gripping. Being a rental with a non waive-able £750 excess though I’ve not explored it fully to it’s limits.

It returned a decent economy too, over the whole 700 miles it averages over 25mpg, I think the Scotland trip was about 29mpg, and the Peak thrash was 22mpg. If I take my own 2.6 Audi over the peaks, it isn’t as quick, it isn’t as involving and it only does 17mpg…

Exterior I’m in a bit of a mixed bag, I like the Venom styled alloys (though thankfully these are a bit more kerb friendly), in black I think it looks a bit too restrained for something that is so fast, yet in Orange it’s a bit too “look at me”…, I’d probably take the red one with the white door graphics…

Ford Focus ST

Whilst flawed, I still think the Focus is a good package, it’s after-all a Focus, so it’s a practical family hatchback, docile round town, it’s a very quick cross country motor & crucially can put the power down, economical for the performance offered, comfy (no numb bum on the long trips), and that engine noise & acceleration is addictive. They depreciate a bit heavily at first, so best picked up used (though technically this is the only option as they don’t pass Euro 5 emissions regs, so a casualty along with the Type R), this shape can be picked up from £12,000

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