2015 Ford Focus ST at a glance
- Handling: ★★★★★
- Performance: ★★★★☆
- Design: ★★★☆☆
- Interior: ★★★☆☆
- Practicality: ★★★★☆
- Costs: ★★★★☆
Ford Focus ST, from £22,495
I AM spending quite a lot of time at the moment driving schoolchildren to exams: A-levels, AS-levels, GCSEs — you name it. This means I’ve had the opportunity to meditate on what would be the car most ideally suited to this emotionally charged familial task.
Something calming, you’d immediately say. Some kind of high-end saloon, almost certainly its well-upholstered interior creating a cloistered, library-like ambience in which the student can magically absorb two years’ worth of chemistry in 15 minutes — possibly 20 minutes, depending on the lights.
Probably not the new Ford Focus ST, then. Until the 316bhp RS goes on sale early next year, the ST qualifies out on its own as the official hothead’s Focus. And it fails the exam-bound student in a number of key areas.
Recaro sports seats, for example, are made for many things, but I’m not sure last-minute revision is genuinely one of them. Furthermore, the latest ST has new, stiffer springs, new damper settings and a recalibrated, more responsive electronic steering setup, making it a car in which to be slung from side to side until you have bruises in the way that David Beckham has tattoos.
Plus there’s the engine note. It’s not fantastically angry, but it’s certainly deep, firm and throbby, and Ford has installed one of those systems that pipe it artificially into the cabin where it can drum its fingers distractingly on your sternum from the start of your journey until its end. Again, if you don’t already know the causes and effects of the Great Depression, you probably won’t be all that much the wiser about them after this.
On the other hand, we definitely weren’t late for biology the other day. Out goes the old, notoriously uneconomical 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol engine and in comes a 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit, made subject to the magic of Ford’s EcoBoost department, and thereby more powerful and more frugal at the same time.
But despite all this I did have mild cause to wonder whether my test model erred rather on the side of taste and sophistication, and it was hard not to feel the sobering presence from every angle of the base model.
That said, let’s acknowledge that my Focus ST was painted in an unobtrusive shade described in the catalogue as “moondust silver”. Maybe if Ford had sent it over in the self-explanatory tangerine scream, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
The extended question is whether the Focus ST can plausibly take on the Golf GTI. The answer is yes — but only in petrol guise; the diesel version, which we tested recently against its VW rival, fell a little short.
The ST may be cheaper, which you can feel slightly in the cabin, despite the bright new touchscreen and the less button-infested centre console. Yet its six-speed manual gearbox is just as slick and when the expensive-feeling weight of its steering comes together with the engaging throb of that engine it starts being just as much fun to drive.
But get the person in the passenger seat to discuss it, using one side of the paper only.
2015 Ford Focus ST specifications
- Engine: 2000cc, 4-cylinder, turbocharged
- Power: 247bhp @ 5500rpm
- Torque: 266 lb ft @ 2000rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Performance: 0-62mph: 6.5sec
- Top speed: 154mph
- Fuel: 41.5mpg
- CO2: 159g/km
- Road tax band: G (£180 a year)
- Price: £22,495
- Release date: On sale now
Ford Focus ST rivals
Mégane Renaultsport Nav 265, £25,935
- For On a track, one of the best-handling hot hatches . . .
- Against . . . but not on the road
Volkswagen Golf GTI, £27,500
- For Fast; fun; great image
- Against Not the roomiest hatch around