Lower, wider, and more powerful than ever before thanks to a larger, 205kW engine
Ford has revealed the next Focus ST. It’s based on the new-generation Focus, which itself is lower, wider and lighter than before, and it’ll compete with its traditional hot hatch rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport, while also having to deal with Hyundai’s i30 N Performance and Honda’s Civic Type R. Ford hasn’t taken any shortcuts with this new model: it’ll be available in both hatch and wagon bodies, with a choice of two engines types, and there are now two transmission options too, widening the remit of the not-so-humble ST badge.
The Focus ST diesel uses an uprated version of the standard Focus’s 2-litre EcoBlue unit, now producing 140kW, with 400Nm of torque available in the meat of the usually narrow rev band. But it’s the ST petrol which is far more interesting, as it will introduce a new-generation turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost unit (up from 2.0 litres in its predecessor), producing a much healthier 205kW at 5500rpm and a whopping 420Nm of torque between 3000 and 4000rpm. For comparative purposes, this is 67Nm more than the Hyundai i30 N Performance – a car hardly lacking in mid-range pull.
The new petrol engine is also dripping in exciting new performance tech, including the introduction of a new anti-lag system. The system builds from developments made with the Ford GT and F-150 Raptor, improving engine response by keeping the throttle open after the driver lifts off the accelerator, stopping the reversal of airflow from the turbo, which in turn keeps the compressor wheel spinning in the correct direction, thus improving response when the driver gets back on the gas. The new twin-scroll turbocharger, electronically controlled wastegate and unique low-pressure exhaust system all contribute to the new engine’s improved response too.
As previously mentioned, both engines are available with two different transmission choices – a traditional six-speed manual and a new seven-speed automatic, the latter differing from the eight-speed unit found in standard Focus models. Ford says the auto ’box is optimised for performance applications, and utilises a traditional torque converter – perhaps a good thing after Ford’s troublesome past with dual-clutch transmissions.
Helping to put the petrol ST’s generous outputs to the road is a new electronically controlled limited-slip differential – a first for a performance Ford. Sourced from Borg Warner, the new diff utilises hydraulic clutch plates to accurately distribute the torque between the front wheels, and it does this pre-emptively based on data gathered from a suite of sensors, rather than responding to wheelspin as in a traditional LSD. The new Focus ST also has a retuned steering rack, which is now 15 per cent quicker lock-to-lock, supported by unique steering knuckle geometry. The EPAS system has a built-in torque-steer reduction system, further helping the front wheels contain the chunky torque figure. The brakes have also been attended to, with bigger, 330mm front and 302mm rear rotors. Go for the optional ‘Performance Pack’ on petrol models and you’ll also get Ford’s CCD (Continuously Controlled Damping) set-up, an auto-blip function on the manual transmission, red brake calipers and a Track driver mode that unlocks a launch control function.
If you’re a fan of the Fiesta ST’s subtly aggressive detailing, you’ll like what’s been done with the Focus, as it shares many design elements with lesser ST-Line Focus models, but with a few key differentiations. Up front, Ford has opened up the upper and lower grilles to allow for more airflow into the engine bay, while redesigned sills, a larger rear wing and a new rear valance incorporating dual exhaust outlets harden up the curvy hatchback. New 18-inch wheels are standard fit, but optional 19-inch units wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres give the new ST a much tougher stance. Similarly subtle changes have been made inside, but crucial elements, such as the Recaro sports seats, a chunkier steering wheel and a new performance interface within the gauge cluster, with accompanying controls on the steering wheel, are welcome additions. Models fitted with the automatic transmission also gain steering-wheel-mounted paddleshifters.
This new Focus ST has undergone a thorough development process, and with the Fiesta ST proving such a hit, our expectations are high for this latest model. It’s perhaps the Focus’s more, er, focused basic underpinnings that should prove the biggest boon for this new ST, and with rivals from Hyundai, Volkswagen, Peugeot and Honda ruling the roost right now, the new Ford Focus ST looks primed to upset the status quo.