Looking to have your cake and eat it? The Ford Focus ST diesel estate combines sporty looks and impressive performance with low running costs and an affordable price tag. But is it, ultimately, just a diesel-engined Focus estate?
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Prices and deals
Prices for the Focus ST diesel estate start at £23,845 for the ST-1, rising to £28,995 for the top-spec ST-3 six-speed auto. The ST-3 manual, tested here, costs £27,645 before options. A quick search with online broker Drivethedeal.com reveals you can knock around £5,000 off that – does a £22,500 top-spec Focus ST diesel estate tempt you?
What are its rivals?
There’s no shortage of fast diesel estates – the Volkswagen Golf GTD is perhaps the daddy of them all, while the Skoda Octavia and SEAT Leon are both available with the same 2.0-litre 184hp turbodiesel engine.
What engine does it use?
The Ford Focus ST diesel estate uses the same 2.0-litre TDCi turbodiesel as a number of other cars within the range – but with power boosted to 184hp. It falls short of the petrol’s 250hp, but has enough poke for most buyers.
It’ll hit 62mph in 8.3 seconds in manual estate form (0.2 seconds slower than the hatch equivalent), while opting for Ford’s Powershift six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox brings that down to 7.8 seconds.
Is it comfortable?
Not everyone will find the Recaro seats fitted as standard to all the ST models particularly comfortable. If you fit in them, however, they provide a firm grip. Just don’t get too carried away if you’ve got the family in the back.
Will I enjoy driving it?
Yes. It might just be a diesel Focus estate, and its 184hp power output doesn’t sound earth-shattering, but it does a good impression of the regular petrol Focus ST hot hatch. The steering is a revelation in terms of electric power assistance, giving oodles of feedback and egging you on to act like a 17-year-old. And the six-speed manual ‘box is a joy to use.
The extra torque offered by the diesel makes it a slip-road champion, but being clumsy with the right pedal in wet conditions can lead to spinning up the front wheels quite easily. Ford’s tried to combat that with clever torque vectoring, but that can only go so far when dealing with 295lb ft between two wheels and a slippery road.
Our other gripe is the irritating engine noise, which is piped into the cabin through the speakers. Designed to make the diesel ST sound throatier, it just gets a bit annoying.
Fuel economy and running costs
Officially, the manual Focus ST TDCi wagon returns 67.3mpg. Drive it sensibly and you won’t be far off that figure; even exploiting its performance, it should return acceptable fuel economy. Group 26 insurance might make it a tad pricey, but no more so than a Golf GTD, while 110g/km CO2 means you’ll pay just £20 a year in road tax.
What’s the interior like?
Inside, the Focus ST diesel is typical fast Ford – so, slightly dated with lots of plastic and a few ST badges splashed around to give it a sporting touch. Three extra dials on top of the dash help in that regard, as do the figure-hugging Recaro seats.
Is it practical?
The ST is no less practical than any other Focus estate. With the rear seats up, it has 476-litres of boot space – plenty for most people, and usefully more than the equivalent hatch. Rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf GTD offer a slightly bigger boot, however, while those desperate for practicality should consider the huge (for its class) Skoda Octavia.
Tell me about the tech
The range-topping ST3 model has a fair amount of standard kit – including an eight-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dash, along with bi-xenon lights and electrically-adjustable front seats. Tech fans should opt for the £450 Driver Assistance pack, which includes lane-departure warning and automatic emergency braking. Ford’s SYNC2 navigation system is available for £300.
What about safety?
Euro NCAP tested the Ford Focus in 2012 and gave it a full five-star rating. It scored 92% for adult occupants and 82% for children. You should feel pretty happy to carry your kids about in the Focus ST diesel estate.
Which version should I go for?
Even the entry-level ST-1, which starts at £23,845 in diesel estate form, is fairly well-equipped. For that, you get 18-inch ST alloys, the usual ST bodykit, Recaro seats (with fabric trim) and a DAB radio.
What’s the used alternative?
Although it sold in very small numbers, the Focus ST170 was launched as an estate model in 2002. They do crop up in the classifieds occasionally, although the newest examples will now be 12 years old – and you can’t get one with a diesel engine. Hot diesel estates of this size have only become popular recently, so look at something like a BMW 3 Series diesel as a used alternative.
Should I buy one?
The Focus ST diesel estate ticks so many boxes. It’s genuinely fun to drive and impressively good on fuel. Rivals are, at a push, more practical – and their interiors feel a little more robust. But the ST diesel looks the sportiest and could be the best-handling diesel estate this side of £25,000.
If you don’t need the performance, Ford has just launched its ST-Line trim level across the range. Essentially a replacement for Zetec S models, ST-Line offers sporty looks with more affordable running costs. You can pick up a 120hp 1.5-litre diesel Focus ST-Line estate for £22,395.