Ford adds diesel power to 2015 Focus ST range to great effect
Sean Carson | January 2015
Forget the Volkswagen Beetle, it’s fast Fords that have always been cars for the people. Democratising performance has been the cause of the Blue Oval for its quickest models, and the same is still true today with this, the 2015 Ford Focus ST.
At just £22,195 for the revised 2015 car, the ST is still incredibly affordable, and available in five-door hatch and estate guise, pretty practical.
However, until now Ford had been losing ground on rival manufacturers by not offering a performance diesel version of its family favourite. But with the 2015 facelift that’s no longer the case.
You can still opt for the 250hp 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol, or you can plump for the new 185hp 2.0-litre turbodiesel, which exactly follows the petrol’s pricing.
With the addition of the new engine, the 2015 Focus ST is more appealing than ever.
What’s the Ford Focus ST like to drive?
We’ll start with that new diesel motor. 185hp is an impressive total and puts it on a par with the competition, and with 295lb ft oftorque between 2,000 and 2,750rpm, its motivation to get going is significant.
Officially, 0-62mph takes 8.1 seconds, but the way the Focus ST diesel streaks out of bends makes it seem quicker than this. Keep the revs below 4,000 and use that silky torque, shifting up with the sweet six-speed manual gearbox, and it’s easy to make smooth and rapid progress.
The whole powertrain feels very slick, partly because of the noise. Unlike in some performance diesels, there’s no grumbling from under the bonnet – given that there are no exterior styling cues to differentiate the differently fuelled cars, you’d be hard pushed to tell this is a diesel – including its aural signature.
It produces a deep, bassy note that turns into a fulsome throaty roar in the mid-range. It sounds brilliant and, along with the great throttle response, gives the ST diesel a character of its very own.
In both the petrol and the diesel, the new ST’s steering is wonderfully precise and perfectly weighted, with great turn-in response thanks to revised front springs, re-tuned dampers all-round and stiffer front suspension bushes that give more support.
The car is firm and taut but the suspension never crashes – even when riding on the larger 19-inch wheels. The damping is plush and composed, with the suspension controlling the ST’s mass very effectively.
The new diesel is a success: engaging, sporty, accomplished and a great blend between performance and everyday usability.
The petrol is the same with added go. If the diesel is a good drivers’ car, this is a great one.
Although power remains at 250hp the torque curve has been massaged to deliver more twist over a wider rpm range, and a maximum of 265lb ft between 2,000 and 4,500rpm.
The upshot is it feels very quick. 0-62mph takes 6.5 seconds, but, like the diesel, the motor is so tractable its in-gear performance is equally as impressive. It’ll lug hard from low down, revving out with real zip accompanied by a racy soundtrack.
You can make the most of what the brace of engines offer thanks to Ford’s clever electronic torque vectoring and ESC systems. The first shuffles power between front wheels to find maximum traction (to great effect, too), while the second has three different settings that reveal a more playful side to the ST.
The standard mode reins in any wheelspin, although allows a surprising amount of movement. The Sport setting allows plenty of loutish behaviour (read understeer on corner exit) and gives plenty of adjustability – lift mid-corner and the ST will tighten its line with reassuring predictability.
Turn everything off and this sensation is heightened – it’s probably more for track driving, but it reveals the hottest Focus’s true, effervescent character. It’s great fun.
How practical is the Ford Focus ST?
That’s all well and good, but an ST has to be a car for all occasions; as happy hooning over a mountain pass as it is on the school or supermarket run.
It is. Whereas the old car’s sound enhancement function barked away most of the time, driving more normally both the petrol and diesel STs are more reserved. The firm suspension is perfectly comfortable, soaking up the Spanish bumps we tested the car over with ease, while the Recaro seats reveal a comfortable side to go with the high levels of figure-hugging support.
There’s loads of room inside the cabin, which shows typical levels of Focus robust build quality, while there’s 363 litres of room in the five-door’s boot (1,262 with the seats down). You’ll be able to cram 490 litres of stuff into the ST wagon, 1,516 litres with the rear seats folded.
There’s stop-start on offer, which means that alongside the performance, efficiency is strong too. The diesel returns 67.3mpg combined with 110g/km, while the petrol is still more than respectable at a best of 41.5mpg combined with 159g/km CO2, according to Ford – that’s 6% better than before.
The new infotainment and Sync 2 connectivity system that made its debut on the facelifted Focus last year works just as well here, and with Ford’s Active City Stop autonomous braking and all the usual electronic systems and aids, it’ll be a safe car, too.
Verdict: 2015 Ford Focus ST
Subtly revised styling cues complete the package and mean the 2015 Ford Focus ST looks and goes better than ever, bolstered by that new performance diesel option to the point where Ford is predicting an equal split between petrol and diesel sales in the UK.
Best of all, it’s cheaper than before, despite more performance, improved handling and greater efficiency. The estate commands a £1,100 price premium over the hatch, but it’s still great value.
At £25,995 for the top-spec ST3 – which now gets even more kit as standard, including a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen, bi-xenon lights, heated seats, keyless entry, rear parking sensors and cruise control – it’s £1,240 cheaper than a VW Golf GTI Performance, making it a performance bargain.
The GTI and GTD should be worried.
Rivals: 2015 Ford Focus ST
- Volkswagen Golf GTI
- Volkswagen Golf GTD
- Skoda Octavia vRS (petrol and diesel)
With 230hp on offer if you spec the optional Performance pack, the VW Golf GTI still boasts similar performance to the Focus ST petrol. It’s arguably not as sharp to drive, either, but the whole package is just as attractive, with that solid, classless Volkswagen image proving very appealing. The same goes for the GTD, although the margin between the two in terms of pace is much smaller. For both cars it’ll come down to personal choice, even if the top-spec Focus (regardless of engine) is cheaper than both. The Skoda vRS offers practical performance motoring at an attractive price, too, but is short on character compared to the loveable ST.
Specification: 2015 Ford Focus ST
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo petrol, 2.0-litre turbodiesel
Gearbox: six-speed manual
Price from: £22,195
Power: 185hp diesel, 250hp petrol
Torque: 295lb ft diesel, 265lb ft petrol
0-62mph: 8.1 seconds diesel, 6.5 seconds petrol
Top speed: 135mph diesel, 154mph petrol
MPG: 67.3mpg diesel, 41.5mpg petrol
CO2: 110g/km diesel, 159g/km CO2 petrol