Ford Focus ST long-term test: report 2

Has Ford replicated the brilliance of the Fiesta ST in its new Focus ST hot hatch? And can it match the class-leading Honda Civic Type R as a daily driver? We've got four months to find out...

Ford Focus ST long term

The car Ford Focus ST  Run by Allan Muir, managing editor

Why we’re running it To see whether the new ST can live up to Ford’s reputation for making great hot hatches and provide better value than its rivals

Needs to Be thrilling and fun to drive on country roads while being practical and civilised enough for everyday use

Mileage 945 List price £32,495 Target Price £30,207 Price as tested £32,745 Test economy 26.6mpg 

18 December 2019 – Modes of conduct 

Even in a car built for hooning, as the Ford Focus ST is, my preference would be to leave it set in its default Normal driving mode most of the time, because it gives a more comfortable ride than the more aggressive Sport and Track modes – although ‘comfortable’ is a relative term here. However, so far I’m quite underwhelmed by the way the car behaves in that mode as you build up speed out of town, mainly due to the steering’s strong self-centring tendency. The effect is that the car always feels as though it’s trying to straighten itself up in corners, rather than darting eagerly towards apexes. 

Ford Focus 2019 ST Line X

Switch to Sport mode, though, and the ST is transformed. Although the steering weights up even more, the front end is far more eager to arrow into corners – quite aggressively, in fact – thanks to some torque vectoring trickery across the front axle. That’s much more what I was expecting of a car like this. 

The whole car feels much more alert and on its toes, too, with sharper engine response, slicker gearshifts (thanks to the excellent rev-matching feature that comes into play in Sport and Track modes) and a louder warble from the engine when you press the accelerator. You still have to put up with the steering tensing up and tugging on the wheel a little under hard acceleration, especially on the way out of corners, but the ST is nowhere near as unruly as some previous front-wheel-drive fast Fords, in part thanks to the traction-enhancing benefits of having an electronic limited-slip differential.

Ford Focus ST long term

The ST feels so much more agile and fun to drive in Sport mode that I’ve been making an effort to select it more often, as I’m sure most owners will do. Happily, there’s a shortcut button on the steering wheel that takes the car directly into this mode, rather than having to scroll through all four modes via the other selector button on the same side of the wheel. The inevitable downside is that the ride – which is firm and fairly jiggly even in Normal mode – becomes even more inclined to jostle you around in your seat over bumps. 

If I could wish for one thing for the ST, it would be a ‘bumpy road’ button for the suspension, allowing me to leave the main driving mode in Sport, with all the benefits that brings, but soften off the suspension to give a properly comfortable ride when required. It’s something that the likes of Alfa Romeo and Ferrari offer on many of their models, and it works brilliantly. Given that the ST has adaptive suspension anyway, how hard could it be to include such a switch? As it stands, the ST’s ride isn’t as compliant in Normal mode as that of the rival Honda Civic Type R in its Comfort setting. It’s acceptable, but I do find it tiresome at times, as do any passengers. 

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