First Drive Ford Focus ST

A petrol engined Focus ST in Tangerine Scream stimulates the senses, but the diesel-engined ST has broader appeal

A petrol engined Focus ST in Tangerine Scream stimulates the senses, but the diesel-engined ST has broader appeal

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FOR almost as long as there have been Fords, there have been fast Fords.

Turbocharged fast Fords, fuel-injected fast Fords, V8 fast Fords, fast Fords tuned by Lotus, fast Fords tuned by Cosworth… but a fast Ford with a four-cylinder diesel engine? That’s a step too far, surely.

Well brace yourselves, blue oval fans, for Ford’s current fieriest Focus, the ST, has been given a new look for 2015 and, more significantly, a diesel engine option. The potent 247bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol motor is carried over from the previous model, but thrifty thrillseekers can now shop for an ST with a 182bhp two-litre turbodiesel that’s theoretically capable of 67mpg if you resist putting Ford’s claims of an 8.1-second 0-62mph time and 135 top speed to the test.

That’s fast… ish. The petrol car is 1.5 seconds quicker to 62 and keeps going all the way to 154mph, but with a 25mpg penalty. There’s no telling the petrol and diesel cars apart without starting the engine or peeking inside the fuel filler cap. For 2015, the Focus sports revisions to the headlights, grille, tail lights and back bumper, and the option of Stealth Grey paint. Alloy wheels are 18-inch as standard, or 19-inch if taste and budget allow.

Inside, there’s space for four adults – five at a squeeze – and the boot’s pretty generous too. Ford’s latest full-colour eight-inch touchscreen media interface not only replaces the Focus’ tiny monotone screen of old, but it also gets rid of much of the clutter that made the last ST’s dashboard a bit of an eyesore. In rigorous testing, its voice-activated sync commands responded well to Scotsman Motoring’s array of dreadful accents (Connolly, Connery, Cockney and Neighbours-spec Australian).

The front seats, made by Recaro, are firm and figure-hugging and offer plenty of support when the going gets twisty. Talking of which, the car’s suspension and steering have been given a series of tweaks with the promise of making the ST an even sharper drive. There are new springs and firmer dampers for a stiffer front end. The steering wheel takes less than two turns to go from lock to lock.

So, petrol or diesel? There’s nothing subtle about the petrol ST, especially if you choose Tangerine Scream from the paint chart. On our rain-afflicted test route, it was all too eager to spin its front wheels, tugging the steering wheel this way and that when we pulled out to overtake a truck.

The diesel car, by comparison, seemed much happier in the damp. Power delivery was much smoother and the front of the car was less inclined to wander from the straight and narrow when we put the foot down. Engine noise is well suppressed. In fact, the diesel sounds a lot like its petrol sibling once you’re cruising along.

The ride in both cars is just on the right side of firm, and we couldn’t find much to choose one over the other in the handling stakes either. There’s plenty of cornering grip and both cars exhibit fine body control. The petrol engine’s snappy power delivery might induce a touch of understeer if you accelerate a bit too eagerly in mid-corner, but so too will the extra weight in the nose of the diesel car if you carry too much speed into a bend.

In typically Scottish conditions –tipping with rain and with a beady eye on the mpg readout – we’d opt for the diesel. You’ll miss some of the petrol car’s thrills, but your wallet and nerves will thank you for it.

The Focus ST range opens with the £22,195 ST-1 hatchback, but a lack of goodies means hardly anyone buys that one. Even its maker admits as much. The real interest starts with the ST-2, which adds half-leather seats and dual-zone climate control and will set you back £23,695. The £25,995 ST-3 gets full leather upholstery and the new touchscreen interface as standard.

VITAL STATS

Price from £22,195

Engine 2.0l, 4-cyl turbo petrol, 247bhp, 266lb ft, or
2.0l,4-cyl turbo diesel, 182bhp, 295lb ft

Transmission Six-speed manual

Performance Top speed 154/135mph, 0-62mph 6.5/8.1secs

Fuel economy 41.5/67.3mpg

CO2 emissions 159/110g per km

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