► CAR magazine's first Focus ST Ecoboost test
► Driven here in more practical estate guise
► Petrol and diesel ST models cost same in UK
All eyes were on the new diesel TDCi model at the facelifted Ford Focus ST launch, leaving the trusty petrol Ecoboost-engined version somewhat overlooked. Make no mistake though, the green-pump ST is the more rewarding car to drive.
What’s more, the myriad improvements made to the ST as part of the facelift have quietly turned it from something of a rough diamond into a far more cohesive, well-rounded package. It’s still not perfect, but it is now a very good car indeed.
Click here to read CAR's long-term test of the pre-2015 Ford Focus ST.
What’s new on the 2015 Ford Focus ST?
Apart from the facelifted exterior, transforming the ST from bulbous to chiselled, there’s also a vastly improved interior. Whereas previously the centre console was a mess of poorly labelled controls surrounding a disproportionately tiny screen, it’s now entirely usable.
An eight-inch colour touchscreen takes the place of the black and white postage stamp of old and the controls are at-a-glance logical. Despite plenty of hard plastics, fit and finish is fine and there’s generally less of a whiff of Halfords about the ST’s cabin than before, gaudy (but comfy) Recaro seats notwithstanding.
Any chassis updates?
Yes, the electric power steering’s been recalibrated, there are new springs at the front and the suspension bushes are stiffer, so there’s still that pointy, eager turn-in but the steering’s more feelsome and responsive through the rest of the corner too.
There are new damper settings front and rear, while the same ST-specific anti-roll bars and rear springs from before have been retained.
Ford’s also recalibrated the torque vectoring system, which attempts to replicate a limited-slip diff by gently braking the inside front wheel and sending more torque to its opposite number as a result. It’s a system that works to impressive effect on the Fiesta ST, but could charitably be described as a little hit and miss on the pre-update Focus ST, which was subject to hilarious torque steer under power.
Is the 2015 Focus ST still a bit of a handful?
It is, but it’s better than before. Although there’s still tyre-frying wheelspin on tap if you’re greedy with the throttle (even with all the traction control systems switched on) it’s easier to modulate the power than before and though torque steer’s still very much present, the steering doesn’t tug this way and that as haphazardly as before. The nose is still very keen to follow cambers though, so it pays to keep a firm grip on the wheel on uneven roads.
We were driving the Estate version, which felt every bit as nimble as the hatch, with which it shares an identical wheelbase.
How is the petrol ST better to drive than the diesel?
Firstly, it’s more flexible. Although the diesel offers an extra 30lb ft of torque, and according to the stopwatch actually offers quicker acceleration from 50-75mph in top gear, it quickly runs out of revs and suffers more lag from low revs. On roads where you’d be constantly shifting between third and fourth in the diesel, you can leave the Ecoboost in third and enjoy its appetite for revs.
Although, like the diesel, it does have some difficulty putting its power down in the wet, the petrol engine’s less blunt torque delivery makes it easier to modulate the throttle and drive around the issue.
What’s more, it feels hugely quick. Power and torque is no different from the pre-update ST (247bhp, 265lb ft), although Tyrone Johnson, the Ford Performance division’s Vehicle Engineering Manager says every engine they’ve had on the bench has exceeded 260PS (257bhp). It gathers pace at a extraordinary rate (top speed is in excess of 150mph, remember) and makes a nice warbly sound as it does so.
Previously the ST used a sound chamber to amplify its induction noise, which sounded something like a phlegmy rottweiler hidden inside the dashboard. This time Ford’s enhanced the engine noise via the speakers (based on inputs from the engine and existing cabin noise rather than a synthesized sound file), and it makes a more subdued but less abrupt and generally nicer sound as a result.
Lots of small updates have added up to a big step forward for the Ford Focus ST. It’s nicer to sit in, handles more sharply, doesn’t make a silly noise anymore and is slightly less likely to break your wrists with torque steer. Both petrol and diesel variants carry an identical price tag at launch (and look identical from the outside – there’s no way of telling which one’s which) – but drivers in the Ecoboost will have more fun.
Click here to read the 2015 Ford Focus ST diesel review