Ford Focus ST (2008) review

Published:06 May 2008

Ford Focus ST (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

The Ford Focus ST is back, and the good news is that alongside new looks inside and out, the excellent dynamics remain unchanged. Ford has spent the mid-life nip/tuck money freshening up the visuals and left the chassis and engine alone.

That means the Focus ST still comes with a characterful turbocharged 2.5-litre five-pot producing 222bhp. Think of the Ford Focus ST as a hot hatch with a broader breadth of ability than our current champ, the all-or-nothing Honda Civic Type-R.

And if 222bhp isn't enough for you Ford will show a 90 percent production-ready prototype Focus RS on 22nd July 2008 at the London motor show.


Hang fire. The Ford Focus ST isn’t any different from before?

Dynamically no but that’s no reason to complain. We loved our old long-term ST for the simple fact it seemed perfectly suited to bumpy British B-roads. It was the consummate everyday hot hatch.

Start the Focus ST, via the new transmission tunnel-mounted ‘Ford Power’ button and you’re immediately met with a deep woofle. The downside of five turbocharged cylinders might be poor fuel consumption but as you burble along with a quiet whistle from under the bonnet when you put your foot, or an occasional pop from the exhaust when you lift, you just don’t care.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Ford Focus ST drive

What about when I really plant my foot?

Nail it and the Focus gets into its stride after 2000rpm with one big, linear surge. This engine feels big and solid, unstressed and easily capable of the 280bhp-plus it’ll produce in the RS. Even in 6th gear it has enough low down grunt (236lb ft from 1600-4100prm) to render downshifting on the motorway redundant.

Turn off the main roads and it’ll flow beautifully over the bumps with tight body control, yet never feel harsh over broken surfaces. The chassis is pretty much foolproof and the Focus ST has that typically Ford feel of supple damping and weighty, communicative steering.

So the drive is the same but what about the rest of the ST?

To these eyes the revised Ford Focus ST looks better. The headlights and sculpted nose is sharper and more dynamic and the overall look remains cohesive. And we’re also pleased to see new front and rear fog lights surrounds, doing away with the old car’s tacky platinum-esque surrounds.

Avoid ASBO orange, white or optional twin stripes and the Focus ST is subtle. Perhaps too subtle for some, and not on par with the smart looks of a Golf GTI either.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Ford Focus ST drive 

Is it at all different inside the ST?

Yes, but it’s in here that the ST is starting to feel a bit old, despite the Focus only having 2005 on its birth certificate. The main moulding for the dash is soft to touch but the rest of plastics are hard and uninspiring. There’s some faux carbonfibre trim and unless you cough up for the sat-nav it all looks a bit plain.

But the three extra dash-top dials are a nice touch, the six-speed manual is slick and the Recaro seats are excellent, if mounted a little high.

Verdict

If you want to drive flat out everywhere, or want to be goaded into driving flat out then the Honda Civic Type-R is the car for you.

But if you need brilliant cross-country covering ability and a perfect day-to-day package then you need a Focus ST or a VW Golf GTI. But you'll also need £20,825 to have the latter on your drive, whereas the Ford can be yours for £18,250. Plus you get a more characterful engine. 

Specs

Price when new: £20,850
On sale in the UK:
Engine: 2522cc 20v 5-cyl turbo petrol, 222bhp @ 6000rpm, 236lb ft @1600-4000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 6.8secs 0-62mph, 150mph, 30.4mpg, 224g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1437kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4357/1839/1497

Rivals

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Photo Gallery

  • Ford Focus ST facelift drive: rear-three quarter photo
  • Ford Focus ST facelift drive: interior photo

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

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