Facelift time for the Ford Focus ST, and a successful one at that; less bulbous tail-lights at the rear and slimmer headlights and rectangular fogs at the front help the ST lose some of its blobbiness and appear wider, squatter and generally a bit meaner. Nice work.
There’s something new on the engine menu, too: a diesel.
A diesel? Is the Ford Focus ST going soft?
It’s just taking advantage of an open sales goal. Ford expects sales of the refreshed ST to be split a clean 50:50 between the new diesel and the familiar 2.0-litre Ecoboost petrol. Significantly, both diesel and petrol Focus STs carry identical price tags.
There’s plenty of demand out there for fast diesels, with the derv ST’s most obvious rivals the VW Golf GTD and Skoda Octavia vRS TDI.
Tell me about this new Ford Focus ST diesel engine
It’s a development of the 148bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder TDCi found elsewhere in the renewed Focus range, with a different air intake system, freer-breathing exhaust and some electronic tweakery pooling their efforts to lift power to 182bhp (same as the VW GTD and Skoda vRS). Just as significantly, there’s a burly 295lb ft of torque (30lb ft more than the petrol, and 15lb ft more than the GTD and vRS).
Like the petrol engine, it runs through a snappy six-speed manual gearbox but with a different set of ratios to make the most of its power delivery.
Mid-range, it’ll outpunch the petrol, getting from 50-75mph in top gear 2.2 seconds quicker. Numbers aside, it does feel fast, make no mistake, and flexible. It comes on boost and begins to deliver that huge slug of torque from around 1500rpm, so it’s easy to keep it in the power band but, typically for a diesel, you can only ride that wave for a short time before you’ll need to change up.
That aside, you could easily convince your passengers it’s a petrol, especially as there’s no separate badge on the boot to distinguish it from a green-pump ST. In the cabin there’s no gargly diesel grumble, just a smooth, moderately bassy engine note.
Can the front end cope with all that torque?
In the dry, just about. In the wet, not really. It’s easy to spin the front wheels if you’re greedy with the throttle but generally on dry roads the ST’s tyres (Goodyears on the standard 18-inch wheels, Michelins on the optional 19s – we’d take the latter) manage to find reasonable purchase out of slow corners, only occasionally smearing wide.
In the wet, though, unless you tread the throttle with a lighter touch than a bomb disposal expert the front begins to sidestep, and if you’re the slightest bit heavy-footed it’s wheelspin and driveshaft judder aplenty. And that’s with the traction and stability control switched firmly on, let alone in the new halfway-off Sport Mode.
Ford has reconfigured the ST’s torque vectoring electronics, which attempt to mimic the behaviour of a limited-slip diff by varying the amount of force sent to either wheel, and there’s less tugging at the wheel than before under power, though it is still keen to follow cambers.
It’s a shame it struggles to put its power down on greasy roads, because otherwise there’s very little wrong with the way the ST corners. It turns in crisply, there’s not a hint of flex in the body and there’s more feel through the wheel than ever. Recalibrated electric power steering and stiffer suspension bushes and new springs at the front have all paid dividends.
Has the Focus's interior improved?
Yes, greatly. The centre console’s no longer scattergunned with confusingly identical looking buttons and there’s an eight-inch colour touchscreen to replace the disproportionately tiny Gameboy-graphics monitor of before.
The seats are still heavily bolstered Recaros, available with a choice of vibrant/gaudy colour inserts to match the exterior.
Click here to read about the 2015 Ford Focus facelift across the range.
Far from diluting the Ford Focus ST range, the TDCi is a worthy addition. With huge torque reserves, impressively flexible power delivery and a complete absence of grumbly diesel noise, it’s a great engine.
The petrol’s still the faster and far more rewarding choice, with a wider power band and access to higher revs making it more malleable to the road and the driver, even if Ford’s figures suggest it’ll travel 25 fewer miles for every gallon than the diesel. But for high motorway milers and company car drivers with a sense of humour (a 110g/km CO2 output makes for a competitively low tax banding), this car has plenty to offer.
Prices are identical for both petrol and diesel models, starting at £22,195 and stretching to £25,995 for the top ST3 trim, which seems like conspicuously good value. Just remember to wear your ballet shoes when it rains.