Ford is well under way developing an all-new, more engaging Mk4 Focus ST, and barely disguised prototypes have been spotted testing ahead of a planned early 2019 launch.
The latest generation of Ford's Volkswagen Golf GTI rival is set to ditch the old 2.0-litre engine for the proven 2.3-litre EcoBoost unit seeing service in the current Focus RS and Mustang. It'll be the last Focus ST to use a powertrain absent of hybrid technology.
The 2.3-litre unit will share a great deal of its internals with 345bhp Focus RS engine, but it will be detuned and adapted for use in the front-wheel drive ST. Since the next RS is due to kick-start hybrid power for Ford's hot models from 2020, the upcoming ST will also serve as the final chapter in pure combustion power for Focus hot hatches.
Ford is understood to have chosen the 2.3-litre powerplant, rather than a more powerful version of the 1.5-litre three-cylinder featured in the new Fiesta ST, because the smaller engine would have to be run close to its reliable limit in this guise. The Focus ST competes against the Renault Mégane RS and Peugeot 308 GTi, which come with 276bhp and 266bhp respectively.
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The 2.3-litre, on the other hand, which offers up to 370bhp in the Focus RS Red Edition, can be more practically tuned for the Focus ST. It's due to come mated exclusively to a six-speed manual gearbox, with no Powershift automatic option.
This change signals a clear driver focus for the new model, suggesting that the next Focus ST will be a more enthusiastic and playful car to drive. The latest Focus arrived in April with claims from Joe Bakaj, Ford of Europe’s vice president for product development, that it will offer “that fun-to-drive feel” earlier Focus models were famous for across the line-up. The ST will, of course, take this to the next level.
Styling will also be more subdued than present, too, with the latest development car showing that the Focus will get a more conventional twin-exhaust setup in place of the car’s current polygonal tailpipe.
The new Focus is also said to be 88kg lighter, like-for-like, than the old car, suggesting the ST could shed some kilos from the old car’s 1437kg figure. Its structure is claimed to be 20% more rigid, with a 50% improvement around the suspension elements, which should provide Ford engineers with the opportunity to improve the ST's agility without compromising ride quality. This has certainly been the case with the new Fiesta, which has received similar improvements over its predecessor.
Ford had planned to launch its next Focus ST at the end of 2018, but Autocar has learned that the Blue Oval brand has pushed back the car’s arrival into 2019. It’s expected to be revealed in the run up to the 2019 Geneva motor show, with a public debut at the March event. Sales should kick-off by next summer.
The Focus ST will remain the most potent version of the Focus on sale until the next-generation Focus RS arrives in 2020. As scooped by Autocar, that car will use a smaller 2.0-litre engine mated to a hybrid powerplant that’s based around 48V architecture to offer 400bhp.