The recent European market fortunes of the Ford Motor Company can be read in the generational development story of one of its great emblems of success: the evergreen Focus ST. This hot hatchback, now entering its fourth model generation, has been through a surprising amount of overhaul and change since the very first appeared in 2002; more, certainly, than most of its direct rivals.
Emerging as its maker got used to the success of its epoch-defining Focus Mk1, the first-generation ST170 sprang to our attention in 2002. It had a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, a pretty modest 170bhp and the aura of a car that was almost more upper-trim level than proper performance driving machine.
By the time the second generation came along in 2005, CEO Jacques Nasser’s Premium Automotive Group (comprising Ford-owned upmarket brands such as Aston Martin, Jaguar and Volvo) was at its height. That helps explain the car’s switch to an offbeat turbocharged five-cylinder Volvo engine, which delivered a sizeable power boost, up to 225bhp.
When generation number three was launched in 2012, globalist Alan Mulally was in the big chair; PAG was no more; the One Ford philosophy meant the Focus had the weight of the whole world on its shoulders; and the ST was back to four cylinders and 2.0 litres again – this time with a turbo and enough grunt to break through the 250bhp barrier.