What is it?
All the recent headlines on the Ford Focus ST have gone to the new diesel model, an addition to the hot hatch’s line-up as part of some comprehensive mid-life changes. But the staple petrol model has been revised, too, and this is our first chance to drive it on UK roads, albeit in European left-hand drive spec.
The powertrain is the same as before, meaning a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit with 247bhp and a hefty 266lb ft (on overboost), hooked up to a short-throw six-speed manual gearbox. An automatic engine stop-start system is a new addition, though. This reduces CO2 emissions to 159g/km and improves combined fuel economy to a claimed 41.5mpg.
Elsewhere, the changes are more significant. You can spot the visual alterations inside and out, including more aggressive exterior styling and bodykit, optional new 19in alloy wheels and a (thankfully) simplified interior that sheds a load of buttons in favour of a new infotainment system called Sync2 and adopts a handsome-looking new steering wheel.
The really interesting changes, though, are to the car's dynamics. The chap who led the development of the car at Ford reckons the changes should make the car “more enjoyable and rewarding to drive” and “more responsive, balanced and refined”.
To that end, the front-end body structure has been stiffened, new front springs have been fitted along, there's a sportier tune for the dampers front and rear and the bushes have been stiffened up. The electrically assisted steering system has also been retuned to match the modifications.
However, the Focus ST still does without a proper limited-slip diff, or indeed the torque steer-reducing RevoKnuckle front suspension system from the Focus RS Mk2, instead relying on electronic trickery through systems such as Electronic Torque Vectoring Control and a new Electronic Transitional Stability function built into the stability control system that predicts when a skid or loss of control is about to occur and brakes individual wheels as required.