Review: Ford Focus ST (2012 – 2015)
Fitted with impressive 250PS EcoBoost engine. Available as a hatchback or an estate. Great value for money compared to other hot hatches.
Despite 'symposer', engine may be too quiet for some hot hatch fans. Engine can develop a wiring problem.
Ford Focus ST (2012 – 2015): At A Glance
Ford’s ST brand has come a long way over the last 12 years, slowly transforming the humble Focus into a potent hot hatch that harks back to the fast Fords of the 1980s. Now in its third generation, the Focus ST is faster, lighter and more economical than ever before.
As you’d expect, the latest ST is very different from the standard Focus, with a lowered chassis (10mm) and a new front and rear end. Ford further enhanced the exterior with a light facelift in 2015, which enlarged the grille and slimmed down the front and rear lights.
Muscular rocker panels and a large rear spoiler define the shape of the car, while a hexagonal mesh grille and LED lights complete the hot hatch appearance. Inside the changes are more subtle, with Recaro sports seats, leather gear knob and ST stitching.
The interior was given a through refresh in 2015 and the button heavy dashboard was replaced with a clean, clutter free design. The steering wheel was also improved, with easier to use on-board buttons and improved finger grips.
Under the bonnet the old Volvo derived 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine has been ditched in in favour of Ford’s 2.0-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder unit. Power is an impressive 250PS, which brings the 0-62mph down to a Golf GTI matching 6.5 seconds.
Ford has also improved fuel efficiency, with the new engine returning a claimed 39.2mpg and emitting 169g/km of CO2. Ford’s in-house Team RS has also worked on the car, re-designing the air intake and exhaust systems and using a clever engine calibration to deliver a notable 360Nm of torque.
From 2015, the Focus ST gets a diesel engine for the first time, with a turbochargd 2.0-litre engine producing 185PS and 400Nm of torque. Although lacking the punch of its EcoBoost counterpart, the diesel unit will return a claimed 67.3mpg, while emitting just 110g/km of CO2.
Power is delivered to the front-wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox, which has been optimised with sporting ratios carefully matched to the performance characteristics of the engine.
The demons of torque steer are (partly) contained with the use of an electronic compensator, which feeds back into the power steering to counter any disruption in the handling. Sports suspension and high performance brakes also come as standard.
Available as a five-door hatch or estate, there are three trims to choose from – ST1, ST2 or ST3 – and the top spec models feature heated seats, xenon highlights and dual-zone air con. Ford also offers a range of unique paint schemes for the ST, which range from the traditional racing blue to the extravagant bright orange Tangerine Scream.
What does a Ford Focus ST (2012 – 2015) cost?
Ford Focus ST (2012 – 2015): What's It Like Inside?
The ST’s cabin architecture follows closely with that of the top spec Focus, with a high quality feel and finish throughout. The dashboard features soft touch materials and there are plenty of smooth lines and curves to please the eye. The digital display on the dash top adds to the upmarket feel and all of the buttons and knobs feel like they’ve been put together with some purpose.
To inject some sporty razzmatazz, Ford has added a leather gear knob, alloy pedals and a scattering of ST logos; it’s an understated approach to a hot hatch interior, but one that works in our view.
There’s also a set of Recaro sports seats, which are comfortable and offer plenty of support. If you specify the mid-level ST2 trim the seats get upgraded to partial leather, while ST3 buyers get the full leather Recaro treatment in the front and back.
As with much of the ST interior, the dashboard and steering wheel are almost identical to the standard Focus, with an intelligent layout and a set of easy to read dials. The ST does get an additional instrument cluster on top of the dash to show turbo boost, oil pressure and oil temperature though, which is good for hot hatch enthusiasts, but will be little more than a novelty for most other drivers.
A Sony infotainment system is fitted as standard on ST2 and ST3 models, with steering wheel mounted controls and voice activated commands, along with navigation and Bluetooth connectivity. All of the systems are simple to understand and we had little trouble connecting our MP3 player and mobile phone, although Sony's scattergun approach to button layout leaves a lot to be desired as it clutters up the overall impression of the dashboard.
The 2015 update saw Ford reduce the number of buttons on the dash board, which gives the Focus ST interior a cleaner, clutter free appearance. Improvements were also made the seating material and interior trim, although quality isn't as high as you would expect at this level. For example, on our test car, the seats rubbed against the centre arm rest and we also noticed a few rattles, with loose bit of plastic.
Like the standard model, the ST has an abundance of space and it’ll happily accommodate four adults or double up as transport for the school run. It also boasts plenty of luggage space, with 316 litres in the hatchback and 476 litres for the estate version, which will cope with everything a family can throw at it. The boot floor is practical and accessible, with a square boot floor with a wide opening with a small lip, which makes loading and unloading easy. The back seats fold down really easily too, which again adds to the ST's practical nature.
Child seats that fit a Ford Focus ST (2012 – 2015)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Ford Focus ST (2012 – 2015) like to drive?
- Readers report Real MPG to be between 23–37 mpg
The Focus ST has two engines to choose from - a 2.0 EcoBoost petrol with 250PS or a 2.0 turbodiesel, with 185PS.
The 2.0 EcoBoost engine is a big improvement over the previous Volvo sourced 2.5-litre powerplant, which would provide great speed, but drink fuel in equal amounts. In comparison, the EcoBoost is much more frugal; returning almost 10mpg more, which isn’t bad when you consider it is more powerful than the outgoing five-cylinder engine. On the road the Focus ST gives a quick and spirited drive. The 0-62mph sprint takes 6.5 seconds and the ST will easily exceed 150mph, if unchecked.
However, for all its plaudits, the EcoBoost engine is a lot quieter than the old 2.5-litre unit and lacks the throaty revs that gave the old car so much character. That said the four-cylinder engine is smooth and refined, with a nice turbo flow and 360Nm of torque. Most of the power comes through in the mid-rev range, but there’s also plenty of low-level torque, with the Focus ST happy to sit in high gears in town without objection.
The 2.0 TDCI has les power, but boasts more torque, with 400Nm compared to the EcoBoost’s 360Nm. Economy is also better for the diesel, with a claimed 67.3mpg and 110g/km of CO2, which lowers the Focus ST's BiK rate by a considerable margin.
However, the 185PS diesel is considerably slower than the 250PS EcoBoost, which means the 0-62mph sprint takes 8.1 seconds. Power is also limited, with the torque expiring around 4000rpm, which means the six-speed 'box needs considerable work. Thankfully, the ST's nimble handling remains, which means the driver gets a meaningful connection with what's happening between the wheels and the road.
Unlike some rivals - the Vauxhall Astra VXR and Renault Megane Renaultsport - the Ford doesn’t have a limited slip differential. Instead the Focus ST uses an electronic compensator, which feeds back into the power steering to counter any torque steer.
Obviously, forcing up to 250PS into the front wheels is going to present some handling issues, but for the most part the electronic system copes well and it’ll take a fair amount of abuse in the corners before it’ll give up its hold of the road.
The upgraded sports suspension stiffens the ride, but doesn't make it overly harsh and even heavy potholes can be skipped over in relative comfort. We took our test car on a number of long trips and were impressed with its manners and refinement.
Admittedly, things get a tad hairy on wet or slippery surfaces and you'll need your wits about you if want to drive hard and stay out of trouble. The Focus ST isn’t best suited to winter roads and we found ourselves fighting the wheel to keep control under hard acceleration, in both the petrol and diesel versions. Clearly this car has some issues with torque steer and its limitations are magnified when the going gets tough, with a wet drain cover or puddle all that's needed to jolt the front wheels off their indented course.
For some drivers the viscous levels of torque steer will be a bit too much - especially in the wet - but we actually enjoyed the experience. In our view, hot hatches should be a lively and fun experience and the Focus ST provides this by the bucket load.
|2.0T EcoBoost 250||39 mpg||6.5 s||169 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Ford Focus ST (2012 – 2015)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
What have we been asked about the Ford Focus ST (2012 – 2015)?
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My Ford Focus ST needs an expensive repair for a known issue - can I claim the money from Ford?
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