ST is the first front-wheel drive Ford to have an electronic limited-slip differential

ST is the first front-wheel drive Ford to have an electronic limited-slip differential

Market leader Ford says it will be boosting the appeal of the Focus this year within a 48V mild hybrid petrol powertrain. No doubt the C02 number will be good but will there be as much combined vim and sensibility as can be found in the ST 2.0-litre diesel, surely the best Focus yet?

Unusually, Ford gave us a choice of engines when it announced the C519 shape Focus ST. Not only that but there are four versions, the car being available as a five-door hatchback or an estate. Go for the 2.3-litre petrol EcoBoost and there's 280PS and 420Nm with the 2.0 EcoBlue's outputs being 190PS and 400Nm, making this the most powerful diesel yet offered in a Focus.

Even though the torque numbers ought to be way too much for cars which have drive going to only one axle, a BorgWarner electronic limited-slip differential does a first rate job of eliminating tyre-slip. Other driveline features include rev-matching for the six-speed manual gearbox while a seven-speed automatic is also available. Ford engineers also tweaked the electric power steering system, making it 15 per cent faster than the standard Focus, which means it requires just two turns lock-to-lock.

The diesel estate, which I put to the test over several days and multiple hundred miles, will reach 62mph in 7.7 seconds with the manual transmission, and top speed is 137mph. It also looks the part, coming as standard with special 19-inch Magnetite finish wheels, (optional) red brake calipers, unique upper and lower blacked-out grilles, some subtle body kit aero add-ons and a tailgate spoiler.

The changes made to the interior aren't major, yet combined, are effective at lending the ST a near-premium feel. They include Recaro front seats, a soft-feel black headliner, alloy pedals, dark glass for the back windows and a B&O sound system with ten speakers. The touchscreen is eight inches in diameter and features Ford's Sync 3 system, there is heating for the sports steering wheel, and raining sensing wipers which work extremely well. Ford should also be congratulated for specifying a space saver spare tyre as standard rather than the dreaded tube of sealant.

One interesting statistic is the fact that the diesel engine produces ten per cent more power and has in excess of double the torque output of the first generation Focus ST's 2.0-litre Duratec petrol engine. I know we should all be moving towards zero tailpipe emissions powertrains but it seems to me that most diesels only keep improving and this one is a great example of that feeling.

The EcoBlue engine could well the engine of choice in the ST, so convincing is the mix of acceleration (with a decent exhaust note too) and economy. Officially, you can get in excess of 50mpg but even pushing the car fairly hard, 40+mpg is easily achievable. The combination of that quick steering rack, firmer suspension, torque vectoring (reduces understeer by applying brake force to the inside front wheel when cornering), Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, and grippy seats make for what must surely be one of the best family estates on the market. And it's not even that expensive either.

Focus - number one in segment again

Ford of Britain scored a one-two in the January new vehicle market, the Fiesta taking the top slot with 6,087 sales to the Focus' 5,287. And while the Golf might have outsold what had been Britain's favourite C segment model in 2019 (58,994 deliveries compared to 56,619 for the Focus), the tables were turned on Volkswagen in January with the Focus back as segment leader. How long that will last is anyone's guess, with the Mercedes A-Class also a strong player in this size class and of course the new Golf not being too far away.    

The Ford Focus ST 2.0-litre EcoBlue estate six-speed manual costs from GBP30,695, has a C02 average 125g/km with official worst and best fuel consumption being 42.2 and 56.5mpg. Selected available options include head-up display (GBP400), wireless phone charger (GBP100), hands-free tailgate (GBP450) and an opening glass roof (GBP800). The boot's capacity is 1,653 litres.

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