You may remember that I tested the new Focus ST in its petrol form, and it was jolly good. After reluctantly handing that back to Ford, I was given the keys for the diesel version. Yes, that’s right, there’s a diesel version. Just like the last generation of Ford’s spicy family hatchback, the Mk4 is available as a petrol and a diesel. Is the diesel worth having, though?
Most powerful yet
I think a good place to start is with the engine itself. The previous diesel Focus ST used a 2.0 litre four cylinder Duratec unit, whereas the new car features a 2.0 litre four cylinder EcoBlue unit. The displacement and cylinder count may be the same, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. You see, this engine delivers 10% more power and twice as much torque!
Speaking of which, it’s about time I give you the figures. This brawny diesel offers 190hp along with 400Nm, or 295 lb ft if you prefer the old method. Of course, this isn’t as quick as the petrol version, but it’s not what you’d call slow with a 0-62 time of 7.6 seconds. Top speed? That’s 137mph, which is bound to plenty day-to-day.
This engine sends its power to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox, there’s no option for the 7-speed automatic like the petrol version. The diesel variant also doesn’t get the fancy electronic limited slip differential, but it does get Torque Vectoring as standard. That’s all good and well, but how does it actually drive? Let’s find out.
An Orange Fury express
As I said, this isn’t as fast as the petrol version, but thanks to the 400Nm, it’s still brawny enough, and it pulls like a train – sorry for the cliche comment. The EcoBlue engine doesn’t get the techy anti-lag system like the petrol, but that’s not to say the Ford Performance team have been half-arsed with this car.
No, in fact, they have been rather busy. This engine features a low-inertia variable geometry turbocharger; steel pistons for less expansion when hot; and an integrated intake system with innovative mirror-image porting for optimised combustion. That’s good. The engine sounds pretty good as well, but you don’t get the same pops and crackles as you get from the petrol, which I must admit, I do miss.
Thankfully, I have the same slick-shifting manual gearbox, which Fords states has a 7% shorter throw compared to a standard Focus model. Like the petrol version, the controls feel chunky and firm, but never too heavy. This feels like a performance car, but more importantly, a performance car you can drive everyday.
Speaking everyday drivability….
If you want to make your Focus ST diesel even more usable for everyday, you can select the Performance Pack on the options list. You may wonder how on Earth a pack with the word ‘Performance’ can make the car more liveable, but that’s because within said pack, there’s a feature called Continuously Controlled Damping.
This feature is able to monitor the suspension, steering, and braking inputs every two seconds to adjust the damping on a continuous basis. It also works alongside the driving modes, so in Slippery and Normal you’ll find that the ride is firm, but compliant, whereas in Sport mode, it’s firm and erm, jiggly.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention, there’s a Track mode, but only if you go for the Performance Pack. As well as the Track mode and the CCD, this pack also gives multi-colour ambient light and a shift indicator. In case you’re wondering, this is an £800 option. Speaking of the shift indicator, one thing I don’t like so much about the diesel version is how quickly you hit the electronic rev limiter, which I find a little restrictive for my liking, but this is a diesel after all.
Enough about the engine, what about the handling?
The handling, as you would expect from a Fast Ford, is right on the money. Yes, I won’t lie, I can notice the absence of the petrol version’s electronic limited slip differential, but that’s not to say this car understeers to the point where the steering wheel feels like it’s connected to thin air.
Through the corners the ST feels sure footed, the grip is fantastic from the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres and the brakes feel assured. The steering has a lovely weight to it, and this setup is actually the fastest steering response of any Ford, and is able to steer 15% faster than a standard Focus, requiring just two turns from lock-to-lock.
Going back to the lack of eLSD, as mentioned earlier, the ST does get Torque Vectoring, which does a similar kind of job, but just not quite as effective. The eLSD uses clever sensors and hydraulic clutches, whereas the Torque Vectoring simply brakes the inside front wheel when cornering to reduce understeer and improve handling. It does a decent enough job to keep the car in check, but it simply cannot match the capability of that fantastic eLSD.
Have your cake and eat it
One of the joys of the diesel ST is that you get a healthy dollop of performance, yet you still get some decent economy to go with it. The petrol version offers 34.4mpg, but the diesel offers 50.4. This means on a tank you could get up to 130 miles more with the diesel compared to the petrol. In regard to CO2 emissions the petrol version offers 179g/km, whereas the diesel offers 125g/km.
Not only is it frugal, but it’s practical
The ST is based on a standard Focus, so you get a car that’s not only fast, but practical as well, which can be a difficult combination to have sometimes. The boot is exactly as you would get on a standard Focus, meaning there’s 375 litres to play with, which should be plenty for most, but in case you want more, the 60/40 rear seats can be folded down to liberate 1,354 litres.
Like other Focus models, the boot is practical, offering features such as a 12v socket, storage under the boot floor, levers to fold down the rear seats with ease, and handy hooks to hang shopping bags on to.
Move in to the rear and you’re likely to find there’s a good amount of room, even if you happen to be sat behind a driver’s seat that’s been altered for someone that tall – I’m 6’2″. As you can see, I’ve got a good amount of knee room and legroom, and headroom isn’t too shabby especially when you consider this model has the optional panoramic roof.
You could potentially get three adults in here, although it may be a little bit tight for the middle passenger. However, if you only have one or two in the back, they’ll be able to make use of the centre armrest for better comfort, plus there’s two cupholders in there. The doorbins are also able to take a bottle, there’s netted storage on the back of the front seats, and there is a 12v socket so those in back can charge their smartphones on the go.
Step in to the front and you’ll find it’s just as practical as the rear of the car. The doorbins are of a good size, there are plenty of cubbyholes dotted about, and it’s very easy to make yourself comfortable as the steering wheel has a good level of adjustment, and the front seats are 6-way electronically adjustable.
How much does it cost?
As well as better economy, one of the advantages of going for the diesel ST over the petrol one is the cost. The diesel variant is on the right side of £30,000, with a starting price of £29,495. Unlike the old ST, the new one has the choice of just one trim level, which has pushed the price up, but you do get a lot as standard.
ST features include 19″ alloys, ST styling, adaptive LED headlights, LED rear lights, Recaro sport seats, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, 8″ touchscreen, DAB radio, Bluetooth, navigation, smartphone connectivity, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, keyless entry, B&O sound system as well as a good host of safety features, which I’ll speak about a little later.
Does it sound good, given the ST trim level?
It sounds ok for a diesel, but if you want your ST to please your eardrums then you’ll definitely want to have a look at the petrol version.
Do you prefer the petrol version or the diesel?
Do you really need to ask that?!
Safe as well as fast and frugal
As I mentioned earlier, the ST comes with a good host of safety features, including six airbags, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane centering assist. All these combined have seen the Focus awarded with a 5 star rating from Euro NCAP.
The diesel version of the ST is not the one I’d have, but I can see the appeal it has, and I admire Ford for offering such an option in a climate where car manufacturers are moving away from this fuel. I also admire Ford for offering such an engine for a hot hatch, which you don’t see very often.
The petrol version is still the one to have to truly appreciate what the ST has to offer, but the diesel proves you can have a performance hatchback without breaking the bank, and that is what a hot hatchback should be all about isn’t it?
Car Obsession Rating: (4 / 5)
- More frugal than petrol version (obviously)
- Good all-rounder
- Pretty comfortable with the CCD option
- Looks great
- Lots of kit as standard
- Great handling
- Not as exciting as the petrol
- Not the ‘true’ ST experience
- A bit pricey
- Rev limiter cuts in too early
Volkswagen Golf GTD
The Golf GTD is the most obvious rival for the Focus ST diesel, as there aren’t that many diesel powered hot hatches on the market, and for good reason. The new GTD has recently been released and like the Focus ST, it has the most powerful diesel in the brand’s history. It beats the Focus by10hp and it looks to be faster to 62mph. There is a downside, though, it can only be had with an automatic gearbox.