Ford’s hot hatch with a Volvo 2.5l engine.
Ford has trumped its European rivals in the hot hatch business by digging out the Volvo five-cylinder 2.5 litre engine and putting it in the new Ford Focus ST. To give the engine the oomph you need for a hot hatch, Ford has added a turbocharger and some cool mapping to give 225 bhp at 6,100 rpm, and 236 lb ft (320 Nm) at 1,600 rpm
Not only is that a huge amount of torque to push through the front wheels, but peak torque at 1,600 rpm means the engine should pull the fairly light Focus away promptly at any speed you like – and keep going to over 6,000 rpm. The engine is now called a Duratec unit. It is a modern design with aluminum cylinder block and head and four valves per cylinder. With 225 bhp from 2.5 litres the engine won’t be overstressed.
As you’d expect, the power is transmitted through a six-speed manual box, but remember this engine and gearbox are mounted across the body, so a good deal of shoehorning must have been needed to get it all in – five-cylinders are longer than four, and six-speed boxes take up quite a bit of room, too.
Ford claims a top speed of 150 mph and a 0-60 mph time of 6.5 seconds, which is not bad for this type of car – actually a bit quicker than its obvious rivals
The Ford Focus ST is one sleek and sexy hatch. Everything is "just right" with the design. If the low stance, aggressive front fascia and sweeping lines don’t tip you off to the ST’s performance, perhaps the bulging fenders and massive 18x8-inch wheels will.
Ford claims that with the wide spread of power and better handling, the ST can lap the Nurburgring 10 seconds faster than the excellent Focus RS, which is no mean achievement. Whether it matches the RS on other roads remains to be seen, but the Nurburgring is becoming the benchmark for the car industry these days, with most makers claiming their cars are very fast round that very tough circuit.
The interior is unique to ST, with a new instrument panel with separate minor instruments in the top of the fascia. The three-spoke wheel and gear lever look the part, too. More important to keeping you in control when you’re cornering fast are the Recaro sports seats with plenty of lateral support.
The base model comes without stability control or traction control, and so is likely to appeal to real enthusiasts, but these features are included in the two more expensive versions. The base model will also be lighter.
How does the Focus ST stack up against its rivals? It is the most powerful except for the Astra VXR which has 240 bhp from its turbo engine. Even so, the Focus ST should outperform the Astra VXR, Golf GTI and Renault Megane 225 – but only by a whisker.
It is also the lightest of these. It weighs 168 lb less than the Astra, 84 lb less than the Megane 225 and 42 lb less than the Golf. Whether the Focus ST is a better car to drive will depend on the handling and steering, and whether the weight of that five-cylinder engine up front will allow it to handle well in all conditions.