The Blue Oval is testing a new hot-hatch and we think it will be called the ST280

After many years of rumors and speculation, the Ford Focus RS returned for the 2016 model year with a Mustang-sourced engine under the hood and all-wheel drive. Back in showrooms after five years, the RS came to the U.S. with a whopping 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet to become the range-topping Focus model as well as the most powerful factory-built hatchback. With the lineup seemingly complete, the third-gen Focus looked set to carry on unchanged for a few years, but it appears that Ford has even bigger plans for the compact in the form of yet another performance oriented model.

Our trusty paparazzi recently spotted a Focus ST driving on the roads close to the Nurburgring track, but the performance-oriented hatchback isn’t exactly the standard ST model. The vehicle uses a revised aerodynamic body and since the company already received its mid-cycle facelift, it’s safe to assume that Ford is preparing a new version of the hatch, most likely a more powerful ST to bridge the gap between the standard ST and the top-line RS. With the two rated at 252 and 350 horsepower, respectively, there’s plenty of room for a sportier version of the former. And, with Ford having already launched the Fiesta ST200 to sit above the ST, there’s a good business case for a Focus with nearly 300 horses.

We have no idea when this new hatchback will break cover, but based on the fact that prototypes are already being tested, we should see it in the metal by the end of the year. The 2016 Paris Motor Show in October seems like the perfect event for such a car, but Ford could also opt to unveil it outside a major auto show. We also don’t know the name it will carry, but it should use the same naming scheme as the Fiesta ST200. Specifically, the ST will most likely be followed by the horsepower figure in PS. Our best guess is that it will be launched as the ST280.

We should find out more about this hatch in the upcoming months. Until then, have a closer look at our speculative review to find out what it could bring to the table.

Continue reading to learn more about the upcoming Ford Focus ST280.

Exterior

2017 Ford Focus ST280 Exterior Spyshots
- image 673144
Ford is testing a new aerodynamic kit that includes a thin splitter at the bottom of the bumper and a pair of winglets at each front corner

The prototype in the images above is pretty much a standard ST with a stripe option at first glance, but a closer look reveals that Ford is testing a new aerodynamic kit that includes a thin splitter at the bottom of the bumper and a pair of winglets at each front corner. The latter are particularly interesting for a road car, as these features are usually seen on rally-spec vehicles, but it’s not yet clear whether the production version will have them or not. Other than that, every body panel and design element is as standard as they get. We expect the rear section to gain a new roof spoiler and a revised bumper, but these features will probably find their way on the car at a later date. The exterior should be rounded off by a set of new wheels that feature an exclusive design and lighter alloy material.

Interior

Our paparazzi weren’t able to take closeups of the car’s interior, but it’s safe to assume that the cabin configuration will be identical to the ST and maybe receive a few extra goodies to justify the higher price tag. We wouldn’t be surprised to see features similar to those added in the ST200, such as the Charcoal leather upholstery for the Recaro seats, illuminated scuff plates, redesigned door panels with repositioned pull handles and mirror controls, and new badges. Again, we don’t know the exact name of this car, but if our assumption proves to be correct, look for an "ST280" badge on the center console.

Drivetrain

2017 Ford Focus ST280 Exterior Spyshots
- image 673147
The uprated hatchback should use the same 2.0-liter EcoBoost as the Focus ST, but the four-banger will send more oomph to the front wheels

The uprated hatchback should use the same 2.0-liter EcoBoost as the Focus ST, but the four-banger will send more oomph to the front wheels. Revised internals should increase output by at least 20 horsepower in order to bridge the gap between the 252-horsepower ST and the 350-horsepower RS. As previously mentioned, we expect this hatchback to arrive as the ST280, meaning it will benefit from 280 PS (276 horsepower). Torque should increase from 270 to around 295 pound-feet. The extra oomph and the slightly improved aerodynamics should also bring better performance. The sprint from 0 to 60 mph could drop from 5.9 to 5.7 seconds. Top speed on the other hand will likely remain unchanged at 154 mph.

Power will probably route to the wheels through a revised version of the ST’s six-speed manual transmission. An automatic gearbox isn’t likely.

Also, look for the revised engine to be complemented by a stiffer suspension setup with new springs and shock absorbers all around. Stopping power should come from bigger brakes. A new set of tires for the lighter wheels is also on the table.

Prices

2017 Ford Focus ST280 Exterior Spyshots
- image 673149

Pricing information is a mystery as of this writing, but it’s safe to assume that the Focus ST280 will be positioned between the the ST model and the base price of the RS. We’d venture to say that the hatchback will retail from around $27,000, nearly $5,000 more than the ST and about $9,000 less than the RS. For the price, customers should get the 402A equipment group, the Recaro seats in Charcoal Black leather, and SYNC 3 infotainment as standard.

In most European markets, the ST280 will probably start from around €34,000, while U.K. prices should begin from around £26,000.

There is a possibility that Ford won’t bring the ST280 to North America, so don’t get your hopes up about finding one in U.S. dealerships just yet.

Competition

Volkswagen Golf GTi

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI High Resolution Exterior
- image 548996

Arguably the most iconic and popular hot-hatch since the 1980s, the Golf GTi continues to rule to performance-oriented segment thanks to its sporty looks, powerful engine, and affordable price. Redesigned for the 2013 model year with updates inside and out and a new platform, the seventh-generation GTi gets its juice from a turbocharged, 2.0-liter, inline-four engine that delivers 230 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. Less powerful than the Focus ST, the GTi will be no match for the ST280 in a straight line as it needs 6.4 seconds to sprint from 0 to 60 mph. On the other hand, the Golf benefits from a more luxurious interior and an automatic transmission, two feats that Ford can’t deliver as of 2016. More power with a Volkswagen badge can be had from the Golf R, which comes with 292 horsepower, 280 pound-feet, and a 0-to-60 mph sprint of only 5.3 seconds with the manual and an amazing 4.9 ticks with the automatic. It looks like the Focus ST280 falls right between the two as far as performance goes. Pricing for the GTi starts from $25,595, while the Golf R retails from $35,650.

Read more about the Volkswagen Golf GTi here.

Conclusion

2017 Ford Focus ST280 Exterior Spyshots
- image 673149

Ford isn’t the kind of automaker you’d expect to invent new vehicle niches, but the Focus ST280 is almost in a segment of its own as far as performance specs are concerned. While most companies now offer both performance-oriented and high-performance versions of their best-selling hatchbacks, Ford wants to bridge the gap between the two with a vehicle that boasts nearly 300 horsepower and costs less than $30,000 before options. We think there is a market for the ST280, and if these spy shots indeed preview an upcoming production car, we might witness a new trend that’s likely to catch on in a couple of years. Fingers crossed that the ST280 (or whatever its name will be) crosses the pond to the U.S. We will be back with updates on this vehicle as soon as we have them.

  • Leave it
    • * Not yet confirmed for production
    • * Actual name still a mystery
What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: