There have been fast Fords since time immemorial. Even Model Ts were modified for speed, but the Escort XR3 of 1980, the first front-drive, mid-size hot hatch that Ford offered, is the Focus ST’s direct forebear.
This is the third generation of Focus ST, but only the second that could be described as a proper hot hatch. Nevertheless, the ST has become as much of an icon for performance hatchback drivers in this – and the previous – decade as the XR was in the 1980s.
This hot Focus is the tricky third album for Ford. Not only does it have to live up to the much-loved Mk2 Focus ST, with its evocative 2.5-litre five-pot, but it lands bang in the middle of the ‘One Ford’ plan. That means it needs to work on the same suspension set-up in Adelaide, Alabama and Aberdeen. It’s a tough ask, even for a group of engineers as talented as Ford’s Special Vehicle Team.
On paper at least it has its work cut out to win the hearts and minds of dyed in the wool British hot hatch buyers. It ‘only’ packs a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine, rather than the streetfighter 2.5-litre five-pot from the old car. It is ‘only’ front-wheel drive, it’s only available as a five door, and it has its engine note piped into the cabin rather than letting it be absorbed through the firewall and via exhaust.