• Available for £18,000
• 2.3-litre inline four petrol twin-scroll turbo, front-wheel drive
• KW coilover versions are desirable but rare
• Not affected by the RS ‘wrong headgasket’ issue
• Estate drives just like the hatch and is more practical (obvs)
• Should be cheap to run
Unveiled in February 2019, not quite a year into the launch of the Mk 4 Focus, and put on sale in Europe in the summer of that year, the new Focus ST had many hard acts to follow. The two-letter designation had come to stand for a very sweet balance of performance, handling, practicality and user-friendliness, not just in the Focus but also in other Ford models (most notably the Fiesta), so the stakes were high.
Fortunately, the petrol-engined Mk 4 ST in either five-door hatch or estate formats generously paid out on all bets. For a little under £3,000 below the petrol car’s price there was a 190hp EcoBlue diesel ST, a praiseworthy machine in its own right with a 0-62mph of 7.6sec, 137mph top speed, and mpg figures in the high 50s, but here we're going to concentrate on the 2.3 Ecoboost engined STs.
The 280hp these cars produced meant that the Mk 4 ST wasn’t as hardcore as the 40hp more powerful Civic Type R or as coolly efficient as a Golf GTI, but the ST had a generous 310lb ft of torque (17 per cent up on the old 2.0 ST) from 3,000-4,000rpm and an 'all things to all men/women' feel about it that was nicely amplified by the behind-the-wheel experience, which was enlivening.
No power went through the back wheels, but the lack of all-wheel drive didn't seem to limit the car on the road. To restore traction to a traction-losing inside front wheel the diesel STs had to manage with torque vectoring, ie braking on that wheel, but the Borg Warner/GKN-developed electronically-controlled limited-slip diff on the petrol cars (a front-wheel drive Ford first) was a proper locking-clutch device that sent more power to the tyre with the most grip, a clearly superior solution.
ST driving modes were well-judged for just about any driver in just about any circumstance. The 5.7sec 0-62mph time was more than adequate for most, as was the 155mph top speed. Delimited mules breezed to 170mph, so there was a good amount of headroom there. The powertrain advances made by the Mk 4 over the old ST were nicely mirrored by chassis improvements facilitated by the Mk 4 Focus's C2 platform. CCD ‘Continuously Controlled’ adaptive damping was standard on STs from the get-go, on the petrol cars anyway. You needed to specify the optional £850 Performance Pack to get the CCD gubbins put back into a diesel ST. More on that in the Engine section. The ST’s bespoke steering was 15 percent faster than the standard Focus’s (which was hardly slow), and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres provided a strong key into the road surface. The combined fuel consumption was in the mid 30s.
All in all it was a highly approachable 'everyman' sort of performance car, one that Henry Ford surely would have liked if only he'd managed to live for another century or so. In March 2020, mountune (yes, it is a small ’s’) put out an m330 ECU upgrade that was controllable from an app on your smartphone. It lifted power by 49hp and torque by 70lb ft and megged up the exhaust overrun noise. The cost was £599 inc VAT.
In June 2020, as dealer showrooms cautiously reopened under Covid, the seven-speed torque converter automatic option with 'adaptive shift scheduling' (as per two paras earlier) was finally made available on the petrol STs at a premium of £1,450. At this point the manual petrol hatch was priced at £33,260 and the manual petrol estate was £34,660. Controlled by a rotary selector with steering wheel paddles for manual shifts, the auto trans didn't affect the ST’s fuel consumption but, not being a twin-clutcher, it did add 0.3sec to the 0-62mph time.
In the second half of 2021 an ST Edition, er, edition of the hatch came out with Azura Blue bodywork, a black roof, and significant chassis tweaks that made you wonder why Ford had cursed it with such a weedy name. Unlike the regular ST which could be had as an estate instead of a hatch, or with an auto box instead of a manual, the Edition only came as a manual hatch. Besides gloss black aero bits, wheels and badges, the Edition had 10 percent bigger brakes, 10 percent lighter wheels and we're not sure how many percent better KW-supplied, Ford Performance-tuned coilover suspension instead of the adaptive dampers. Whatever the percentage was, the press certainly rated the KW setup. It had 50 percent higher-rated springs, a default ride height drop of 10mm with another 10mm available, plus compression and rebound damping adjustment (12-stage and 16-stage respectively) if you didn't mind putting the car on a ramp and removing the wheels to do those adjustments. There was no massive need to do so in reality because on Ford's standard settings it delivered a beautifully controlled and comfortable ride.
It sounded like someone at Ford realised the Edition naming mistake when Ford effectively relaunched the Edition as the Track Pack in 2023. There was a £3,000 premium for that, taking the ST’s price within touching distance of £40k. A lot of money for a Focus, some may say, but if you weren't bothered by the brand/model associations and simply went with what the Track Pack offered you would be delighted.
A 2022MY facelift gave the Mk 4.5 ST new front end parts, 19in wheels in place of the original 18s, Pirelli P-Zero tyres in place of the Michelins, and slimmer new LED matrix lights. On the inside you had Ford Performance seats that were slightly more accommodating for the fuller figure than the pre-facelift Recaros and approved by a German back health pressure group, a heated steering wheel, digital dash, and SYNC 4 13.2in touchscreen infotainment with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to replace the SYNC 3 system. With the new infotainment the physical controls for the climate control were binned, a not universally popular move. The entire diesel ST range was axed at this time too.
Facelift ST prices went up by £3k, but on the plus side Mean Green was added to the paint list, a colour choice that helped to set the ST apart from less sporty Foci, especially the ST-Line which could look disturbingly similar to it from most angles bar the rear (the ST had twin exhausts). Sadly, or happily, the subtly named Tangerine Scream paint option that had become practically synonymous with earlier STs was deleted for the Mk 4.5. Power was unchanged at 280hp but by this point, Mountune, or mountune to be strictly accurate, was doing an m365 ST package, the clue to the power figure being in the name.
In the months before it went on sale in 2019 Ford stoked up interest in the ST by pumping a story around the press to the effect of it being ‘about £26k for the hatch and another £1k or so for the estate’. By the time it hit the showrooms the price for the hatch had grown to nearly £32k. Nevertheless, a flurry of ‘best hot hatch’ magazine awards generated a healthy flow of buyers, but nearly five years on, with prices starting from £18,000 for a 2.3, how does it stack up as a used proposition? Let’s take a look.
SPECIFICATION | FORD FOCUS ST (2019-on)
Engine: 2,266cc inline four twin-scroll turbocharged 16v
Transmission: 6-speed manual/7-speed torque converter auto, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 280@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 310@3,000-4,000rpm
0-62mph (secs): 5.7
Top speed (mph): 155
Weight (kg): 1,508
CO2 (g/km): 179
Wheels (in): 18
On sale: 2019 - now
Price new: £31,995
Price now: from £18,000
Note for reference: car weight and power data are hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
The Mk 4 ST's 2.3 EcoBoost twin-scroll turbo engine was the same one Ford had used in the Mustang and the previous-generation Focus RS. Twelve percent more powerful than the old 246hp ST and twelve percent faster than it, the Mk 4 ST drivetrain was set up to cover all bases, from track days to traffic days.
Three drive modes were standard: Slippery/Wet, Normal, and Sport. Sport was directly accessible via a wheel-mounted button. Along with the normal sharpening-up of throttle, steering and other responses that Sport mode provided, it also ramped up servo assistance to the brakes. The ST’s ‘Ford GT-inspired’ anti-lag tech kept the turbo spinning after throttle lift-off, maintaining boost. With the right technique you could 'flat foot shift', ie change up through the box with the throttle open. Try that in the old pre-tech days and you’d end up with a different sort of FFS in the shape of a bucketful of bent valves.
The optional £850 Performance Pack gave the ST driver launch control, rev-matching and an additional Track mode that provided extra control over the eLSD, CCD, electronic steering, throttle mapping, automatic transmission shift scheduling (more on that in a minute), electronic stability control, climate settings and electronic sound enhancement (ESE). Even with the noise enhancement the ST sound wasn’t as in your face as sporty Fords of yore, a potential source of disappointment if you were expecting the sort of overrun popping and banging that would have fitted seamlessly into Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
In a straight fight on manual gearshift feel with the Civic Type R most would probably vote for the Honda with its shorter throw, but in isolation there was no shortage of engagement in the Ford’s box. The torque converter gearbox would have been fine in a regular Focus but didn’t really seem urgent or punchy enough for an ST.
The official combined mpg was 35.8mpg whether you were driving a hatch, estate, auto or manual, and you could easily get that number on a 70mph cruise when the noise from the engine was all but non-existent (there might be other noises however, see the Interior section). If you were taking the car to anything like its full performance potential it would be returning mid to high twenties.
The 2.3 as used on the Focus RS was known for head gasket problems but we’re not aware of that being an issue on the Mk 4 ST. That may be because the ST engine was a Mustang 2.3 variant, which wasn’t the same unit as the RS. Timing was by chain. Some cars suffered from intermittent failures in the sound enhancement system. There were other problems too, mainly on earlier cars. Recalls were issued to sort out oil filler caps that could come loose and defective wiring looms on cars built between 2019 and March 2020. Some October 2019-build cars had dicky power distribution boxes. Very early cars (May-Sept 2019) had seat belt anchorage faults. Parts are cheap.
Even today a well looked-after Mk 1 Focus from the late 1990s has the potential to amaze with the sweetness of its handling.
Much of that Mk 1’s extraordinary talent was down to its lightness. A 1998 1.6 weighed less than 1,100kg. A Mk 4 ST weighed over 1,500kg. No amount of chassis tech wizardry could wish away that sort of weight penalty, and the ST’s ride certainly wasn’t as fluid as that of the first Focus, but you still had to hand it to the ST engineers for coming up with such a good solution. The car sat 10mm lower than a standard Focus on its fully-independent rear suspension (unlike some more basic Foci). Springs with stiffer and the anti-roll bars were uprated but it still rode well on the adaptive dampers that were standard on non-Edition/Track Pack STs.
The switch to stiffer-sidewalled Pirelli tyres on the 19in-wheeled facelift cars was a surprise given Ford’s long-term use of Michelins on its performance derivatives. Some testers thought it was a retrograde step in terms of tyre noise and low-speed ride quality.
Some drivers found the steering to be on the heavy side, but not necessarily in a detrimental way. There was no debate about the rack’s speed, which at two turns lock to lock was the fastest ever fitted to any Ford ST model. It took a bit of getting used to if it wasn’t something you’d experienced before, but once you’d done that most other cars suddenly seemed to steer like Series II Landies.
In keeping with its creep up the price lists the Mk 4 had a bodystyle that was perhaps a bit more grown up than that of previous STs. The styling bulge running along the sides of the car between the wheels could look freakishly big from some angles. Once you’d seen it, it was hard to unsee it.
Some owners complained about poor paint but others thought it was great and nicely chip resistant. Fuel filler covers were out of alignment on some cars and some had less than brilliant bonnet fit.
By definition, cars like the ST tend to be driven harder than the norm and that increases the chances of biffs, so you need to check not just the HPI report but the physical car itself for telltales that might not come up on paper reports, like loose front-end parts or bent structures in the engine bay.
Pre-Mk 4 STs came with more appealing price tags, but the Mk 4 that we’ve been looking at here was a different kettle of cash at its launch in 2019 at a fiver short of £32k. Still, when it was new at least, it felt like a more premium car inside than the Mk 3 and it was well equipped too with climate control, adaptive cruise, automatic emergency braking, keyless operation, LED lights, a rear-view camera, 10-speaker/675-watt B&O ‘Play’ audio and typically excellent heated Recaro seats in a mix of leather and Alcantara-lite ‘Miko Dinamica’. These seats put you slightly lower in the car than in the Mk3 ST. There was a speed limiter function too, an increasingly useful feature on our heavily monitored roads. The optional head-up display was well-rated. It’s all good news for the used buyer who doesn’t have to bear the initial financial hit for any of that.
Not such good news was the disappearance of physical buttons for some functions on the facelifted cars, a move that had no obvious upsides other than presumably lowering costs for Ford. Some thought the digital dash looked cheap and tacky as well. Slightly ironically there was a recall for the eCall service that was meant to summon the emergency services in the event of a serious accident. Before the recall some owners went through repeated efforts to put that right.
More than a few owners noticed rattling trim in the ST’s door and dash areas, not just after a decent period of ownership either but in one case at least on the way home having just picked the car up from the dealership. That owner was told that there was a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) covering an issue with the window regulators on his September 2019 ST, and that sound-deadening foam was the fix. Allegedly a screwdriver was used to pry off the plastic screw covers for the removed trim pieces, causing damage to them. After a six-month wait the new trim parts arrived but the owner continued to suffer from bad buzzing noises when the B&O audio was set to even moderate volume settings.
The hatch’s boot reflected a new prioritisation of passenger space over cargo room on the C2 Focus platform, with an extra 56mm clearance for your knees, 78mm for your legs and 60mm for your shoulders. It wasn’t bad, but nor was it class-leading. The hatch boot was 375 litres (or under 300 litres with a mini-spare in place), extendable to 1,250 with the spare. The estate was obviously better at 541 litres, extendable to 1,576 litres. Its floor was wide and flat.
In 2019 the ST was cheaper than the relevant hot Golfs and Leons, but slightly more expensive than the more powerful (but less well equipped) Civic Type R. It was also £2,500 dearer than Hyundai's i30N. The Honda and Hyundai probably beat it on driving sensitivity, but the best way to avoid that worry is simply never to drive either of them, then you won’t know what you’re missing.
Even if you do drive them you won’t be missing a lot in the ST because it’s an excellent vehicle in either hatch or estate forms. It will do a great job for the vast majority of people who want some spice with their practicality.
The EcoBlue diesel STs that we haven’t covered here start from under £15,000 for 100,000-mile plus cars that have been pounding the motorways, but petrol EcoBoosts start at around £18,000 for 2019 cars in the more normal mid-30,000 mile range. Estates do command a small premium over same-mileage hatches, and that’s fair because they get round the hatch’s luggage space issue with no loss of sportiness or fun, and there’s no sensation that you’re driving an estate rather than a hatch.
The most affordable ST on PH Classifieds at the time of writing (November 2023) was this 46,000 mile hatch in Frozen White with B&O Play sound at £19,690 There’s plenty of choice in the £18k-£23k range, including this 31,000-mile red estate which was the cheapest ST wagon on PH in November at a pound short of £23k.
Estates are much rarer than hatches. Although the split between diesel and petrol was pretty even, not many ST hatch buyers went for the petrol-only 7-speed automatic option so autos aren’t common on the used market either. The cheapest one we found on PH in Nov ’23 was this £25,699 ’21 hatch in the excitingly named Orange Fury paint. £29k would get you the only ST Edition on PH at that time, namely this one with 13,000 miles on it.
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