If current offerings are anything to go by the market for fast estate cars must be very small indeed. Audi continue to dominate with their expensive RS4 and RS6 models, Mercedes have their AMG-powered C- and E-class, Volvo have the V70 T6 Polestar and BMW seem to have lost interest. There’s the much cheaper Octavia vRS but that’s ‘only’ got 200bhp, so it’s refreshing to see that Ford have decided to sell an estate version of their new Focus ST.
The squarer rear of the estate Focus serves two valuable purposes. The first is that it improves on the unsightly appearance of the hatchback, a design I’m still not keen on. The second is that it bestows the Focus with a generous 476 litres of boot space* with the seats up and 1,502 litres with them down (400 litres more than the hatchback). So it’s got plenty of room for your dogs/bikes/beer/prams (delete as appropriate).
Both the hatchback and estate versions of the Focus ST share the same turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine. Despite a 24kg weight penalty the estate can still muster up the same performance figures from the 246bhp and 266lb/ft Ecoboost unit. 60mph arrives in 6.3 seconds and in theory you could travel at an autobahn-devouring 154mph.
Ford came in for some stick when they dropped the old model’s five-cylinder engine but they made the right choice. The Focus ST may have joined the throng of four-cylinder hot hatches but it has more power than before and drinks a lot less too (officially rated at 39.2 mpg but you’re more likely to see low 30s). One pleasant surprise was finding that the 2.0-litre even sounds good, although this is partially thanks to some engineering trickery where the engine noise is amplified within the cabin.
The new Ecoboost engine is a good one. Considering that it’s turbocharged there’s remarkably little lag and it responds eagerly to every prod of the throttle. The smooth six-speed manual – no dual-clutch setup here, thank goodness – helps you to make the most of the engine and give it a really good workout. Keep the revs in the upper half of the counter and the ST flies but even at low revs it feels strong. There is some torque steer to contend with in the lower gears but it’s the sort of thing you’d adapt to fairly quickly, and it’s not as bad as the more powerful Astra VXR.
Throw the Focus ST around a few twisting B-roads and you’ll discover it has a delightfully engaging chassis. It tucks itself neatly into corners and feels very neutral in its balance, thanks in part to the reduced weight over the front axle. Even the electric steering does a good job of providing feedback through the wheel and that gives you the confidence to push on and test the STs ample grip levels.
The Focus ST can be yours for as little as £23,095 but you’ll probably want to upgrade to the ST-2 model at £24,595. This adds a Sony DAB radio, dual-zone climate, heated windscreen, auto lights and wipers and … most importantly … some superb Recaro front seats. The Recaros are both comfortable and also very supportive, with a surprisingly firm hold around the thighs (unless I’ve put weight on and not realised). The two brightest colours, Spirit Blue and Tangerine Scream, are also only available on the ST2 and ST3 models.
Seven airbags are fitted as standard but the ST can be upgraded with Ford’s new safety technology, including their Active City Stop system for preventing low-speed accidents. Handy for reducing your insurance premiums as these auto-emergency braking systems are increasingly being praised by the insurance industry.
The Ford Focus ST estate is one of those cars that does almost everything you’d ever need. Practical and safe but also very quick and great fun to drive, without being outrageously expensive. Seems like Ford are onto a winner.
* Those are Ford’s figures and are measured to the top of the parcel shelf. Take that off and you’ll be able to fit in even more stuff!
Ford Focus ST Estate Specifiations
|Engine:||1,999cc 4-cylinder petrol|
|0-60 mph:||6.3 seconds|
|Top Speed:||154 mph|
|CO2 Emissions:||169 g/km (Band H)|
|Official Economy:||39.2 mpg|
**Prices taken from Ford website, January 2013