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Ford Focus ST through the generations

As the Ford Focus ST enters its fourth generation, we take a look back at the hot hatch's history.

4 months ago
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Derek Fung
Journalist

There’s a new Ford Focus ST about to land in Australian showrooms, so this seems as good a time as any to take a look back at the history of the Blue Oval’s hot hatch – and the wagons we never got to see here.

Check out our review of the Focus ST


First generation (2002-2004)

Engine: 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder with 127kW and 196Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
0-100km/h: 7.9 seconds

The first-generation Focus consigned the Escort to the dustbin of history. In place of the dreary styling of the outgoing car the Focus had cutting New Edge styling, and a platform blessed with best-in-class handling.

Using the European nomenclature of the time, the first Focus ST was branded as the ST170 as it had 170PS or 127kW.

It was available as a three- or five-door hatch, as well as a five-door wagon. I’m legally obligated as a motoring writer to say it’s a shame the wagon was a Euro-only proposition.

Only the three-door ST170 was sold in Australia, with prices starting from $37,000.

Powered by a Cosworth-tuned 2.0-litre engine, the ST170 would barely register as a warm hatch nowadays.

Features include 17-inch alloy wheels with 215/45 tyres, lowered suspension, spoilers front and rear, Recaro seats, and recalibrated steering.

Ford Focus ST through the generations

In the US the ST170 was sold as the SVT, named after the Special Vehicle Team which prepped high performance vehicles for the US market.

There, though, the SVT was axed in 2004 and was replaced by a model branded purely as the ST.

Unfortunately the ST made do with a less powerful 2.3-litre engine rated at 113kW and 209Nm, and was paired with a five-speed manual. It was, however, available with an appearance package complete with an oversized rally-style rear spoiler.


Ford Focus ST through the generations

Second generation (2005-2010)

Engine: 2.5-litre turbo five-cylinder with 166kW and 320Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
0-100km/h: 6.8 seconds

With the second-generation European model, Ford ditched New Edge for a design language that sought to be more Teutonic than any German brand.

Thankfully the switch in generations resulted in a big boost – sorry – in performance and also saw the adoption of the unadorned ST name. In Australia the car was rebranded as the XR5 to keep it in line with the six-cylinder Falcon XR6 and V8-powered XR8.

As it was based on the C1 platform, which was co-developed with Volvo and Mazda, the second-generation ST was powered by a turbocharged Volvo five-cylinder engine, the intoxicating burble of which is still one of this writer’s fondest motoring memories.

It fizzled, crackled and burbled its way to 166kW and 320Nm, and made the fifth-generation Golf GTI seemed little weak-kneed, as its 2.0-litre turbo four-pot only made 147kW and 280Nm.

In Australia, the second ST was only available as a five-door with pricing starting from $35,990. A three-door was available in Europe, but, sadly, no wagon.

Standard features included 18-inch alloy wheels, 225/40 tyres, and active yaw control.


Ford Focus ST through the generations

Third generation (2012-2018)

Engine: 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder with 188kW and 366Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
0-100km/h: 6.5 seconds

With the Volvo connection severed in 2010, Ford decided to go in-house with its engine.

While the car lost of bit of aural character, the four-cylinder turbo was more powerful and lighter to boot.

Ford turned up the wick on the styling, too. The front-end, especially on the pre-facelift models, stood out with cleaner styling thanks to the deleted upper grille and a large mesh grille placed further down the front fascia.

In addition to lowered suspension, the ST was also fitted with 18-inch wheels wrapped in 235/40 rubber, and Recaro seats.

As always, the European ST menu was a little fuller with the option of a tax- and wallet-friendly 2.0-litre diesel with 138kW and 400Nm, and the availability of a wagon variant.

Prices in Australia started from $38,990.


Ford Focus ST through the generations

Fourth generation (2019-now)

Engine: 2.3-litre turbo four-cylinder with 206kW and 420Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual or seven-speed auto
0-100km/h: 5.7 seconds

Fast forwarding to the present, and the new Focus ST will soon be available in Australia.

Unlike previous iterations, the new Focus ST will be available with an automatic transmission. Ironically, the automatic ST comes right at the time when the Focus has gone from being a world car to one largely targeted at Europe.

The new Focus ST is fitted with 19-inch wheels, Michelin Pilot Sport tyres, an electronic limited-slip differential, and adaptive suspension.

Europeans can again choose from a five-door hatch and wagon. On the Continent there’s also a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel with 140kW and 400Nm.

For Australians it’s a petrol hatch or the highway. The new ST’s motor is closely related to one used in the Mustang EcoBoost and previous-generation Focus RS.

While earlier ST models had to play second fiddle to the Focus RS, the new car will sit atop the perch of Focus performance, with Ford confirming last month it will not be developing an RS model for this generation.

You can thank European CO2 emissions regulations and tanking global economy for that. We also have a handy RS retrospective if you want mourn with us.

Speaking of the RS, the new ST easily has more grunt than the first generation RS and its 2.0-litre turbo with 158kW and 310Nm. It’s also not too far from the second generation model’s 224kW and 440Nm.

Ford Focus ST through the generations

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