Finder makes money from featured partners, but editorial opinions are our own.

2020 Ford Focus ST Review

Ford’s spicy Focus ST tested

Who doesn’t love a good hot hatch?

They merge performance and practicality in a way other vehicles just can’t. They allow you to test the limits of the car, where others with their larger engines only allow you to scratch the surface.

The Ford Focus ST is perhaps one of the best known hot hatches (with the exception of the Volkswagen Golf GTI) and with the latest model they have made a German-built vehicle (yes, Ford assembles the Focus in south-west Germany) accessible to more people. They have done this by offering up, for the first time, an automatic gearbox – which I’m sure excites a lot of people.

But is the new Ford Focus ST a serious rival to the well-established Golf, or the relative newcomer, the Hyundai i30N? How do you decide between them? We’ve reviewed both the manual and automatic versions to find out.

What’s it like inside?

If I were to describe it in one word, it would be mature.

Take a look at the Hyundai i30N for instance. There are big blue buttons on the steering wheel that make the engine do loud things. Different coloured piping and accents make you feel like you’re back on your P-plates again. It is fun – don’t get me wrong, but it does take you back to that time.

The Ford Focus ST by contrast is understated inside. The majority of the interior is black. You get some body-hugging Recaro seats and in the automatic version, they adjust electronically.

Once you’re settled in, look up at the steering wheel. There are no big, gaudy buttons – just a straightforward, leather-wrapped steering wheel with your standard controls for audio and cruise control. On the right-hand side, there is a small “S” button, but it isn’t massively obvious.

Let's talk specifics

Both the automatic and manual Focus ST come loaded with Ford's SYNC 3 infotainment system. It is designed with chunky buttons and is highly intuitive. We found it a piece of cake to navigate on the move. Not only that, Ford also equips the Focus with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, should you prefer those.

Linked up to the SYNC 3 software is a 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system which also has a subwoofer. I guess Ford is retaining some of the boy-racer vibes after all.

You will notice that the eight-inch infotainment screen is ever-so-slightly tilted towards the passenger. It annoyed me a little, but I’m sure it isn’t going to be an issue for most drivers.

There are two USB points in the front – one under the infotainment unit and the other in the centre console storage bin. And there is also a wireless charging bay for your smartphone.

Moving to the back, there is a decent amount of room for passengers. Headroom is quite good too. If you have the sunroof installed like we did in the manual version, it does impede headroom a smidge in the back – food for thought if you cart around taller passengers regularly.

One thing that took me by surprise was how cheap the trim on the rear doors felt. The thin plastic had a lot of flex in it and was not expected considering the Focus ST’s German origins.

There are no USB points in the back, but apart from that it is business as usual.

There are all the typical standard inclusions too, like:

  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Power front and rear windows
  • DAB+ radio
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Two ISOfix mounting points

Boot space

The ST lands 375 litres of storage space in the boot which can be expanded to 1,250 litres by folding down the rear seats.

This means that the Focus is ever so slightly behind the Volkswagen Golf GTI, which can store 380 litres and has 20 litres less than the i30N which measures in at 395L.

What is the Ford Focus ST like to drive?

The Ford Focus ST lives up to everything we expected when we heard this vehicle was Australia-bound.

There is a lovely weight to the steering wheel, a bit heavier than most, but it gives you a sense you are really moving this vehicle around. Once you get up and going though it does lighten up a bit.

Then there is the 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine, which is an absolute gem. It produces 206kW and 420Nm of torque, all of which is sent to the front wheels and this little hatch does a great job of translating that power to the ground. You do get a little bit of torque steer, but I guess it wouldn’t really be a FWD hot hatch without a little wriggling.

Looking at those numbers, the EcoBoost engine in the Focus ST has a higher output than both the i30N and VW Golf GTI.

You have two options when it comes to transmission and neither of them will affect the price of the vehicle. You can opt for a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed automatic, both costing $44,690.

Having driven the two back to back, I would have to say that audibly the manual is better. It was much easier to produce the cracks and pops that really put a smile on your face when shifting. Speaking of which, the manual transmission gets a rev-matching feature that turns on automatically if you are in “S” mode, race track mode or have launch control turned on.

While these are great fun, the manual version of the Focus ST misses out on autonomous cruise control with full stop and start. If you are driving around the city a lot, you have a difficult decision on your hands.

Which is only going to get more difficult…

Because in terms of fuel economy, Ford states that the manual will consume 8.1 litres per 100km on a combined cycle while the automatic will drink 8.8 litres. That’s quite a difference.

Both variants get the same “continuously controlled dampers” which analyse all sorts of information to assess the road surface, based on driver inputs. Using this information, it will make adjustments every two milliseconds.

That is 30 thousand adjustments every minute!

Both also get a limited-slip differential and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres to help hook up the car. Michelin designed and developed the Pilot tyres specifically for the Ford Focus ST.

So it will grip and give you confidence going through corners, but you might find that the ride is on the harsher side on some of the roads around Sydney. Perhaps it could be slightly more forgiving, but this isn’t something that would make me hesitate about buying this vehicle. If you want comfort, get a normal Focus.

How safe is the Ford Focus ST?

Which transmission you opt for determines which safety features you get. If you opt for the automatic you will get adaptive cruise control with stop and go, above and beyond what the manual gets.

However, as standard both have:

  • Automatic headlights with automatic high beam
  • Anti-lock braking system (ABS)
  • Automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross-traffic alert with braking
  • Forward collision warning
  • Speed sign recognition with speed limiter
  • Rearview camera with 180-degree split view
  • Lane keeping aid with lane departure warning

Cost of owning a Focus ST

The Focus ST comes with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty for peace of mind and this is in line with what Hyundai and Volkswagen offer on their performance hatches.

Servicing costs are capped at $299 for the first four years or 60,000km, whichever comes first.

The verdict

Let me preface the verdict with this: the Ford Focus ST is a great little hot hatch and transmission-wise, whichever way you opt to go, you are going to be happy.

In terms of value for money and a daily driver, you would have to opt for the seven-speed automatic. The extra safety features at the same price point make it the way to go.

If you are looking for a smile-inducing ride, and plan to use it for the odd track day, launch control and automatic rev matching make the manual a no-brainer.

Ford has covered all bases with the new ST.

Compare some options to finance a 2020 Ford Focus ST

{"visibility":"visibilityTable","ctaLabel":"Calculate","tableCode":"AUFCL_COMPARISON_V2_TABLE","nicheCode":"AUFCL","fields":[{"name":"LOAN_AMOUNT","value":"20000","options":"","label":"Loan amount","suffix":"$","useSuffixAsPrefix":true,"useDropDownOption":false,"tooltip":""},{"name":"PERIOD","value":"3","options":"","label":"Loan term","suffix":"years","useSuffixAsPrefix":true,"useDropDownOption":false,"tooltip":""}]}
Name Interest Rate (p.a.) Comp. Rate (p.a.) Application Fee Monthly Fee Monthly Repayment
loans.com.au - New - Variable Rate Special
Variable3 - 7 Years $5,000 - $150,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
6.24%
to 7.74%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
7.36%
to 8.85%
Application Fee
$400
Monthly Fee
$8
Monthly Repayment
$630.83
Go to siteMore Info
OurMoneyMarket New Car Loan
Fixed1 - 7 Years $2,001 - $75,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
6.57%
to 18.99%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
7.19%
to 21.78%
Application Fee
$250
min.
Monthly Fee
$0
Monthly Repayment
$622.82
Go to siteMore Info
Verified Lending Used Car Loan
Fixed1 - 7 Years $10,000 - $200,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
7.1%
to 18.99%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
8.06%
to 22.99%
Application Fee
$395
Monthly Fee
$0
Monthly Repayment
$630.67
Go to siteMore Info
NRMA New Car Loan
Fixed1 - 7 Years $5,000 - $130,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
7.29%
to 16.99%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
8%
to 17.77%
Application Fee
$499
Monthly Fee
$0
Monthly Repayment
$635.67
Go to siteMore Info
Note: Take out a loan for an eligible electric vehicle and receive a 1.5% discount on your personalised interest rate (interest rates start from 5.79% p.a. and comparison rates from 6.49% p.a.)
OurMoneyMarket Used Car Loan - No Vehicle Age Limit
Fixed1 - 7 Years $2,001 - $75,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
6.57%
to 18.99%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
7.19%
to 21.78%
Application Fee
$250
min.
Monthly Fee
$0
Monthly Repayment
$622.82
Go to siteMore Info
NRMA Used Car Loan
Fixed1 - 7 Years $5,000 - $130,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
8.49%
to 16.99%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
9.21%
to 17.77%
Application Fee
$499
Monthly Fee
$0
Monthly Repayment
$647.01
Go to siteMore Info
You'll receive a fixed rate from 8.49% p.a.
Finance a used car with NRMA and benefit from a fixed rate term and no monthly fees. Pre-approval available within 5 business hours.
loans.com.au - Variable Rate Used Car < 5 years
Variable3 - 7 Years $5,000 - $150,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
7.74%
to 7.74%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
8.85%
to 8.99%
Application Fee
$400
Monthly Fee
$8
Monthly Repayment
$644.82
Go to siteMore Info
loading
Showing 7 of 7 results

Compare car insurance side-by-side and get quotes

Name Product Roadside assistance Accidental damage Storm Choice of repairer Agreed or Market Value
Budget Direct Comprehensive
Optional
Optional
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: The 2024 winner of our Best Value Car Insurance award. It's cheaper than most, plus you can lower costs by adding age restrictions.

⭐ Current offer: 15% off your first year's premium when you take out a policy online. T&Cs apply.

Who it might be good for: Anyone who wants a good value policy.
Youi Comprehensive
Optional
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: The 2023 winner of our Best Features Car Insurance award. Plus, it's one of the only insurers to automatically include roadside assistance.

Who it might be good for: Those who want good customer service with lots of inclusions.
Australia Post Comprehensive
Optional
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: Covers a little more than other insurers. You don’t need to pay an excess for windscreen repairs and cover applies to anyone who uses your car.

⭐ Current offer: Get $75 off your first year's comprehensive car insurance premium when you buy online. T&Cs apply.

Who it might be good for: Multiple people using one car.
ROLLiN' Comprehensive
Agreed
Finder's summary: One of the most cost-effective insurers for under 25s, according to Finder research, with no aged-based excess.

Who it might be good for: Young drivers looking to keep costs down and anyone who’d like to get more flexibility from their car insurance.
QBE Comprehensive
Green Company
QBE Comprehensive
Optional
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: Our best-rated Car Insurer for Customer Satisfaction in 2021/2022 and Green Insurer for the last 3 years.

⭐ Current offer: Save $75 when you purchase a new comprehensive policy online. T&Cs apply.

Who it might be good for: Those who want a trustworthy insurer and more cover than other brands, such as 3-year new car replacement (e.g. they'll give you money for a new car for up to 3 years if yours is written off).
Bingle Comprehensive
Market
Finder's summary: Our data shows it’s the cheapest comprehensive policy. It just covers the basics such as damage to your car, theft and storms – it doesn’t go in for add-ons and extras.

Who it might be good for: Those wanting a low-cost, no-frills policy.
Kogan Comprehensive
Optional
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: Kogan comes with all the perks that most comprehensive car insurance policies include, but you'll also be entitled to some benefits from its online store. This usually comes in the form of a gift voucher or discount if you buy online.

⭐ Current offer: Get $75 off first year premiums when you purchase Kogan Comprehensive Car Insurance online + $10 monthly kogan.com credit. T&Cs apply.

Who it might be good for: Kogan shoppers and those after a good range of policy options.
Qantas Comprehensive
Optional
Optional
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: You need car insurance so why not get one that lets you earn Qantas Points? It's good value too (it's underwritten by the same insurer as Budget Direct).

⭐ Current offer: Earn up to 20,000 Qantas Points with every Qantas Car Insurance policy you take out by 22 April. T&Cs apply.

Who it might be good for: People who want more bang for their buck with Qantas Points.
loading

More guides on Finder

  • Ford Focus Review

    It looks modern, it has a very roomy interior for a hatch and it has a pokey and frugal engine. It's also a real sharp handler with heaps of safety assists and features. Car reviewers who drove one seemed genuinely impressed by it.

  • 2019 Ford Ranger Review

    If you're looking for a new or used ute, the Ford Ranger should be a definite inclusion on anyone's list.

  • Ford Mustang GT Convertible: Hands-on review

    In the market for a 2-door sports car? The Ford Mustang GT Convertible might be worth adding to your shortlist.

  • Ford Focus RS Review

    In the market for a new hot hatch? The Ford Focus RS may be worth adding to your shortlist.

  • 2019 Ford Ranger: Hands-on review

    We headed to Melbourne to test the 2019 Ford Ranger and find out if it has done enough to dethrone the vehicle famously dubbed “indestructible” by the Top Gear team in the UK.

Ask a Question

You are about to post a question on finder.com.au:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com.au is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our 1. Terms Of Service and 6. Finder Group Privacy & Cookies Policy.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Go to site