Ford Focus ST-Line: hands-on review
Practical, but thankfully, still influenced by the rebellious big brother
I'm going to say it now – I didn't expect to enjoy the ST-Line Ford Focus as much as I did. While the ST Line is a diet version of its more raucous brother, the influence is still obvious. Its refined, understated styling and surprisingly exciting 3-cylinder, 1.5 litre ecoboost make the ST-Line focus a stealthy competitor within the segment.
The MLP for the Ford Focus ST-Line is $28,990, which is in the same ballpark as competitors in the diluted hot hatch segment. It's a little more expensive than the Hyundai N-Line but cheaper than Kia's Cerato GT.
The new ST-Line Ford Focus gets a range of kit changes to set it apart from its Trend and Titanium siblings. This includes a honeycomb grille, 17-inch alloys, LED fog and tail lights. Most obviously it is kitted out with a sportier body kit, in part comprising of a great-looking ST-Line rear bumper and tail light combination.
The vehicle has also been lowered by 10mm, which adds to its sporty demeanour.
Despite the kit, I think it is still underplayed, given how well it drives. I am a fan of that.
On the road
Given this isn't the ST, but ST-Line, you'd be forgiven for expecting the hatchback to be a lot tamer than it is.
The 3-cylinder, 1.5-litre petrol engine is a highlight. Producing 134kW and 240Nm, it gets moving quickly with its 8-speed automatic. The needle obediently continues to climb without running out of steam.
The only real quibble I found with the driveline set-up was the reverse-selecting rotary dial. It seems to need a bit of time to process, resulting in lag. I can envisage drivers expecting it to be faster, pressing the accelerator and jolting forward to their surprise.
Ford claims the ST-Line Focus sips 6.4 litres on a combined run; I achieved closer to 8.4 litres per 100km. That's likely because I used the "sport" mode often and turned off stop/start. It's a feature that I know is essential, but I still find it irritating.
Steering is direct and the culmination of an upgraded sports suspension and chassis, coupled with the fact that it is 88kg lighter than its predecessor, results in the ST-Line being planted yet agile.
Upgraded suspension does mean a slight compromise in ride comfort, but I'd have no problem hopping in and driving long distances in it.
The Focus scored a 5-star ANCAP rating with several passenger and pedestrian safety systems helping it get top marks.
Fitted with six airbags and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) as standard, the Ford Focus ST-Line also features lane-keep assist, speed sign recognition, forward collision warning and pre-collision assist with cyclist as well as pedestrian detection among other features as standard.
There is a Safety Pack you can option for $1,290. For this extra coin you will get adaptive cruise control with stop and go, blind spot monitoring, auto high-beam and rear cross-traffic alert.
Luckily for us we didn't have to test out the AEB or pedestrian recognition; however, we're happy to report that the lane-keep assist is a gentle nudge and won't require you to wrestle for control, unlike some other systems we have reviewed.
In the cabin
Fitted with Ford's capable SYNC 3 system, you shouldn't really have any real problems. The system is one of the better ones we have tested and is fairly intuitive to use. The voice assistant is also relatively good too, meaning less time fiddling around with the interface.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard too, so you are able to use those systems if you prefer.
Appointed with cloth trim, the seating is quite comfortable and if you're sitting in the front you have dual-zone climate control. There is also the convenience of two USB ports and a wireless charging bay to keep all electronic devices topped up.
Rear passengers' comfort will depend on their height. With the driver seat in my driving position (just over 6 foot) my legs were pressed firmly into the seatback.
There isn't all that much to write about in the back. You get some storage bins in the door but surprisingly no cup holders, so expect the kids to steal the two in the front. Omitted are also air vents, but this shouldn't really be an issue in the hatch, as the air conditioning does a good job of getting the whole cabin acclimatised quickly.
There is a single 12-volt socket in the back, but if your USB charging cords are long enough, you should be able to use the port located in the centre console.
Is it practical?
Rear parking sensors and a reversing camera make it an easy vehicle for almost anyone to park, and should you option the driver assistance pack, this will only be further enhanced by rear cross-traffic alerts.
In terms of storage, you have 373 litres of space at your disposal. That's with the rear seats up too, which is more or less in line with Ford's competition.
There are two ISOFix mounting points on the outer two rear passenger seats for securing child seats.
The Ford Focus ST-Line is also covered by a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
The surprisingly fun ST-Line Focus presents a compelling option for those looking for a practical vehicle and who have been "told" they can't get a hot hatch. You get all the safety and storage you would want out of a hatch, but you can tell it has been hanging out with its rev-head older brother – itself touted for release in 2020. It's like having a Diet Coke: most of the fun of the original but with way less calories or dentist visits needed.
I'd suggest getting down to your local Ford dealer and taking it for a test drive. Take note of the rear legroom and make sure it is adequate for your needs.