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2020 Ford Focus ST Review

Ford’s spicy Focus ST tested

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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.

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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

1 - 16 of 16
$

Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comparison Rate (p.a.) Monthly Repayment View Details CTA
IMB New Car Loan
4.88%

(fixed)

5.23%
You'll receive a fixed rate of 4.88% p.a.
A low minimum borrowing amount of $2,000 that you can use to purchase a new car or one that's up to two years old.

You'll receive a fixed rate of 4.88% p.a.
A low minimum borrowing amount of $2,000 that you can use to purchase a new car or one that's up to two years old.
Wisr Secured Car Loan

From

5.59%

(fixed)

6.42%
You'll receive a personalised interest rate from 5.59% p.a. to 13.24% p.a. based on your risk profile
A flexible car loan from $5,000 - $79,000 with personalised rates and rewards for strong credit customers.

You'll receive a personalised interest rate from 5.59% p.a. to 13.24% p.a. based on your risk profile
A flexible car loan from $5,000 - $79,000 with personalised rates and rewards for strong credit customers.
loans.com.au - New - Prime Special (Variable)
3.74%

(variable)

4.28%
You'll receive a variable rate of 3.74% p.a. based on your risk profile
Finance a new car and benefit from features such as fast approval, no ongoing fees.

You'll receive a variable rate of 3.74% p.a. based on your risk profile
Finance a new car and benefit from features such as fast approval, no ongoing fees.
Credit Concierge Car Loan - Prime (Credit Score 800+)

From

3.99%

(fixed)

4.93%
You'll receive a fixed rate of 3.99% p.a. with a comparison rate of 4.93% p.a.
Must have a high credit score and excellent previous repayment history to qualify. Home ownership or mortgage may assist overcoming a lower credit score in some instances. Lenders individual credit criteria applies and approval is not guaranteed nor is the interest rate finalised until a formal submission for finance is made.

You'll receive a fixed rate of 3.99% p.a. with a comparison rate of 4.93% p.a.
Must have a high credit score and excellent previous repayment history to qualify. Home ownership or mortgage may assist overcoming a lower credit score in some instances. Lenders individual credit criteria applies and approval is not guaranteed nor is the interest rate finalised until a formal submission for finance is made.
RACV New Car Loans

From

5.99%

(fixed)

6.68%
You'll receive a fixed rate from 5.99% p.a.
A larger loan of $5,000 or more to help you buy a new or used car. 5-hour pre approval available and no ongoing fees.

You'll receive a fixed rate from 5.99% p.a.
A larger loan of $5,000 or more to help you buy a new or used car. 5-hour pre approval available and no ongoing fees.
NRMA New Car Loan

From

5.99%

(fixed)

6.68%
You'll receive a fixed rate from 5.99% p.a.
Purchase a new or used car up to 3 years old and benefit from a fixed rate and no monthly fees. Pre-approval available within 5 business hours.

You'll receive a fixed rate from 5.99% p.a.
Purchase a new or used car up to 3 years old and benefit from a fixed rate and no monthly fees. Pre-approval available within 5 business hours.
Stratton Finance New Car Loan

From

4.44%

(fixed)

5.76%
You'll receive a fixed rate from 4.44% p.a. depending on the lender you are approved with.
Apply for up to $300,000 and use cash or trade in a vehicle to use as a deposit. Optional balloon payment available.

You'll receive a fixed rate from 4.44% p.a. depending on the lender you are approved with.
Apply for up to $300,000 and use cash or trade in a vehicle to use as a deposit. Optional balloon payment available.
loans.com.au - New - Prime Special (Fixed)
5.09%

(fixed)

5.64%
You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.09% p.a. based on your risk profile
Finance a new car and benefit from features such as fast approval, no ongoing fees and an optional balloon payment.

You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.09% p.a. based on your risk profile
Finance a new car and benefit from features such as fast approval, no ongoing fees and an optional balloon payment.
OurMoneyMarket Car Loan

From

5.85%

(fixed)

6.47%
You'll receive a fixed interest rate from 5.85% p.a. to p.a. based on your risk profile.
Borrow between $2,001 and $75,000 to finance a new or used car up to 7 years.

You'll receive a fixed interest rate from 5.85% p.a. to p.a. based on your risk profile.
Borrow between $2,001 and $75,000 to finance a new or used car up to 7 years.
Great Southern Bank Fixed Rate Car Loan
6.79%

(fixed)

7.16%
You'll receive a fixed rate of 6.79% p.a.
A secured loan with a high maximum borrowing amount up to $100,000. Redraw facility and no monthly fees.

You'll receive a fixed rate of 6.79% p.a.
A secured loan with a high maximum borrowing amount up to $100,000. Redraw facility and no monthly fees.
loans.com.au - Used Car Loan (6+ years)
5.04%

(variable)

5.59%
You'll get a variable rate of 5.04% p.a.
Borrow up to $100,000 for a used car for 6+ years, with no monthly fee.

You'll get a variable rate of 5.04% p.a.
Borrow up to $100,000 for a used car for 6+ years, with no monthly fee.
NRMA Used Car Loan

From

6.99%

(fixed)

7.68%
You'll receive a fixed rate from 6.99% 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.

You'll receive a fixed rate from 6.99% 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 - Used Car Loan (8+ years)
8.94%

(variable)

9.51%
You'll get a variable rate of 8.94% p.a.
Borrow up to $50,000 for a used car for 8+ years, with no monthly fee.

You'll get a variable rate of 8.94% p.a.
Borrow up to $50,000 for a used car for 8+ years, with no monthly fee.
Credit Concierge Car Loan - Mid Prime (Credit Score 500-800)

From

5.89%

(fixed)

6.99%
You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.89% p.a. with a comparison rate of 6.99% p.a.
Must have an above average credit score and no defaults or late payments in the last 6 months. Home ownership or mortgage may assist overcoming a lower credit score in some instances. Lenders individual credit criteria applies and approval is not guaranteed nor is the interest rate finalised until a formal submission for finance is made.

You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.89% p.a. with a comparison rate of 6.99% p.a.
Must have an above average credit score and no defaults or late payments in the last 6 months. Home ownership or mortgage may assist overcoming a lower credit score in some instances. Lenders individual credit criteria applies and approval is not guaranteed nor is the interest rate finalised until a formal submission for finance is made.
Stratton Finance Used Car Loan

From

4.99%

(fixed)

6.41%
You'll receive a fixed rate loan from 4.99% p.a. with a comparison rate of 6.41% p.a.
A used car loan of up to $300,000 with quick approval times and balloon payment options.

You'll receive a fixed rate loan from 4.99% p.a. with a comparison rate of 6.41% p.a.
A used car loan of up to $300,000 with quick approval times and balloon payment options.
Credit Concierge Car Loan - Sub Prime (Credit Score Below 500)

From

14.99%

(fixed)

17.99%
You'll receive a fixed rate of 14.99% p.a. with a comparison rate of 17.99% p.a.
Must have stable employment longer than 3 months with no recent missed payments or overdrawn bank accounts. Defaults are assessed on individual circumstances and amounts on credit file must be paid or under arrangement. Good savings history may assist overcoming a low credit score and any unpaid defaults in some instances. Lenders individual credit criteria applies and approval is not guaranteed nor is the interest rate finalised until a formal submission for finance is made.

You'll receive a fixed rate of 14.99% p.a. with a comparison rate of 17.99% p.a.
Must have stable employment longer than 3 months with no recent missed payments or overdrawn bank accounts. Defaults are assessed on individual circumstances and amounts on credit file must be paid or under arrangement. Good savings history may assist overcoming a low credit score and any unpaid defaults in some instances. Lenders individual credit criteria applies and approval is not guaranteed nor is the interest rate finalised until a formal submission for finance is made.
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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: Awarded the 2021 Finder Award for Car Insurance - Value in QLD, SA, TAS, VIC, WA and Car Insurance - Features in NSW, VIC, WA, this policy offers solid coverage at a low cost. Budget Direct's claims service has received a 4.2/5 based on nearly 5,000 customer reviews.

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

Who it might be good for: People who want a comprehensive policy without breaking the bank.

Youi Comprehensive Car Insurance

Optional

Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: Youi Comprehensive Car Insurance is one of the few providers to include roadside assistance in its policy. You'll also get access to YouiRewards which gives you discounts on furniture, parking and more. Youi also has a live chat feature on its site to talk through any questions.

Who it might be good for: People over 25 who want comprehensive cover with a focus on customer service.

Coles Comprehensive

Optional

Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: With Coles comprehensive car insurance, you could earn double flybuys points at Coles supermarkets and you can get $10 off your Coles grocery bill every time you redeem 2,000 Flybuys points. If your car is damaged, you could benefit from a one-week turnaround on repairs.

⭐ Current offer: Get 10% off your first year's premium when you take out a policy online. T&Cs apply.

Who it might be good for: Coles customers and Flybuys collectors.

QBE Comprehensive
Green Company
QBE Comprehensive

Optional

Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: QBE is a sustainable insurance company and also Finder's Green Insurer of the Year 2021 award winner. This policy offers the highest level of protection available from QBE including three-year new car replacement.

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

Who it might be good for: Those that are looking for a more environmentally friendly insurance choice.

Bendigo Bank Comprehensive

Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: Bendigo Bank’s comprehensive policy offers up to $30 million in liability insurance, cover for your personal items and the option of a replacement car if your vehicle is being repaired after an accident.

Who it might be good for: Those who seek the peace of mind that comes with high legal liability and a range of cover benefits.

Bingle Comprehensive

Market
Finder's summary:Bingle consistently comes up as one of the cheaper insurers out there. It only covers the basics. You don't get to choose your own repairer, you're not covered for personal items in the car and unless you add it as an option, you won't get a hire car if your car is stolen. But this keeps its premiums low.

Who it might be good for: Someone who wants a low-cost option that covers them for the basics.

Qantas Comprehensive

Optional

Optional

Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: You'll be able to choose how comprehensive you want your cover to be with optional extras like choice of repairer and the option of agreed or market value.

⭐ Current offer: Earn Qantas Points for joining and paying your premium. Sign up today and earn up to 20,000 Qantas Points (points awarded will be based on your premium). T&Cs and eligibility apply.

Who it might be good for: People who'd like to earn Qantas Points.

Australia Post Comprehensive

Optional

Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: Australia Post car insurance offers comprehensive cover for things like theft, fire, new for old replacement and emergency accommodation and transport. Cover also extends to anyone who uses your car, not just you.

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

Who it might be good for: If multiple people use the one car and you don’t want to worry about listing all drivers.

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