Speed isn't everything in a hot hatch. Of arguably more importance is handling, suspension and clever design. If you buy into that and you're someone already tempted by the charms of Ford's Focus ST hot hatch model, then there's a reasonable case of saving a little cash and looking instead at these less powerful but still pretty desirable Focus ST-Line variants.
No one really disputes that Ford's Focus is one of the best-handling cars of this era. You realise that even from a drive in one of the mundane variants, but you really appreciate it most at the wheel of one of the top sporting derivatives - the ST hot hatch say. Ford has done its best in recent years to make the running costs and the up-front price of the ST more affordable, but this variant is still beyond the reach of many potential customers who might like it. Hence the Blue oval brand's introduction of the sporty 'ST-Line' versions we're going to look at here. There's less power but still all the usual great Focus DNA.
Focus ST-Line buyers get a choice of three engines. The base one is a variant of the brand's three cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol turbo unit, developing either 125PS. Next up is a 1.5-litre version of this powerplant, putting out 150PS. If you really must, there's also a 120PS 1.5-litre TDCi diesel variant too. We'd go for the 150PS 1.5T petrol variant which seems to give you everything you need without too much of what you don't. Rest to 62mph takes 8.9s and working the little powerplant hard delivers a pleasant, buzzy thrum all the way to the 130mph maximum. The 125PS version gets to 62mph in 11.0s on the way to 120mph.
Through the bends, the handling should be sharp, thanks to a 10mm lowered chassis and the well-weighted steering and short, crisp gearshift feel we've experienced in other Focus models. The fact that the suspension is a touch softer than that of the full-fat ST may actually even be of benefit on bumpy roads, where this ST-Line variant is unlikely to crash through tarmac scars quite as much.
At first glance, this ST-Line Focus looks just like a normal ST model. But look closer. ST-Line styling specifics include a honeycomb design for the trapezoidal front grille, fog lamps with dark surrounds and a special front bumper insert. There's also a rear diffuser element, a large rear roof spoiler, a black beltline beneath the windows, deep side-skirts, ST-Line exterior badging on the front wings and unique 17-inch alloy wheels finished in Rock Metallic Grey. Inside, ST-Line buyers get sport seats with red stitching, a perforated leather ST-style steering wheel with grey stitching, an ST-style gear knob, a dark woven headliner and ST-Line scuff plates
Otherwise, it's the usual Focus recipe. Many of the controls are marshalled by the SYNC 2 high-resolution, 8-inch colour touch screen system. This includes voice control for 'easier' access to audio, navigation, climate control and compatible mobile phones. One thing that's undoubtedly an improvement is practicality. The centre storage console offers plenty of storage space as well as a useful sliding, integrated armrest, accommodating a variety of bottles and cups with the capacity to simultaneously hold a litre water bottle and a 400ml cup. There's a restricted 316-litre boot in the hatch version, but if you go for the estate derivative, that rises to 476-litres.
Focus ST-Line prices start at around £21,000 for the 1.0-litre 125PS model, but we'd find another £500 to upgrade to the 150PS 1.5T EcoBoost variant. If you really must, there's a 120PS 1.5 TDCi diesel model available for a fraction more. There's an £1,100 premium to pay if you want to upgrade to the estate bodystyle from the five-door hatch. Automatic transmission is available for a premium of about £1,300.
As for ST-Line equipment, well in addition to the styling add-ons we've mentioned elsewhere, buyers can expect to find features like sports seats, sports pedals, sports suspension, black headlining, a perimeter alarm, a centre console with armrest and illuminated cupholders, rear lights with an LED night signature and black roof rails on estate models. In addition, there's the Ford keyless start system, LED daytime running lights and paddleshifters with cruise control on automatic variants. Plus there's an 8-inch SYNC2 infotainment touchscreen DAB audio system with enhanced voice control and Emergency Assistance.
The whole point of choosing an ST-Line Focus rather than a sportier full-fat 2.0-litre EcoBoost or 2.0 TDCi Focus ST model is to reduce your costs. Which is broadly what's delivered here. A normal petrol Focus ST manages 41.5mpg on the combined cycle and 159g/km of CO2. Go for the fastest ST-Line variant, the 1.5-litre EcoBoost 150PS derivative and you can improve those figures to 51.4mpg and 127g/km. The 125PS 1.0-litre version improves that showing further - to 60.1mpg and 108g/km. And in the 1.5 TDCi diesel variant, you can potentially manage up to 74.3mpg and 99g/km.
All Focus models come with an unremarkable 3 year/ 60,000 mile Ford warranty, with Ford Assistance at the roadside for the first year. If you plan on keeping your car for longer or are a high mileage driver, you can pay a small extra cost to extend that warranty to either 4 years and 80,000 miles or 5 years and 100,000 miles. There's also the option of a 'Ford Protect Premium Plan' that over two or three years, can cut the cost of scheduled garage visits.
Many writers will tell you that the Focus ST is the hot hatch to have in the family hatch-based shopping rocket segment. If you've decided that too, but concluded that the costs involved are just that little bit beyond you, then these ST-Line models offer a very tempting alternative.
Yes, there's less power, but the handling promises to be very nearly as good - and possibly in some circumstances even better - than Ford's established class leader. There's most of what you need - and very little of what you don't. Sounds good to us.
Choose from 7 different Ford Focus grades.
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