Focus ST-LineCars 

2019 Ford Focus ST-Line Review

The fourth-generation Focus made its debut earlier in 2018 and Peter Anderson got to drive the new Focus ST-Line version on the Côte d’Azur.

A new Focus is always a little bit exciting. From the day the first car hit the road, it was an entirely new approach for the Blue Oval. The Focus arrived around the time of the first Mondeo and the Ka, three massively important cars.

Those cars still echo through to this very day, even if the Ka is now a pale imitation of its former self. But Mondeo and Focus have stayed strong and true.

For the fourth-generation, Ford went with a clean-sheet design, including a new exterior look from Australian designer Justin Demkiw. The Focus range is powered by a range of three-cylinder turbo petrols and diesels.

But we’re only interested in one of the slightly expanded range and it’s the tantalisingly-titled ST-Line.

Focus ST-Line History

Focus ST-Line

Technically, there isn’t one. The ST-Line isn’t a direct replacement for a previous Focus variant. The Sport wasn’t really a sport and if you wanted something with a bit of bite, you had to jump to the mad ST or RS versions.

Peugeot and Renault hit on the idea of a warm hatch for the rest of us, without having to pile on the upfront and ongoing cost of a hot hatch. Both French makers added GT-Line models to their smaller offerings – 208 and Clio – to capitalise on the hot hatch halo models.

And it worked. So Ford has followed suit, trading on the cult following of the rapid, scary Focus ST.

What is it?

The ST-Line fits in the range between the Titanium and the Vignale. Some markets won’t get all four levels of the range and certainly won’t get all available engines.

The ST-Line comes with a six-speed manual or the eight-speed, Ford developed torque converter automatic. These transmissions are both fitted with the new 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo. I can’t guarantee you’ll be able to choose which gearbox you can have where you live. Australia, for instance, missed out on the manual.

The titchy triple spins out 134kW (183PS) and 240Nm, which isn’t bad for an engine of this size, not bad at all.

0-100km/h (0-62mph) is somewhere in the region of nine seconds, so don’t get too excited. This car is all about the chassis.

Focus ST-Line

And it’s a good one. It’s just a touch lower than the standard car – 10mm or less than half an inch – but with fatter rubber and bigger wheels.

It also misses out on the Vignale’s active damping and that is a good thing. That system makes the Focus fidgety and less comfortable than the ST-Line, which is weird. Maybe that needs some more work.

Anyway. The ST-Line really does fit the warm hatch philosophy. It’s not quick, the clutch is soft but the engine spins and spins happily. Sounds good, too, if you like that three-cylinder growl.

The steering is fairly light but has a reasonable amount of feel. Ford says the team has reduced the friction and I’m inclined to believe that. The previous “normal” Focuses did feel a bit like they got tighter as you wound on lock, the new car doesn’t have that.

The front end is pretty keen to change direction and it hangs on very nicely in corners. This car is all about momentum and holding it. You never really punch out of corners – you have neither the torque nor the power to elicit much more than a scrabble from the fronts.

The manual transmission is excellent – you’ll have to use it a bit to keep the engine on the boil in the twisties because the gearing is tall and the spacing wide. It’s lovely and slick, although not quite as smooth as the old Fiesta ST.

The ST-Line comes in both the hatch and wagon and, truth be told, it’s pretty good in both. Obviously, the wagon is slightly less quick and less agile, but it’s not a huge deal – again, it’s all about the chassis (the wagon rolls with a modified multi-link rear end).

ST-Line Competition

You can get a couple of Euro hatches and wagons in warm hatch form. The Renault Megane GT-Line is the most obvious. Peugeot also sells the 308 hatch and wagon with the GT-Line badge too. I can’t speak for either of them, but they exist. Which means Ford is on to something if you ask me.

Soon there will be a Hyundai i30 N Line in some countries, too. That will be interesting…

Peter Anderson travelled to France for the fourth-generation Ford Focus launch as a guest of Ford Australia. He was there mostly for carsguide.com.au

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