The fourth generation Focus has delivered more refinement and maturity to its long-standing hatch line-up. Is the new ST-Line the wolf-in-sheep’s clothing that fills the same void as its predecessors?
As somewhat of a pioneer in the hatch segment, Ford has taken a fairly drastic and simplistic approach with the latest ST-Line and Focus lineup in general.
As rival manufacturers go for more visible tech, resulting in busy interiors whose styling cues carry to the exterior, Ford has dialled it down from 11 to a much more civilised five or six with this model.
With the warm hatch segment quickly becoming an important part of many manufacturers offering, will the ST-Line be able to deliver the goods to pull back some loyalty?
Words: Brendan Allen
Images: Suppled by Ford Australia
Look and Feel
The first thing you’ll notice is how the ST-Line tends to look a bit more… generic. But not in a bad way. If you ask me, the thing that has always put me off the more recent Focus range, is the slightly high and narrow design, both inside and out.
Similar to previous models, the new Focus ST-Line likes to make fairly bold choices when it comes to styling around the doors as well at the front and rear guards. However, the designers this time around seem to have managed to pull off a more aggressive, yet subdued look.
I feel there has been some inspiration taken from the likes of Renault and Mercedes with their Clio and new A-Class respectively, resulting in more sculpted body lines and less reliance on contrasting angles.
This styling approach is common across the whole Focus range, not just the ST-Line, but a bold colour choice (Ruby Red looks quite delicious) combined with the rather flattering 17-inch alloys in a dark shade, makes even Ford’s entry level ST-Line turn the occasional head in traffic.
The interior is a massive step up for Ford. Previously, the Focus range was a love/hate situation for many new car buyers, but the name of the game in 2019 is minimalism. A more traditional centre console is teamed up with a dial-style gear selector and aesthetically pleasing steering wheel to provide a familiar and confident cockpit for both day to day use as well as the occasional spirited run.
The controls are very intuitive, taking only a few minutes to master the audio and sat nav system, which as expected, is now planted squarely atop the dashboard. SYNC3 also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The seats provide more than enough comfort and support for a car that gets up and boogies when you need it to and the interior in general has a very nice ambience with enough personalisation options to make it not feel like a rental car.
Possibly the most impressive aspect of the ST-Line is the sheer amount of standard features available. From simple things like Apple CarPlay and wireless charging through to a plethora of driver assist features such as adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist.
One thing I love is the fact that there’s a slot right below the gear selector to put your parking ticket when you head to Woolies to do the weekly shop. It’s the little things.
The 1.5 Litre Eco-Boost is given great reviews the world over and I can see why. It feels like the new ST-Line was built around this engine, because it’s such an impressive overall package.
The response is truly amazing and if you remember that this is essentially a glorified grocery-getter, you’ve actually got a very capable hatch not only around town, but can easily provide enough thrills on a country B-road for the average spirited driver.
The 1.5 Eco-Boost spits out a decent 134kW (182PS) at 6000rpm and the 8-speed auto box and steering wheel-mounted paddles have won me over to the point where I don’t have a problem with there being no manual option. Don’t tell anyone I said that, though.
The turbo triple’s willingness is helped along by the fact it spins up a very tasty 240Nm.
The chassis provides a lot of confidence. This model comes with a decent amount of tyre for a change (215/50 R17) which I think helps a lot with cornering performance as well as comfort. Personally, the current trend of 18 inch wheels with Liquorice for tyres doesn’t really do it for me.
There is definitely a limit to the grip which is to be expected as the ST-Line shares a lot in common with the base Trend hatch, but again, as a filler between the base offering and the upcoming ST (2020), the ST-Line does an amazing job of doing exactly what it says on the tin.
It will be interesting to get behind the wheel of the ST upon its release next year and see what Ford can do with the new chassis, but until then I’d be more than happy carving up the Woolies carpark in the ST-Line.
If you hadn’t already noticed, I’m a fan of the ST-Line as an overall package.
It seems the symphony of responsiveness, feedback and standard equipment makes the ST-Line an absolute no-brainer for anyone in the market for a little bit “more” than your typical generic hatch.
Ford uses the tagline “Move like you mean it” and I think it sums up the ST-Line experience rather well, as the car feels like it’s ready to pounce at any moment. Be it the little squirt to get through that amber light, or the full throttle approach when joining the freeway.
The steering feedback combined with a surprisingly quick paddle shift setup continues the aggressive driving dynamic as you begin to push the ST-Line through the corners.
Ford has delivered by providing a premium offering at a bargain price and this trend carries through to the way the car rides. It might have a lot to do with the sensible 17 inch standard wheel size, but you can tell a lot of effort has gone into the whole package to deliver a truly dynamic experience behind the wheel.
At a starting price of $25,990, it definitely feels like a premium ride inside and out and the price seems to undercut a lot of European competitors with similar spec.
Time will tell if Ford can claw back some of the market they used to dominate, and perhaps they are relying on the upcoming ST to provide the spark they need to really drive the whole range home.
For now, sensible buyers would be insane to not include the ST-Line on their shopping list.
Like what you read? But you want a wagon? Read Peter’s review here.
|UK (150PS, recommended pricing, 8-spd auto)||£23,750.00||£24,850|