Top tips on the Mk2 Focus ST.
If you’re after the maximum bang for your buck in a hatchback, the Ford Focus RS would almost certainly be on your shopping list. But don’t discount its little brother, the ST, as it’s also a very rewarding machine.
Launched in 2005, this was Ford’s first performance model using the Mk2 Focus. It borrowed Volvo’s five-cylinder turbocharged engine and, with 222bhp and 236lb ft, it definitely had the ‘go’ to accompany the aggressive styling – evo recorded a 0-60mph sprint of 6.7 seconds. It wasn’t all about straight-line speed, though. The ST had nicely weighted and responsive steering, a well-balanced chassis, strong brakes and a remarkably complaint ride. Inside it was pretty racy, with sculpted Recaro seats, a unique steering wheel and an extra instrument pod with three gauges. Three trim levels were available – ST1, ST2 and ST3 – with the last of those getting full leather interiors. There was a facelift in 2008 (it’s the prefacelift car pictured here) that brought sleeker frontend styling and interior improvements.
The ST’s trump card is that it can provide plenty of back-road thrills yet is also be an accomplished motorway cruiser. It can be a thirsty beast, though, and cars that have been poorly modified can be a whole host of trouble – stick to ones tuned by known specialists such as Mountune.
Prices start as low as £3000, but for this money the car will be tired and have covered a lot of miles. Lower-mileage cars start at around the £6000-mark.
Above: Recaros grip the driver in the right places, while the additional gauges show oil temperature and pressure, and turbo boost. Left: upgraded STs will eat rubber voraciously if you’re not careful.
EXPERT VIEW STEVE BENNETT ST-FOCUS.COM
‘Whoever decided to fit the Volvo five-cylinder engine to a hot Focus was an absolute genius. The engine’s just brilliant and gives the car huge tuning potential. You do still see some unmodified cars, but as they lend themselves so well to modifications many have been upgraded.
‘While the Mk2 Focus ST is a superb car with 222bhp, a really great state of tune is the 310-330bhp point – and that’s quite affordable, too, being achieved with upgrades such as an intercooler, air filter, remap and a sports cat for the exhaust. Ford effectively strangled the engine a little to get it through emissions testing and good results can be achieved if the engine can breathe a bit better.
If you want more than that, you’ll need to do further work – 400bhp with good driveability is perfectly attainable if you go down the route of uprated pistons and conrods. In fact, this sort of upgrade is becoming more commonplace with the Focus ST.
‘These engines are very strong, but it’s worth considering a block modification as they can suffer from split liners, especially when modified. For relatively little outlay – £650-700, including a new cambelt and water pump – it’s well worth doing and looks like good value when you consider the cylinder head has to be removed.
‘Driveshafts can suffer on cars driven without any mechanical sympathy, but apart from that they tend to be in very good condition. Otherwise you might encounter an occasional failed alternator, while oil-filter housings can require replacement, too. A worthwhile upgrade is a Focus RS clutch, as the original was only designed to cope with up to around 260bhp.
‘Orange is always a popular colour, but I love the understated Sea Grey. I wouldn’t want to drive an orange one as I’m getting on a bit now, but some of the younger guys prefer the brighter colours. The base STs are pretty rare; most buyers went for the ST2 or ST3 as the ST1 didn’t have xenon headlights, a heated screen or even traction control. The ST2 had cloth Recaro seats whereas the ST3 had leather.
‘Good, sensible-mileage, early cars start at around £5500, but pricing is very dependent on spec, and the later, facelifted cars are unsurprisingly worth more. The most important thing is to buy on condition, history and quality of modifications.’