2 June 2021

Ford Focus ST 2021 Car Review

Globally, the Ford Focus is renowned as a sensible, modest and comfortable family hatch, and the current generation model proved to be the popular choice for a panel of judges drawn from the country’s finest motoring journalists to win AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year 2019.

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Ford Focus ST 2021
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Ford Focus ST 2021
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Ford Focus ST 2021
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Ford Focus ST 2021
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Ford Focus ST 2021
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Ford Focus ST 2021
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Ford Focus ST 2021

The Ford Focus ST is not considered to be the most sensible, modest or comfortable choice – instead, it’s one which is loud, boisterous and tuned for performance.

As is quite often the case with hot hatches, they’re comfortable and practical enough to be a daily driver. The new Focus ST is certainly no exception.

We previously also reviewed the mid-spec Ford Focus ST-Line X 1.5L Hatch. We discovered that while there are many similarities carried over from the standard Focus, they are by no means comparable – the Focus ST is certainly a pocket rocket on wheels.

The Ford Focus range starts from $37,990 (+ORC) for the Focus Active 1.5L Hatch, with the Focus ST 2.3L Hatch available for $59,990 (+ORC).

Spot the difference

From the outside, the new Focus ST actually looks quite subdued for a hot hatch. In fact, alongside a regular Focus, you’d be hard pushed to be able to tell the difference between the two, apart from the sportier 19-inch alloys, dual performance-tuned exhaust pipes and a slightly revised front grille to aid with cooling the engine. Some potential buyers might even be a tad disappointed that the styling isn’t a tiny bit more outlandish.

Ford’s advanced C2 platform is used as the foundation for the Focus ST and allows for dimensions that are very similar to other cars in the ‘hot hatch’ category. The Focus ST is 4,378mm in length, with a width of 1,825mm and a height of 1,458mm.

Loaded interior

The Focus ST’s interior is also very similar to the standard Focus models with the exception of some minor detailing, the awesome heated Recaro sports seats and a powerful 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo system.

Physical control buttons and knobs are available in abundance to activate the driver and passenger heated seats, climate control and multimedia.

Apple CarPlay and Andriod Auto is included as standard across the entire Focus range and are used through the eight-inch infotainment screen. Ford’s SYNC® 3 SUPPORT lets you use your voice to do things like make phone calls or listen to your favourite podcast and, should your smartphone run out of juice, Ford has you covered – wireless charging comes as standard.

The flat-bottomed steering wheel feels great in your hands, but it also offers a selection of buttons at your feedback, including driving mode selection (more on that later). Like with the regular Focus, the Focus ST makes use of a rotary gear shift dial, which is easy to use and helps give the centre console a minimalist look.

Considering it’s a hatch, interior space is good in the Focus ST, with ample legroom available for the rear passengers. Luggage capacity on the other hand is a little compact at 273 litres with all seats up.


Hot hatches are judged on how they perform on the road, and the Focus ST has everything you want. Here in New Zealand, it’s only available as a seven-speed automatic, with paddle shifters should you want a bit more control. 

The gearbox is excellent, offering lightning-quick shifts no matter if you’re creeping along at low speeds, or hitting 100km/h on the motorway.

The ride (as you’d expect from a car like this) is firm and aggressive, ensuring every bump in the road is felt by the driver. The ride only gets firmer as you move into either the Sport or Race modes.

No matter which mode you choose, the handling of the Focus ST is superb. It feels planted and gives you confidence as you carve your way around windy country back roads.

A four-cylinder 2.3-litre EcoBoost™ I3 GTDi Petrol engine produces 207kW and 420Nm, all of which is sent to the front wheels. In wet conditions this formula can cause some torque steering, but a clever electronic limited-slip differential does its best to get everything under control.

Despite the large engine, the Focus ST has a fuel efficiency rating of 7.9L/100km, with a CO2 emission rating of 179g/km.

Safety first

The Ford Focus ST received a 5-Star ANCAP rating back in 2018, and offers a large suite of safety features.

Adaptive Cruise Control - Stop & Go with Traffic Jam, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and Blind Spot Monitoring System (BLIS) with Cross Traffic Alert all come as standard, as does Evasive Steer Assistance, Distance Alert and Lane Centring Assist.

There’s also a Head-Up display to help keep your eyes on the road, and front/rear parking sensors with a 180-degree rear camera.


The Ford Focus ST is a great performance hatch, and is yet another excellent sports car to come from Ford Performance - the high-performance division of the Ford Motor Company. It does what every good hot hatch should – it’s versatile enough to be a comfortable daily driver or a highly-tuned sports car (whatever mood you might be in).

A manual option would have appeased some enthusiasts, although it’s no surprise that only the automatic is available in NZ.

The overall package offered by Ford is appealing, and we think this might resonate with Kiwis who would otherwise be tempted by the likes of the trailblazer of the hot hatch segment – the Volkswagen Golf GTi.

At a glance


Ford Focus ST


2.3-litre four cylinder turbo


From $59,990 (+ORC) 

ANCAP safety rating

5 Star

Power and Torque

207kW, 420Nm


Seven-speed auto

Fuel economy/CO2

7.9L/100km, 179g/km

Towing capacity

1,400kg (Braked), 750kg (Unbraked)


2WD (Front)

Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

273 litres

Safety systems

  • Six airbags
  • Hill Launch Assist
  • Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Driver Impairment Monitor
  • Blind Spot Monitoring System
  • Autonomous Emergency Braking
  • Lane Departure Warning Pre-Collision Assist
  • Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Cross Traffic Alert

Find out more on how the AA can help you when buying a new car:

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