ST-ar Gazing

by Petrol Mum

The hottest varieties of Ford’s Fiesta and Focus models are designated with an ST suffix, which stands for Sports Technologies. The feisty Fiesta ST is the smaller of the two, but like Jack Russel dog this hatch has plenty of pluck. But if you need a bit more space, then the Focus would be your car of choice.

Spending a week back-to-back in each of these hot hatches offered me a chance to compare and contrast them. The Fiesta ST (in Ford Performance Blue) and the Focus ST (in Orange Fury) both had the sweet 6-Speed manual gearbox, which is my transmission of preference when driving a hot hatch.

The Fiesta ST is powered by 1.5L EcoBoost (turbocharged) petrol engine with 147kW @ 6,000rpm and 290Nm @ 290Nm. Find yourself a quiet B-road and you can explore the full rev range of the engine right up to the 6,900rpm red line. At about 6,500rpm the ST logo flashes on the taco to tell you to shift up to the next gear and this is accompanied by some pops and bangs from the exhaust.

The Focus ST has 2.3L Ecoboost petrol engine with 206kW @ 5,500rpm and 420Nm between 3,000-4,000rpm. The red line is slightly lower in the Focus at 6,500rpm and is also has the ST logo shift light just before this. Driving both of these hatches at ten tenths did impact on the amount of fuel I used with the Focus faring worst with 12.0L/100km used compared to 9.6L/100km in the Fiesta. The official use is 8.1/100km and 6.3L/100km respectively.

Both engines are enthusiastic and a lot of fun to engage with, but if I had to pick which I preferred it would be the Focus, only because I felt more comfortable with the gearbox in the Focus for the reason that in the Fiesta I found I had to reach further in the Fiesta to select gears. The Focus ST also has rev-matching technology to make dropping into a lower gear faster and smoother.

Drive modes available in both cars include Normal, Sport and Race Track (disengages ESC), with the Focus ST in addition having Slippery mode. The Focus also has a quick access button for Sport mode on the steering wheel that is designated with an ‘S’ and when I pressed this I felt it made the Focus felt more energetic. The 0-100km/h times reflect the power difference with the Fiesta ST doing the sprint in 6.5 seconds and the Focus ST in 5.6 seconds, another reason why I preferred the Focus.

For front-wheel drive cars I found that there was very little torque steer present under hard acceleration, although there was some tramping of the front tyres from the Focus in the wet. Ride comfort was acceptable in both cars even though the Fiesta doesn’t have Adaptive Suspension with Continuously Controlled Damping technology like the Focus.

In the cabin both cars use a fair amount of hard plastics and there is more than a bit of a feel of a 90s hot hatch in them, but for someone my age this is not all a bad thing as I am more than a bit nostalgic in the STs, for the cars I drove when I first got my licence and the Fiesta even has a manual handbrake. Both have Recaro front seats with contrasting use of materials for grippy-ness, with 4-way manual adjustment plus lumbar support and the Fiesta’s seats are heated.

I liked the steering feel and the wheel design in both cars; both were sporty-looking and just the right thickness with easy to designate controls and it was even heated in the Fiesta. Like many other car manufactures Ford uses a masculine silhouette to indicate the voice control button on the steering wheel. I did find though that the voice control system was good for setting a destination on the sat nav or making a phone call.

Both cars feature an 8-inch touch screen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and the satellite navigation has a Traffic Message channel included. Media options include DAB+, AM/FM radio and Bluetooth, with the Fiesta getting a 10-speaker B&O Play sound system. There is wireless charging for compatible devices in both cars and one USB and 12V outlet at the front of the centre console and a second USB port under the arm rest. The Focus has a better cup holder set up with a removable divider meaning the size can be adjusted to accommodate different sized cups/bottles. The drink bottle storage area in the door cubbies of the Focus is also cloth-lined to prevent rattles and in the Fiesta this storage was only suitable for small drink bottles.

It is not surprising that there is less leg room for adults in the back seats of the Fiesta ST as it is the smaller of the two cars, but I found that head room was ample enough. Both have two ISOFIX/three rear tether child seat restraint points, but in reality you would only be able to fit two car seats in due to the width of the seat. In the Fiesta ST there is no fold down arm rest in the central seat, no central air vents and no USB outlets. The Focus ST does have a fold down arm rest in the central seat with two cup holders at the front; it also misses out on rear air vents, but does have one 12V outlet for rear seat passengers.

Boot space is also less in the Fiesta ST with enough room for a small weekly shop and its boot also has a deep lip that you have to lift items over. The Focus ST boot would fit a stroller and the weekly shop and both cars have a manual open/close boot only. They also both have a temporary spare tyre under the boot floor and 60/40 split folding rear seats should you need extra space for carrying larger items.

The Ford Fiesta range does not have an ANCAP safety rating but does feature many safety features. These include driver and front passenger airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags, Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, Blind Spot Information System with Rear Cross Traffic Alert & Active Braking, Forward Collision Warning and Lane Keeping Aid with Lane Departure Warning. The Fiesta comes with standard cruise control and a standard rear view camera with rear parking sensors.

The Focus range does have a 5-star ANCAP safety rating (2019) with an Adult Protection rating of 36.7 out of 38 (96%) and a Child Protection rating of 43.0 out of 49 (87%). It has driver and front passenger airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags and front side impact airbags. Driver safety aids include Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, Forward Collision Warning and Lane Keeping Aid (LKA) with Lane Departure Warning. ANCAP testing of the AEB system showed GOOD performance at highway speeds with collisions avoided or mitigated in all scenarios. ANCAP tests of the LKA functionality showed GOOD performance, however no emergency lane keeping functionality is included. The Safety Assist ANCAP score of the Focus is 72%. My Focus ST had standard cruise control and rear view camera with front and rear sensors.

All new Fiesta and Focus models come with a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty and a service interval of one year or 15,000km, whichever occurs first. For the first five services the cost to service the Fiesta ST is $1,571 and for the Focus ST $1,546 based on prices from the Ford Australia website. Participating dealers also include 12 months roadside assistance in the service price.

The approximate drive away price for the Fiesta ST is $36,172 and for the Focus ST $49,350. Both hot hatches offer a characterful EcoBoost engine combined with a nice 6-speed manual gearbox, but for me the Focus ST would be my choice for its slightly bigger size and more powerful engine. Visit your preferred Ford dealer to test drive them both for yourself.

The 6-speed manual gearboxNo ANCAP safety rating for Fiesta
The cabin designNo rear air vents
Heated seats & steering wheel in FiestaHigh-ish fuel use

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.

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