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By CJ Hubbard, 19 September 2016

►*ST-Line blends ST looks with affordability (sort of)
►*Three engine choices; we test mid-spec 148bhp 1.5t
►*Soft-core sports suspension nicely judged

Focus ST-Line? This is one of those wannabe gangsta, sporty-but-not-sporty trim levels, isn’t it?

Spot on. Ford, as is basically every other carmaker with a performance sub-brand worth speaking of, is trying to cash-in on the halo effect of its ST hot hatch models with a new trim level that bags similar looks but none of the associated brawn.

ST-Line is aimed at folks who like the sporting ST image but either can’t afford to take the on full-fat tyre-squealer running costs, or those who aren’t keen on the side effects of the inevitable, backside-bruising suspension upgrades that feature alongside the uprated engines. This new no-meat-but-most-of-the-trimmings alternative is available on the Fiesta, Focus, Mondeo and Kuga.

So how much like a proper Focus ST does the Focus ST-Line really look?

It’s not bad from a distance – the bumpers and side skirts follow similar lines and you do get lowered sports suspension as part of the package. It would be enough to fool most people at a glance.

But as you get closer, you’ll spot that the 17-inch ‘Rock Metallic Grey’ alloy wheels don’t fill the arches with quite the same promise. Round the back – where the ST proper features twin centre-exit exhaust finishers – there’s just a simple black diffuser insert on the ST-Line and a single, limp-looking peashooter of a tailpipe on one side.

Sports suspension? I thought you said it wasn’t supposed to be spine-crushingly uncomfortable?

I actually said backside-bruising, but either way, don’t panic. The ST-Line set-up is 10mm lower than standard but Ford hasn’t removed the springs and dampers altogether – in fact it feels very nicely judged for the UK.

There’s enough compliance to deal with your typical neglected urban or B-road surface, but the body movement is just a little more tightly controlled in the turns, allowing Ford’s long-standing chassis genius to shine just a little more brightly.
The steering weighting and feel complements the remaining body roll superbly, and you’re unlikely to punt this car into a corner without being extremely confident about the reaction you’re going to get in response.

Sounds good...

It is really. The ST-Line Focus is an enjoyable, stress-free thing to swan about in, whether you’re pottering along or giving death to the accelerator pedal.

In fact, if anything, the springs and dampers feel better matched here than in the real Focus ST, which can occasionally get out of phase with itself on particularly tumultuous tarmac. Outright grip and speed obviously can’t quite be compared, however…
You’re about to ruin it all by telling it’s got about as much power as a decade-old washing machine on an eco-cycle aren’t you?

Depends on how you look at it – I mean, the regular ST has 247bhp and up to 266lb ft (on overboost), which is still a pretty decent hunk of muscle four years after launch. And since the whole point of this ST-Line exercise is to make the image accessible to more people, you can’t expect it to get too close to that.

There are three Ecoboost turbo petrol engine choices in the Focus ST-Line: a 123bhp 1.0-litre triple, a 148bhp 1.5-litre four or a 179bhp 1.5-litre four. There’s also a sole 1.5-litre TDCi option, producing 118bhp.

The one tested here is the middle-ranking 148bhp Ecoboost petrol offering, which with an accompanying 177lb ft has just enough oomph to pull the skin off a rice pudding with reasonable conviction – but is unlikely to bring you out in cold sweats at night. Keep stirring the six-speed manual ’box, however, and it can at least keep that well-sorted chassis interested. Makes a pleasant but nicely unobtrusive noise under duress, as well.

It also drinks far less fuel than its fire-breathing idol, with a claimed 51.4mpg versus the real ST’s 41.5mpg. Obviously the ST-Line’s tax and insurance costs are also suitably restrained by comparison.
Much to get excited about on the inside?

The interior’s a bit of a let-down, to be honest. The only difference we could spot was the faintly red stitching on the moderately sculpted seats. But Ford hardly went to town on the Focus RS cabin, so it wasn’t exactly going to get carried away on the ST-Line, was it?

On the plus side, you sit nice and low and the basic ergonomics are as good here as they are in any other Focus – which is to say they’re pretty excellent. But the dashboard plastics are starting to look rather dour these days, as if Ford thinks you’re the sort of person who might enjoy flagellating themselves with a birch stick on a weekend, rather than indulging in some soft-touch luxury.

Verdict

Not much to dislike here at all – assuming you’re not someone who busts an artery at the sight of an M badge on the back of a boggo 320d, anyway. The wheels look a little small, but the ST-Line looks good from the outside, is comfy on the inside and in 148bhp guise has just enough gumption to get up and storm that barn dance.

Those fabled target buyers should find themselves thoroughly satisfied indeed. But perhaps they really are members of the birch stick appreciation society because this ST-Line Focus – as tested with optional metallic paint and sat-nav infotaiment system – costs £21,920. That’s just £800 shy of the entry-level list price for the real thing… And that’s not a lot of money to pay for an extra 100bhp.

Ford Focus ST-Line 1.5T Ecoboost 150 (2016) review by CAR Magazine
 
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Seems like they are doing what Dodge is doing with Charger/Challenger line by offering 10 different trim lines of the same car with various engine combos.
 

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I understand them launching this to gain more consumers and increase revenue, but it still seems kinda cheesy to me. Those of us who bought a ST did so because it was special and exclusive. This just waters that down so the wannabe cool kids can look the part without going all in. What next, a RS-line...
 

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I don't understand why they don't use the N/A 2.0. Must be a displacement tax thing as I have serious doubts about that smaller turbo getting better mileage in the real world as it's going to need to be under a heavier load far more often, meaning boost, meaning greater fuel use. You can only downsize an engine so far without downsizing the car. I also don't know where they get their mileage figures—their testing cycle must involve mainly rolling down a mountain in neutral. And if they're using imperial gallons, the very laws of physics must be different in the UK.
 

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I don't understand why they don't use the N/A 2.0. Must be a displacement tax thing as I have serious doubts about that smaller turbo getting better mileage in the real world as it's going to need to be under a heavier load far more often, meaning boost, meaning greater fuel use. You can only downsize an engine so far without downsizing the car. I also don't know where they get their mileage figures—their testing cycle must involve mainly rolling down a mountain in neutral. And if they're using imperial gallons, the very laws of physics must be different in the UK.
They are using imperial gallons. One gallon in UK = 1.2 Galons in US. So their quoted figure 41.5 MPG for the regular ST is equivalent to 34.58 MPG US. (41.5/1.2).

This is most likely a UK only thing. Remember that the Focus is hugely popular in the UK. This car is meant to be a bridge between a normal Focus and the ST, which as we have both experienced is a rather large gulf.

The UK pays some pretty serious "carbon taxes" on less fuel efficient cars, and their "petrol" is much more expensive (average price for gallon in UK after conversion from Pounds/Litre is 5.41 dollars/US Gallon) (1.1 British Pounds per Litre = 1.43 dollars per litre * 3.785 litres to US gallon)

Given those two things, you might see why you might want a diesel ST or an ST-Line over a full ST. It also explains why Mustangs are so popular over here and a bit of an indulgence over there. The 'Stang is MASSIVE on UK roads and it's appetite for fuel is rather beastly.

Be happy you aren't paying $5.50 a gallon in gas and paying your government excessive taxes based on the fuel economy of your car....
 
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