Touted as “the most Jekyll and Hyde” Focus ST yet, the new hot hatch employs the 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine from the outgoing Focus RS, albeit with more front-wheel-drive-friendly 206kW and 420Nm outputs.
Those figures got us thinking.
Last year in our Hot Hatch Megatest, the current-gen Focus ST mustered a fairly plain 7th place in the running order.
Read next: 2018 Hot Hatch Megatest: Introduction
But with a 22kW power bump over last time, and the long overdue addition of an electronic limited-slip diff, we think this new Focus ST is thrust right back into the thick of the competition.
So let’s take a look at the hot hatch rivals it will face once it arrives locally, and determine whether the new Focus ST has what it takes to lead the pack.
HYUNDAI i30 N – 202kW/363Nm
Chief among all, the supremely capable Hyundai i30 N is the big one to beat. In fact, the introduction of the Hyundai i30 N last year spawned the idea for a Hot Hatch Megatest, and even ended up being the champion, with the team praising its zero-to-hero debut. It netted the fastest time around the Haunted Hills circuit and its all-round ability and sharp price point were major factors of its first place finish.
2018 Hyundai i30 N: Hot Hatch Megatest Winner
HONDA CIVIC TYPE R – 228kW/400Nm
If driving for the sake of driving was the aim of the game, the razor-sharp Honda Civic Type R should be at the top of the hot hatch tree. Our testers revelled in how the Honda lights up no matter where the tacho needle is pointing; how the chassis “is so hooked up in the rear”; and finally, how planted and non-floaty it feels for a front-driver. But this deft performance does come at a cost, with the entry price north of $50k leaving a great big hole for the Focus ST to potentially fit under.
2018 Honda Civic Type R: Hot Hatch Megatest 2nd
Peugeot 308 GTi 270 – 200kW/330Nm
While the Peugeot 308 GTi may present as a bit of an underdog among some of the hot hatch giants, last year our megatest proved it was still well worthy of being at the pointy-end of the group. The lightweight package was praised for its beautiful ride and braking ability, and even managed to best the all-wheel drive Volkswagen Golf R and Subaru WRX STI’s times around the hill climb. Where it was let down was its innate French-ness, in its occasional ergonomic glitches and annoying trim rattles.
2018 Peugeot 308 GTi 270: Hot Hatch Megatest 3rd
RENAULT MEGANE RS – 205kW/390Nm
Due to its local launch date, the Megane RS only just missed out on our 2018 Hot Hatch Megatest, but the beefed-up Frenchie is looking to prove its capability among the best driver’s cars. The much applauded previous generation was a cult-hero, and this generation ushers in some big changes for the Gallic-brand. Having similar performance numbers to the incoming Focus ST, we wonder whether Megane RS’s time has passed, making way for a new king of the hot hatches.
VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI – 180kW/370Nm
Mentioning hot hatches without a reference to the Volkswagen Golf GTI will never fly. A tried-and-tested go-to for so many, it’s the designated benchmark for the entire segment. Testers during our Megatest regarded it as “thrillingly quick yet incredibly composed and arrestingly refined when it needs to be, a more complete hot-hatch for the money just doesn’t exist right now.” Accolades don’t come much higher than that. Power figures have been bumped to 180kW/370Nm for 2019 (up from 167kW/350Nm during our test) to see out the Mk7 Golf’s final days, ahead of the Mk8’s arrival in the near future. If the new Focus ST can at least match the Golf in all-round competence, it’s sure to be a good car.
2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI Original: Hot Hatch Megatest 5th