Ford’s new Focus ST was revealed to the world in mid-February, with an expected arrival in Australia in early 2020.
So it makes sense that, before it arrives, we’d want to get an idea of where the car is coming from, namely its less performance-oriented family members. Enter the 2019 Ford Focus ST-Line.
With the same 134kW/240Nm turbo three pot as the other members of the Focus range, the ST-Line shouldn’t really be much more potent than its siblings.
But with a host of ST-Line specific parts, the sportiest hatch so far in the new Focus range has enough character to keep even a proper hot hatch enthusiast content – if not entertained.
The twin exhaust exit, honeycomb grille, rear spoiler, and some of the bodywork sets the ST-Line apart from less sporting models, while the interior is mostly the same as other models, fairly utilitarian but by no means offensive.
A lowered stance – by 10mm – is the result of sports suspension replacing the standard setup.
That suspension does make the car a little stiffer to ride in, isn’t adjustable, and could even be enough to turn some more bump-sensitive shoppers away, but on a lively drive it helps communicate the road’s surface via the steering wheel.
A set of Continental SportContact 5 tyres provide plenty of grip for road driving, while a relatively playful chassis feels like Focus ST DNA is present, and provides enough mid-corner adjustability to sharpen up if you find yourself running wide.
Its three-pot engine also sounds rather fun, and even though it feels like you’re headed off the torque band at the top end, it eggs you on in the mid-range with a surprisingly lively exhaust note.
The only gripe found with its drivetrain when things get spirited is the gearbox. It’s not the most perky unit, with the same gears and ratios as its sibling models.
It does come with paddle shifts and a ‘manual mode’, though its willingness to follow orders is low. It also shift up well before redline, admittedly keeping the needle in the torquiest part of the tacho, but that’s not always the goal.
Mercifully, when left to its own device, the ‘box is fine and the rest of the car makes up for it. No manual shifter is available, at least not until the Focus ST arrives. If the ST-Line is the ‘warm hatch’, we can’t wait for things to get properly hot.
Tested and rated on MOTOR reviews
2019 FORD FOCUS ST-LINE SPECS:
Engine: 1.5-litre inline-3, turbo
Power: 134kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 240Nm @ 1750-5000rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with paddle shift