Ford have been reshuffling their trim levels over the last 12 months or so. Depending on the model, Vignale is the new top trim for buyers looking for luxury and for those with a sportier inclination – who don’t want to stump up for the performance ST or RS models – there’s ST-Line.
Inspired by the high-performance Focus ST, our Focus ST-Line estate features a large spoiler and a bodykit which adds side-skirts to the flanks and a redesigned front splitter sitting beneath a honeycomb front grille.
Sitting on optional 18-inch Rock metallic alloy wheels most would be hard pressed to tell it apart from an ST estate.
Inside there’re black and red stitched sports seats, a leather steering wheel, ST-style gear knob and metal pedals and ST-Line door sills.
Ford Focus ST-Line
Price: £26,885 as tested
Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 130mph
0-62mph: 9.1 seconds
CO2 emissions: 128g/km
Our striking Iceberg Blue test car isn’t all mouth and no trousers either. The 1.5-litre Eco-boost engine puts out 148bhp and has a 9.1-second nought to 62 time. It makes all the right noises and, while it wouldn’t trouble an ST or RS in a drag race, neither is it going to be holding up traffic in the fast lane.
Driving the Focus ST-Line for a week-long test I was reminded how good a car the Focus is. Many paint Ford as being threatened on one side by the affordably of premium badges – thanks to competitive PCP deals – and the vastly improved ranges from the likes of Hyundai and Kia on the other – but the Focus’s sales have held up and in the most recent SMMT figures (Q3 2017) show the Focus as the second best-selling second-hand car in the UK, behind the Fiesta, with 88,309 sales.
I can’t help but be charmed by the solid build, refinement and comfort of the Focus – but it’s the handling that really impresses.
The Focus is composed through the corners and invites you to push it hard. Fly-by-wire means the steering feels more artificial than Fords of old. But that’s most modern cars for you. It’s very light, but far from imprecise and, compared with a lot of cars I’ve driven recently, the Focus feels balanced.
That light steering means parking is a breeze, helped by the rear-view camera (a £250 option). Our car is fitted with the driver assistance pack and the convenience pack which mean a suite of electronic aids including parking sensors and active parking assist, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and driver alert.
There are a slew of other options fitted including privacy glass, cruise control and blind spot warning system, which add almost £4,000 to the list price.
The Focus is a terrific car and the ST-Line trim turns this practical estate into something stylish and desirable. Ask me for recommendations of a great-driving, good-looking, practical and reliable (The Focus ranked fourth for reliability in its class in a What Car? survey of 14,000 car buyers and 12th overall according to Warranty Direct’s reliability index) family car and I’ll tell you to put the Focus on your list.
It’s not cheap though. With options our test car is £26,885 (you’d pay more for a similarly specced Vignale). That’s more than you’d pay for our Insignia Grand Sport long-term test car – which is a full class apart and has more equipment.
If you look to Kia – you’ll find the Cee’d comes in at just over £20k in GT-Line trim and all equipment (bar paint) is standard. It won’t be as good – but it’s not far off.
Ford make better cars than ever and the Focus would be my choice in the segment – but their options and equipment policy and an improving competition mean it’s not such an easy decision as it once was.