Before driving the Ford Fiesta ST Edition last year, we were a little worried. It’s so close to hot hatch perfection, we were concerned its drastic suspension fiddling might spoil it. In the end, thankfully, we were wrong – it’s a little belter. With the more recent Focus ST Edition, on the other hand, we’ve been fretting over the opposite – that the changes might not go far enough.
The standard Focus ST is a decent enough thing, but it’s languishing near the bottom end of our hot hatch league table. It needs a big leg up to be a truly worthy rival to something like a Honda Civic Type R or Hyundai i30 N, but the Edition’s, erm, additions do at least look like the right kind of tools for the job.
The ingredients are much the same as the Fiesta Ed’s. The headline change is a set of KW-developed, twin-tube manually adjustable coilovers that sit the car 10mm lower than a standard Focus ST, with the option to drop the car by a further 10mm. The springs rates have been increased by 50 per cent, and the coils are powder coated in Ford Performance Blue.
There are 12 settings for compression and 15 for rebound, adjusted using a tool kit found under the boot floor. The kit comes with a booklet giving various setup suggestions, including – of course – one suited for the Nurburgring Nordschleife. Both ends have compression and ride height adjusters on the bottom which are best accessed by jacking the car up and removing wheels, while the top mount rebound adjusters are similarly fiddly to get to. Both under the bonnet and in the boot there are various bits of trim that need to be removed to gain access.
You’ll be wanting to make adjustments the day before your track day, then, rather than in the pit garage. Not unless you want to lose a significant amount of circuit time pulling bits of trim out of the boot, that is. Happily, the factory settings are pretty well-judged for both road and track.
Out on Thruxton circuit for the Edition’s launch, you could heavily load the car up through the fast, sweeping turns of Goodwood, Village and Church (the latter being the UK’s fastest corner), gently and accurately controlling movement at the rear with throttle inputs. It’s a proper, confidence-inspiring weapon that is also able to dispatch the two more nadgery parts of the track with ease.
Out on the road, it inevitably rides more firmly than the standard car with its adaptive dampers, but not unacceptably so. The rebound stroke with the factory settings is aggressive and you are a lot more aware of every little lump and dip in the road surface, yet it doesn’t crash over imperfections. The additional vibrations mean the cabin is noisier than before, but again, it’s all perfectly liveable.
The payoff is a car that changes direction with more verve in slower corners while tackling faster ones with a greater sense of stability. The steering is a little sweeter than before, but unfortunately, it remains one of the car’s two biggest problems.
The EPAS software has been left alone, meaning it has that same weirdly springy, excessively weighty feeling. It’s better in ‘Normal’ mode, but still not brilliant. Our other ST misgiving is still present too – the nasty fake noise pumped through the speakers in ‘Sport’ and ‘Race’ modes. This is especially a shame given what a brawny thing the ST’s 2.3-litre inline-four is. The audio fakery puts a downer on every full throttle application.
Even with its new suspension setup, the ST remains one of the more flawed hot hatches currently doing the rounds. We’d still rather have the aforementioned Type R or i30 N, but if you were already set on an ST, opting for an Edition is something of a no-brainer.
The Edition costs £35,785, a rise of only £2,500 over the standard ST. For that, you’re getting the trick dampers along with Edition-exclusive Azura Blue paint, and some lovely flow-formed alloy wheels. With the updated standard Focus ST revealed this week, the Edition is effectively a run-out special and a nice one at that. We just can’t help but think there’s more potential left in this platform to unlock.