2016 Ford Focus 1.5 TDCi ST-Line review

What is it?This sporty-looking version of Ford’s Focus family hatch is designed to rival the likes of Renault’s Mégane GT-Line and Vauxhall’s Astra VX-Line. It has much of the visual swagger of its hotter ST sibling but nothing like the same amount of power under the bonnet.
On the outside there’s a full bodykit, including a large rear spoiler and body skirts, plus a gloss black honeycomb-style front grille and dark surrounds for the foglights. Sports suspension and 17in alloy wheels painted in Rock Metallic grey complete the exterior alterations.
On the inside there’s a black headlining, sports seats with red stitching and a perforated leather, Focus ST-inspired steering wheel. You step in over an ST-Line kick plate and change gear with an ST-style gearknob.
At launch, the Focus ST-Line is offered with a choice of either a 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost petrol engine in 124bhp or 148bhp form, or the 118bhp 1.5-litre diesel that we’re testing here.
What’s it like?There’s no denying the Focus ST-Line does a good job of mimicking the styling of the raunchy ST. Squatting 10mm closer to the road than a regular Focus and decked out in its full bodykit, it has strong enough on-road presence to tempt other drivers to race it from the lights.
Unfortunately, fitted with the 1.5 TDCi enigne, the ST-Line has neither the pace nor aural appeal to back up its looks – or compete in a straight-line race. Push the standard button starter and the 118bhp engine emits a noisy diesel rasp, which doesn’t dissipate as you pull away. It’s woefully short of pulling power from a standing start; its 0-62mph time of 10.5sec is around two seconds slower than you get from a Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi, and its engine note just doesn’t suit the ST-inspired styling.
That said, once you’re on the move and the turbo is on song, it’s sprightly enough to keep up with other traffic, and the engine works well with the slick, short-shifting six-speed manual gearbox. It’s then that you begin to appreciate the Focus’s widely acclaimed precise steering, which lets you place the car through corners with precision. Anyone spending long stretches of time behind the wheel will also be grateful that the ST-Line’s ride is gentler than that of a full-blown ST over pockmarked UK roads.
The paybacks for the meagre performance are an impressive combined fuel economy figure of 65.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 99g/km. Both will make the ST-Line appealing for those on a tight budget or a company car driver.
While the interior doesn’t quite manage to pull off a truly upmarket air, the red-stitched fabric sports seats hug you nicely and the driving position is good.
The ST-Line is kitted out with Ford’s Sync2 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system, which has large, clear icons and intuitive menus. Standard kit also includes a DAB radio, air-con and keyless start, but not sat-nav, parking sensors or automatic emergency braking.
Should I buy one?The Focus 1.5 TDCi ST-Line feels like too much of a mixed-up model to recommend to an enthusiastic driver. It looks the part, but it’s a car that’s all mouth and no trousers, because it simply doesn’t have the pace or character to pull off the ST moniker.
With prices starting above £20,000, and this five-door version pitching in at more than £21,000, the ST-Line is too expensive for an eco-friendly Focus. In fact, the total cost of our test car was less than £1500 shy of the cost of a real-deal ST-1 – and there’s no question which one you’d rather be driving.
The only reason to consider it is if you’re a company car driver, restricted to a model with low emissions and high mpg. In that case, at least it’ll give you the chance to look the part as you cruise around – slowly – during the working day.
Claire Evans
Ford Focus 1.5 TDCi ST-Line
Price £21,295; On sale Now; Engine 4 cyls, 1499cc, diesel; Power 118bhp at 3600pm; Torque 199lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1343kg; 0-62mph 10.5sec; Top speed 120mph; Economy 65.7mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 99g/km, 19%; Rivals Vauxhall Astra VX-Line, Renault Mégane GT-Line

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