Ford Focus ST buying guide

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A guide to buying the Ford Focus ST

The Mk2 Focus ST, built from 2005 to 2011, was an interesting car for Ford and, thanks to its great looks, characterful five-cylinder engine and hugely capable chassis, it’s one that captured the public’s attention. Matthew Hayward from Evo magazine explains everything you need to know about the performance car bargain before you take the plunge.
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Ford Focus ST

Background information

Launched in 2005, the ST transformed the relatively bland-looking Focus hatchback into an aggressive and much more desirable machine, thanks to a new bodykit, larger 18-inch alloy wheels and a range of eye-catching colours.
One of the most interesting aspects of the ST is its engine. Ford borrowed a turbocharged five-cylinder unit from Volvo, which proved to be a masterstroke, pushing 222bhp and a more-than-ample 236lb–ft through the front wheels. Performance was savage, with 0–60mph coming up in 6.5secs and a top speed of 150mph. The engine is ripe for tuning, too, and should you want even more power than standard, there are plenty of aftermarket options.
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Ford Focus rear view

Background information

Pre-dating the even more extreme Focus RS, the ST was actually created by the same ‘Team RS’ division and was at the time more than a match for the class-leading Golf GTI. The suspension was comprehensively tweaked, receiving 15mm lower springs and re-tuned dampers, helping the Focus’s already brilliant chassis shine even more. A thicker rear anti-roll bar and a quicker steering rack helped to sharpen up the ST’s front-end response, while larger front brakes made sure the ST could stop well enough.
Three different trims levels could be specified throughout the life of the Focus ST: the basic ST; the ST2 with Xenon lights and heated windscreen; and the leather-clad ST3. In 2008, the ST was face-lifted alongside the rest of the Focus range, bringing new headlights and bumper, along with a re-styled rear end. 
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Ford Focus ST in action

What to look out for when buying an ST

There are a few known issues with the Focus ST, meaning that if you’re not careful when buying, you might end up spending more than you really have to rectifying problems. There are lots of used Focus STs on the market, so you can afford to be picky and find a good car.
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Ford Focus ST engine

Engine and transmission

There are a few things to check when looking at an ST and the health of the engine is one of the key parts. Early cars built before April 2008 have been known to suffer from cracked cylinder liners, which will be apparent if the car displays symptoms such as ‘mayonnaise’ in the oil filler cap and a misfire when cold. If this has happened, you will need a complete new engine. Cars built after 2008 don’t suffer this issue to the same extent, thankfully.
On the test drive, it’s important to check that the turbo is boosting correctly Watch the gauge, which should flick around to over halfway before settling down towards the middle. If the car feels flat, and the boost gauge doesn’t move higher than a quarter, it will probably need a new solenoid boost valve at around £85.
Also check for a whistling noise from under the bonnet. This could indicate a failed diaphragm in the oil filter housing. Later cars, again, seem more robust in this regard and are less likely to suffer the same problem. This will cost a few hundred pounds to fix.
Whether or not you want to buy a tuned Focus depends on a few things, but if done by a respectable company, it shouldn’t put you off. Ford’s official partner, Mountune, offered substantial factory approved upgrades. Offering power outputs of up to around 300bhp quite affordably, the ST can be tweaked to offer similar performance to the RS.
Clutches can wear out quickly if the car has been abused or tuned, but many have since been fitted with an uprated unit from the RS. This is a worthwhile upgrade if you intend to drive your car hard, or you fancy increasing the power later on.
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Focus ST interior and dashboard

Bodywork, interior and suspension

Although not a particularly old car, there are a few possible spots to check for rust. Rear wheel arches, where a slightly misaligned bumper can rub away the paint, have been known to rust. You should also inspect the tailgate and hatch area, as small patches of corrosion can form where the tailgate’s rubber buffers meet the body.
Inside, the Focus is built well, although the Recaro seat bases are notoriously weak. If the seat creaks when you sit in it, it means that the metal base is about to crack. This can be welded up and repaired for little money, so isn’t the end of the world, and you should be more concerned about the state of the fabric or leather trim.
The special fluid-filled bushes have a limited lifespan and can cause uneven tyre wear, as well as excessive torque steer. They can be replaced with uprated polyurethane bushes to extend their lifespan.
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What to pay for a Ford Focus ST

What to pay?

Prices for nice usable early cars start from around £5,000, although you can find them much cheaper if you’re willing to buy one with problems. Low mileage and cherished examples will set you back closer to £8,000–£9000, while the best facelift models can still fetch around £12,000.  
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