UK Car Road Test

Ford Focus ST 170 2002


UK Car . 

Used Car Road Test 

Ford Focus ST 170 3 door Hot hatch 2002.

This is Ford's competition to the almighty VW Golf Golf GTi range and a myriad other specialised fast hatches that are once again popular. There is lots of pedigree and knowledge in its origin. (RS Escort etc)

Hmmmmmmm but it's a Ford (I think to myself) which is a bias grown from experience and not just badge prejudice. So, on a positive note, I will evaluate this car as honestly and realistically as is humanly possible.


This Ford Focus is very different in appearance to the rest of its kin. This one in a subtle graphite grey with striking alloys looks very much a hot sports hatch from the fat rubber gripping the floor to its curved roof, suggesting great capabilities and an exhilarating drive to boot.

Even small detailed changes to the lower fog lamps clearly show an attempt by Ford designers to modify it from the standard related models.

The interior trim is classy with half leather sporty trim along with great Recaro-styled front seats and yet strangley very disappointing rear seating. Similar to the rest of the Focus range, these rear seats are quite poor in looks and lack support or any real imagination.

The colour scheme on this Focus is very tasteful and I very much like the subtle use of the grey/silver exterior with the contrasting blue/black interior. Nothing too loud at all but stylish and effective. I find myself being won over by a Ford and am impressed so far.


Apart from the very obvious ST 170 badge on the boot of this car there are many smaller details distinguishing it from the normal range. Outside includes colour-coded bumper strips, small boot spoiler, lower front bumper with a different grille and big stunning alloy wheels.

Inside there are white dash clocks, MP-CD stereo, aluminium gear knob, oil temp and pressure gauges, etc. Before I drive this car I am somewhat reminded of the Escort Sports from the 1980s with six dash clocks and 13" alloys which were top of the heap at the time.

Naturally this is way more evolved and is more modern by light years and then some more.

Development has moved on extremely rapidly since early Ford efforts to boost large sales in this Hot Hatch market sector. It evolved from the earlier saloon RS200 and the later RS1600i on to the Escort RS Turbo and then peaking at the Escort RS Cosworth 4x4 which was quite expensive for a Hot Hatch when sold new. But what a drive! And they are still sought after.

On initial appearance this ST Focus would suggest that Ford are still alive and kicking and taking aim at the boy racer section once again.


Ford's Focus has a huge range of specs from CL to Ghia X but this ST is not quite at the top of the ladder in terms of equipment.

Nor is it the fastest in the Focus range, thus making it a second second already. It has standard fitment in many features such as air con, a multi-play CD player (which is very cool, being standard stereo size) which is operated from a remote under the steering wheel for total ease/laziness, electric windows and mirrors and a few other luxurious details are also fitted.

www.ukcar.comComfort Features 
Adjustable Steering Column from
Adjustable Steering Column
Centre Arm Rest Rear from
Centre Arm Rest Rear
Cloth Trim from
Cloth Trim
Drivers seat Lumbar Support from
Drivers seat Lumbar Support
Electric Height Adjusting Drivers Seat from
Electric Height Adjusting Drivers Seat
Front Door Bins from
Front Door Bins
Head Rests (front & rear) from
Head Rests (front & rear)
Height Adjustable Seat Belts from
Height Adjustable Seat Belts
Pollen Filter from
Pollen Filter
Rear Reading Lights from
Rear Reading Lights
Split rear seats from
Split rear seats
Time Clock from
Time Clock

I personally cannot see the importance of these items - surely if you were to buy one of these ST models it would be for its performance and drive and not the weight load added by dubious comfort extras.


www.ukcar.comLuxury Features 
Air Conditioning from
Air Conditioning
Cigarette Lighter from
Cigarette Lighter
Electric Mirrors from
Electric Mirrors
Electric Windows (front & rear) from
Electric Windows (front & rear)
Heated Mirrors from
Heated Mirrors
Leather Steering Wheel from
Leather Steering Wheel
Multiplay CD from
Multiplay CD
Radio Cass Remote from
Radio Cass Remote
Radio Cassette from
Radio Cassette
Trip Counter from
Trip Counter

Overall, the interior is acceptable (if you balance the front seats as being very good with the rear being very bad) and the colour scheme is great but the dash like all the focus range looks very plastic and lack lustre. I feel like the proverbial much hated school teacher saying that a little more effort would make all the difference.


Not having driven one of these cars before I was quite looking forward to getting the opportunity to test drive this one. Having examined the aesthetics, the time came to drive it.

The engine is a four cylinder 16V DOHC producing a respectable 170 horses, it is transversely mounted, driving the front wheels through a six speed gearbox with electronic traction control and a limited slip diff. The body weight is low so the power should be high and the car very nimble as well as quick.


Once seated, the driver is very well positioned and supported, the clocks are a silver white with red needles with the one on the right overloaded with numbers and suggesting that this car will fly.

Turn the key to start and the engine awakes without any fuss, vibration or excessive noise, it also idles very smoothly for a four pot fitted with high lift cams for added volumetric gas flow.

Press the throttle and the rev counter races very quickly to the vertical position. All seems well until you press the very light and easy clutch and then attempt to move the gear stick into first gear. The gear shift is horrible, the 6 speed selection is very fussy and not light at all. Now, I accept that it may just be this particular car being a little stiff but I found the gear selection utterly uninspiring.

Trying to ignore this below average gearshift, I carried on with the test drive, at first around busy urban roads with lots of stop/starts which the car responded to well, the engine did not have to be revved for power as the torque was plentiful at low engine speeds which makes driving in the city easy.

After this I headed for the open road to drive much harder and encourage the thoroughbred 170 horses from the engine. When I tried to do so I deflated quicker than a tyre on a stinger. I revved the proverbials off this car and found it to be quickish but not really that fast, I presumed that with such light weight and just me with only 1/4 of a tank of petrol that the car would be very quick but it wasn't and im not exactly a large bloater.

I cannot imagine how Ford quote 170 bhp for this car, I would much prefer a  Seat Leon Cupra which only claims to have a 10 bhp advantage, but would drive around this ST from Ford like a bully in a school playground.


The performance of this car just did not do anything for me personally and I know that it had no faults on it so was therefore driven in optimum test condition. I have driven the Ford Focus TDCi and have been more impressed.


I kept the car for a few days to adjust to it and see if it just appeared slow to me because I had been driving quick turbo diesels which delivered stonking mid range power without revving them to the max. I did not get inspired at any time, I think an older Escort RS turbo would be a better drive for power output and more importantly its sheer smile factor.


Service Interval Insurance Group Safety Rating Smog Rating
10000 15 218 Band (f)
Engine BHP CC Fuel Inj.
4 Cylinder 16 Valve DOHC 168 1988 Yes
Cyl Camshafts Valves/cyl Compressor
4 Double 4 None
Top Speed 0 to 60 BHP per Tonne
126mph 8.9seconds 147
MPG@Urban MPG@Cruise MPG@Speed Fuel Type
22.8mpg 39.2mpg 31mpg Unleaded
Kerb Weight Tow Weight Length Width Height
1156kg 1200kg 415cm 200cm 143cm
Boot Seats/up Boot Seats/Down Seats
351 Litres 0 Litres 5


With such a low regard for the engine and gearbox it would probably surprise most that on the flip side I found the road-holding and general handling to be excellent. The ST 170 is very well behaved at nearly all speeds, it is very stable at high speed and extremely nimble on tight, fast cornering. The huge tyres assist this and the traction control is best left off for fun driving as the motor does not overwhelm the excellent chassis.

www.ukcar.comSteer/Susp/Tech Features 
Alloy Wheels from
Alloy Wheels
Catalytic Converter from
Catalytic Converter
Disc Brakes Front & Rear from
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
Front Fog lamps fitted from
Front Fog lamps fitted
Halogen Head Lights from
Halogen Head Lights
Height Adjustable Headlight Aim from
Height Adjustable Headlight Aim
Independent Suspension from
Independent Suspension
Intermittent Wash Wipe from
Intermittent Wash Wipe
Power Assisted Steering from
Power Assisted Steering
Rev Counter from
Rev Counter
Traction Control from
Traction Control


The monocoque chassis is very strong and body roll and twist is minimal, yet Ford have still failed to cure the door seal problem at speed. I have driven many fast Fords over the years and experienced the door to pillar and roof seals to be very poor fitment, thus allowing excessive wind noise and air into the cabin which clearly is an indication of poor quality and very irritating as well as worrying the first time you experience it. 


Safety in this Focus ST is high with airbags to soften any impact, pre-tensioned seatbelts to help secure you on impact, crumple zones to keep you as far away as possible from anything that you may impact and ABS braking to ultimately stop you ever impacting anything. All good then? But yet more weight and less fun.


www.ukcar.comSafety/Security Features 
Antilock Braking System from
Antilock Braking System
Deadlocks from
Engine Immobiliser from
Engine Immobiliser
Front Side Air Bags from
Front Side Air Bags
Front Twin Airbags from
Front Twin Airbags
Heated Front Windscreen from
Heated Front Windscreen
High level brake Light from
High level brake Light
Locking Fuel Cap from
Locking Fuel Cap
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts from
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts
Rear Seat Belts Fitted from
Rear Seat Belts Fitted
Remote Central Locking from
Remote Central Locking
Side Impact Protection from
Side Impact Protection
Three Rear 3 Point Seat Belts from
Three Rear 3 Point Seat Belts
Visible Identification Number from
Visible Identification Number


The airbags are very well fitted and not obtrusive, it is a shame that Ford don't make the steering wheel more sporty-looking and driver pleasing as the steering on this car is outstanding but the steering wheel itself is well below par.

Alarm and immobiliser are fitted to assist you in continuing to own one of these cars and they do work very well.

However, the keys are very poor quality and often fail because the blade separates from the plastic which in my opinion is very bad. Ford should have fixed this design problem years ago.

Yet another quirky thing on the security is the remote for the boot release, press it and you would expect the boot to open but it doesn't. The first time you press the button nothing happens so you have to press it twice. Once you know this it is not too much of a problem but why is it designed this way???? answers on a postcard please

I guess the best way to sum up the Focus ST is by saying that I would never want to own one.

It looks good and it drives well but it does not have any smile factor whilst driving and this is paramount for a sports hatch.

I would rather have the VW Golf, Seat Leon or even a Skoda Octavia RS, and then there is the Type R Honda Civic, Audi A3 and lots more I could think of.

Where are Ford going with their cars? They have such huge resources and yet very little basic qualities to show in comparison to the other European makers.

Profit has to be the short term answer. Long term it may be that Ford do not see the next era along with GM, maybe?

The power of people now being forthright and the power of marketing being much more transparent and, of course, competition like never before make it legitimately difficult for the Model T maker to continue supplying us with so many cars. If any at all.


The ST is a reasonably practical car and will deliver a good mpg and low servicing costs combined with good reliability so it's not altogether a no-go but you would have to like the style more than the drive, along with a good purchase price, to buy one. General Features  
Colour Coded Bumpers from
Colour Coded Bumpers
Colour Coded Mirrors from
Colour Coded Mirrors
Digital Odometer from
Digital Odometer
Exterior Side Mouldings from
Exterior Side Mouldings
Heated Rear Window from
Heated Rear Window
Rear Wash Wipe from
Rear Wash Wipe
Tinted Windows from
Tinted Windows

I guess the whole car is summed up by the shoe case and luggage cover in the boot. It is aimed at a rep and not a driver. Ford shot at the bull's eye with this car and potted the black ball by mistake.


JD Power Survey Ratings
2003 81.5
2004 81.9
2005 80.2

JD Power survey ratings are on a scale 1% thru 100%, 0 or blank is un-rated


Sample data Click here to access specifications for over 30,000 UK cars. 

Car information and car pictures.

Many more used car road tests. 


For all Ford cars specifications and data from: click here.

UK Car Road Test Ford Focus ST 170 2002

UK Car Road Test Keywords: hatchback sportsFocus ST 170