We’ve already been impressed by the diesel Focus ST in manual form but can the automatic complete the family picture?

What is it?

This third generation Focus ST has seen Ford change tack slightly by ditching the evocative 2.5-litre, five-cylinder petrol engine for a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder version, albeit more powerful than before. While the 2015 facelift also saw the emergence of a diesel powered Focus ST.

Cynics may think that the diesel was just simply a watered down version wearing ST badges and sporty attire, but as an earlier drive shows we were suitably impressed and believe Ford’s warm hatch could conceivably give the Volkswagen Golf GTD a run for its money.

What we have here is the same 182bhp Focus ST TDCI but this time paired to a Ford’s six-speed Powershift automatic gearbox, the only ST variant to have an auto option. It means that the ST diesel is dirtier than the manual equivalent, but is also 0.4sec quicker to 62mph too.

What's it like?

As we said previously, Ford’s decision to resist making the diesel Focus ST softer than the petrol version was a masterstroke, as it feels far more dialled in for those looking for a frugal daily drive that they can unleash at a whim.

The 2.0-litre diesel engine doesn’t hide its clattery undertones all that well at a idle, but as soon as you are on the move the noise subsides away, with only tyre roar, wind noise and an artificial exhaust note audible.

The power delivery is smooth and linear, as the 295lb ft of torque wades in every time you dab the accelerator, thrusting you forward effortlessly.

The six-speed Powershift automatic gearbox also aids the engine’s powerful thrusts low down, with the transmission happy to flick through the first four ratios as if it was an eco-conscious diesel. However, push on and the gearbox will kick down one ratio, but there is an ungainly pause before it will go down a second ratio. It’s a similar situation even when you are shifting gears manually through paddles.

That small irritation aside there is little to disappoint with this gearbox, as it is happy to hold onto a ratio and revs as if the Focus ST was petrol-powered, while slotting the chunky lever into ‘S’ allows you to chase the redline and the engine to deliver its power far more ferociously.

The ride and handling is where the Focus ST comes into its own, with the ride supple enough to ensure using the sporty hatch everyday isn’t a chore. The firm suspension absorb ruts, potholes and speed humps superbly, with very little catching it out.

The Focus ST has been setup to grab you by the scruff of the neck when you attack roads with more gusto, with its weighty and precise steering providing a joyous experience, alongside providing plenty of confidence to attack corners on the front foot. It is a world away from the ‘safe’ handling of the Volkswagen Golf GTD, but that is no bad thing.

Should I buy one?

The Focus ST TDCI has already proven itself to not be a diesel car masquerading as a warm hatch, and the inclusion of this six-speed automatic, makes it an enticing proposition for anyone wanting to buy a frugal, yet sporty, hatchback.

Volkswagen The question is does it usurp the Golf GTD? Well the automatic is very good, but not better than Volkswagen’s DSG unit, however, the overly sporty and firm nature that previously hurt the ST’s chances have been solved.

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Now the Focus ST rides better at lower speeds and is more refined, that Volkswagen the gap between it and the softer Golf GTD is closer than ever.

Ford Focus ST-3 2.0 TDCI Powershift Automatic

Where Rugby; On sale Now; Price £30,765; Engine 1997cc 4cyls, turbocharged diesel; Power 182bhp at 3500rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd automatic; Kerbweight 1505kg; Top speed 135mph; 0-62mph 7.7sec; Fuel economy 61.4mpg; CO2 rating 119g/km; Rivals Volkswagen Golf GTD

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