There’s little surprise that the Ecoblue feels a bit dull and worthy when compared directly against the snarling petrol model. Yet against the criteria that can be fairly applied to a diesel estate, it’s a seriously impressive thing.
Beyond an artfully tuned, bass-heavy exhaust note that might occasionally persuade occupants there’s something bigger and brawnier lurking under the bonnet, the Ecoblue engine offers little in the way of excitement. It has slightly less torque than the Ecoboost (295lb ft to 310lb ft), but its peak is available at a lowlier 2000rpm, and it quickly makes its preference for an easy life obvious. It will rev all the way to the 5000rpm limiter if the mood takes you, but it clearly doesn’t enjoy the exercise and makes a vocal protest. It’s happiest in its muscular mid-range, and on a test route that included the demanding Col de Vence road near Nice, the Ecoblue proved willing to pull without complaint on steep gradients from less than 2000rpm in fourth and fifth gears.
Throttle response is much mushier than that of the snappy Ecoboost, and even Sport mode does little to sharpen it. The diesel Focus ST carries almost all of its extra weight over its front axle, and without the clever electronically controlled differential, it feels much less fleet of foot and unable to over-accelerate its outside rear tyre under power. On the plus side, grip levels remain high and the handling balance is entirely benign, with the estate tightening its line progressively on an eased throttle.
Although the engine gets vocal when worked hard, refinement is otherwise good, and the passive dampers actually deal more comfortably with broken surfaces than the adaptive setup. There’s less body discipline at higher speeds, but it still feels impressively well lashed down at speed for a sizeable estate.
There are some mild complaints. As with the hatchback, the throttle and brake pedal are too far apart for easy heel-and-toe shits; the optional Performance Pack adds a rev-matching function, but sometimes it’s fun to try it yourself. The new electronic brake booster has also give the middle pedal a slightly odd feel under hard use, not lacking in resistance yet missing some communication.
Although a lesser dynamic prospect, the diesel estate still has plenty of ST-ness, thanks to a well-judged bodykit, handsome 19in alloy wheels and even a subtle rear spoiler. Beyond a rev counter that turns red just past the number five, the interior is pretty much identical, meaning you get the same supremely supportive, full-leather Recaro seats. It’s also as big and useful as any other Focus Estate, with plenty of room for rear-seat passengers and a large, luggage-hungry boot.