Ford Focus ST170: Buying used

By: Joe Kenwright

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Ford’s Euro handling hero – Focus ST170 – failed to fire in the Australian market...

Ford Focus ST170: Buying used
Buying used: Ford Focus ST170


From Unique Cars magazine #342, October 2012

Buying used: Ford Focus ST170


After the BA Falcon’s arrival overwhelmed the 2002 Focus launch, buyers and dealers missed the point of the local switch from Laser to Focus.

Adding a boutique ST170 performance model in April 2003 seemed like a good idea at the time, except the badge meant nothing and its towering capabilities were best appreciated beyond Australian 100km/h limits. In the typical Aussie suburban cut and thrust, the special engine, six-speed Getrag manual and fine chassis could seem underwhelming. Of the less than 11,000 built worldwide, just over 100 were sold here.

On deserted roads, the ST170’s upgraded suspension and steering, generous 17-inch rubber, larger all-wheel discs and high-compression, hot-cam, gas-flowed, forged-piston engine make this benchmark front-drive hatch a brilliant driver’s car. Because its 127kW/196Nm hauls almost 1300kg, the six-speed manual needs to be worked hard – lazy drivers need not apply. The exquisite ST detailing inside and out in this landmark Focus shape and its exclusivity add significance missing from its contemporary rivals. Following the ST170’s 2005 withdrawal, Ford rebadged the next Focus ST as an XR5 Turbo in 2006 for instant sales success. But a local Focus ST badge revival in 2012 may help the forgotten 2003-05 ST170.


An exclusive market dictated by the three-door body, single blue colour, and manual-only drivetrain keeps prices above and below $10,000, depending on condition, for a bargain buy.


Generally reliable drivetrain requires cambelt change-over at 100,000km, and this must not be missed.

Keeping engine on the boil creates extra work for the clutch, which is expensive to replace. If ham-fisted drivers stretch gearshift cables, partial engagement of gears can destroy the gearbox.

Alternator is the main failure point and can leave little change from $800.

Driveshaft and front hub bolts can loosen and need to be tightened as soon as any rattles or knocks appear to avoid damage.

Power steering works hard with wide, grippy rubber and needs to be checked carefully for unusual noises and leaks.

Heat shields for catalytic convertor and exhaust manifold can rattle loose.

Big, low-profile rubber isn’t cheap to replace and can’t always protect expensive alloys from damage – check for out-of-round and buckled wheels.

There were early issues with clicking and sticky accelerator cables and pedals that should have been addressed by now.

Clicking from behind the dash is generated by a silver box mounted under the bonnet on the firewall as part of the engine shut off control system. Any noise or rough running will dictate attention.

Lower body additions and front overhang make scraping inevitable. Check for hidden damage as well as the obvious.

Partial leather trim needs to be conditioned regularly for long life so check for cracks and splits.



More reviews:

> Buying used: Ford Focus review here (2013)

> Driven: Ford Focus RS (2009)

> Test: Ford Focus ST (2012)


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