Ford has announced the launch of a new automatic version of the Focus ST hot hatch, which commands a £1,450 premium over the equivalent manual. As a result, the new transmission, which is only offered with the 2.3-litre petrol engine, will take the starting price to £34,710 for the hatchback and £36,110 for the Estate.

The seven-speed “intelligent” transmission uses a Jaguar-style rotary gear selector in the centre console, as well as F1-esque paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. Ford says the gearbox “maximises flexibility” and can tweak its shift timings to suit different driving styles and “optimise performance”.

Despite the sporty credentials, though, the transmission does not make the Focus ST any faster. In fact, the auto ‘box extends the 0-62 mph time from 5.7 seconds for the standard five-door ST hatchback to six seconds flat. It has a similar effect on the Estate version, stretching the 0-62 mph time from 5.8 to 6.1 seconds. However, the 155 mph top speed is unchanged regardless of the gearbox.

It doesn’t improve efficiency, either, despite having more gear ratios than the six-speed manual. That means where the 2.3-litre, 276 bhp petrol engine’s 34.4 mpg overall economy is unaffected by the new gearbox or the car’s body shape. However, the official figures suggest the efficiency range is larger, with a bigger discrepancy between the ‘high’ and ‘low’ figures.

Ford Focus ST Automatic

In comparison, the 2-litre, 188 bhp diesel Focus ST, which is only available with the six-speed manual gearbox, returns 50.4 mpg. However, the 0-62 mph time is longer, at 7.6 seconds for the hatchback and 7.7 seconds for the estate, while the top speed for both cars is 136 mph.

The Focus ST range starts at £30,575 for the diesel hatchback, and rises to £31,975 for the diesel Estate. The cheapest petrol variant is the manual hatchback, which costs £33,260, but that increases to £34,710 for the automatic and £34,660 for the Estate. Pair the automatic gearbox and the Estate bodywork, and you’re looking at a car that costs more than £36,000.

Automatic versions of the Focus ST can be ordered from a Ford dealer now, although social distancing measures are in place. Deliveries will begin in July. In a statement, Ford said the new gearbox “opens the Ford ST experience to new customers and to those who prefer a choice of transmission”.

Gallery: Ford Focus ST Automatic