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Ford Focus ST-2

Click to view picture gallery“Fords current advertising strapline
  is ‘Feel the Difference
. Probably the
  best place to do this is to get behind
  the wheel of the Focus ST, which
  has done much to drive up Ford
  sporting image

FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT A NEW FORD FOCUS WITH A BIT MORE BRAND VALUE, a bit more image and considerably more performance, the ST three- and five-door hatchbacks are the answer.

These 222bhp five-cylinder turbocharged, higher performance models are currently the most sporty Focus models until the more muscular Focus RS 276bhp front-wheel drive variant arrives next year. This forthcoming model uses the same 2.5-litre-turbocharged petrol engine as the current ST models but tuned for more power and more torque: 295lb ft.

For a 'hot' performance car the Focus ST is a bit understated compared to most of the competition — only the electric orange paintwork model and WRC striped versions make a visual 'performance' statement. There's not much in the way of visual clues (twin rear exhaust pipes, rear under-bumper diffuser, semi-muscular body mouldings, mesh grille and big alloy wheels) to suggest, at a quick glance, that the ST is any different to an everyday Focus hatchback. Inside the ST there are Recaro front sports seats and metal-finished pedals to 'glam-up' the cabin.

The front-wheel drive Focus ST is no all-wheel drive Lancer Evolution X or Subaru WRX STi slayer — it competes more happily with the Honda Civic Type-R and the VW Golf GTi. Where it scores over all of them is in its broad spread of torque — 236lb ft of torque from 1,600 through to 4,000rpm — which makes it extremely responsive and flexible for day-to-day driving on our congested and winding roads.

The Focus ST (available in three- or five-door body style with either ST, ST-2 or ST-3 specification) is priced at a competitive 18,545 to 21,145, plus options.

My sporty Focus test model was a 5-door ST-2 priced at 20,145. However, fitted with numerous options including the touch-screen navigation system, it came in at 22,445. Like all Focus models the ST versions have Electronic Stability Control but, in the case of the ST variants, this also incorporates traction control. All Focus models also have Ford's award-winning EasyFuel capless and mistake-free fuel filler system.

Apart from the civilised performance and muscular looks, the ST runs on 5-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels and a sports suspension which, thankfully, is not so hard that it spoils the driving experience. ST-2 specification adds an upgraded Sony radio/CD audio system, Bi-xenon headlights with rear LED lights and a QuickClear windscreen. For those customers still wanting more, ST-3 adds a further Sony sound system upgrade and full leather for the Recaros.

So we have a nice package comprising of a high-torque, strong and responsive petrol engine that makes overtaking easy, a slick 6-speed close-ratio gearbox, sporty styling, nicely 'kitted out' sports interior, room for four adult passengers, a sports suspension which actually delivers a comfortable ride and a genuine family sports machine with a top speed of 150mph and 0-62mph acceleration of 6.8 seconds.

CO2, at 224g/km, places it in VED Band F and an annual road tax bill of 210 (300 from April 2009). Fuel economy is officially 30.4mpg combined — my test car returned 24.6mpg for day-to-day motoring which included visits to my local town, motorway trips and travelling along British A- and B-class roads as well as bursts of acceleration passing slow-moving holiday traffic.

Summing up is pretty straightforward: on the plus side we can list fast, mid-range power and response, good body control, conservative sports styling, comfortable and well priced. On the against side there's just nose-heavy handling during tight cornering and the fact that it's not exciting enough, for some, either in looks or outright performance. Overall we'd say that 'civilised performance at a good price' accurately describes the Focus ST. While it might not be an exciting Evo X or Scooby WRX STi beater when it comes to performance and grip, it is more driveable on today's busy roads. And far less pricey. — David Miles

Ford Focus
ST-2 5-door | 20,145
Maximum speed: 150mph | 0-62mph: 6.8 seconds
Overall test MPG: 24.6mpg | Power: 222bhp | Torque: 236lb ft
CO2 224g/km