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Ford Focus ST-2

Click to view picture galleryThe UK will be by far the largest
  market in the World for the new
  154mph Focus ST, with half of its
  9,000 annual production driving
  on British blacktop — no surprise
  then that 450 have been sold in the
  first week of order availability...”

PRICES START AT a very competitive 21,995 for the five-door hatchback and 23,095 for the estate sorry, there aren't going to be any three-door versions. But there will be three levels of trim: ST-1, ST-2 and ST-3. Sixty per cent of UK customers will order the ST-2 spec with another 30% going for the ST-3 and it will be the hatch that will be the body of choice for 90% of all buyers.

The Focus ST will start to arrive in September, just in time to benefit from more publicity as they are the 'hero' cars in the new movie adaptation of The Sweeney. Those of you old enough will recall the original TV series may remember it for its use of Ford Granada, Capri, and Cortina models.

“This new generation ST
uses a 2.0-litre, four-
cylinder, turbocharged
petrol Ecoboost petrol
engine which replaces
the previous five-pot
2.5-litre unit. Its 247bhp
gets the ST to 62mph
in 6.5 seconds and
on to 154mph
Much closer down 'memory lane' (last week, actually!) is the 2012 Goodwood Festival of Speed's Moving Motor Show where the new Focus ST — the most powerful ST ever — put in a fast debut appearance on the famous 1.16 mile hill climb course in the hands of a few selected UK motoring journalists.

This generation ST uses a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol Ecoboost petrol engine which replaces the previous five-cylinder 2.5-litre unit. The new powerplant is 10% more powerful, with 247bhp and 250lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm, and has 20% lower CO2 emissions (169g/km of CO2) and fuel consumption — officially it can return 39mpg.

All models have a six-speed manual 'box with drive to the front wheels through a new torque steer compensation function, torque vectoring control with an improved dynamic cornering control and electronic stability system.

Other chassis changes include a lowered sports suspension (by 10mm) with ST-specific dampers, springs and shock absorbers. The rear suspension has uprated knuckles, and a new anti-roll bar aimed at providing more feedback leading to more cornering control.

All models also have 18-inch alloy wheels, Recaro sports seats, AirCon, keyless start, electric windows and door mirrors and DAB radio. The most popular ST-2 models benefit from the addition of partial-leather upholstery, uprated air conditioning and sound system and auto headlights and wipers.

ST-3 cars get full-leather upholstery, heated front seats, bi-Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and rear parking sensors. All models have a considerably upgraded interior appearance over standard Focus versions, with unique dials and lower set seats.

Outside the ST has the usual muscular sports style bumpers, bulging side skirts, racy signature trapezoidal grille and rear roof spoiler. There's a centre exit tailpipe — said to be designed to look like Darth Vader's Tie Advanced Fighter in the Star Wars films. Back on Planet Earth, the exhaust system does have a sound symposer that generates an exhaust tone similar to the previous ST five-pot models.

While this new ST looks good, I didn't see it being as impactful with the petrolhead punters at Goodwood as the last Focus RS was two years ago.

“The standard Focus is
already one of the
sharpest handling cars
in its segment — as good
as the Golf; better than
the Astra. And the ST
spec doesn’t harm its
class-leading agility
The standard Ford Focus is already one of the sharpest handling cars in its segment — as good as the Golf; better than the Astra — and it's the most comfortable with handling and larger wheel options not having the overly firm and unsettled ride characteristics suffered by the others.

The ST spec doesn't harm the class-leading agility although the ride is firm but not uncomfortable. The new sharp-reacting steering rack just needs 1.8 turns for lock-to-lock change of direction and the new anti-torque-steer measures still retain enough feedback to remind the driver there is 247bhp under the bonnet.

In other words acceleration, grip, cornering turn-in, balance, poise and engine response all impressed.

A fairly sedate couple of runs up the Goodwood hill — thanks to too-slow BMW M5 and Skoda Citigo drivers on the day — gave a few of us 'journos' a brief but impressive introduction to the most powerful Focus ST yet.

Reasons to put one on your drive includes it being the Focus ST yet in terms of price, performance, fun and ability. Reasons not to: it lacks the striking visual impact of a Focus RS — not, and this is official, that there will ever be another RS.

It is definitely the best Focus ST yet and in these financially difficult times much more affordable than its GTi-class competitors. Roll on the arrival of right-hand drive versions when we will can to grips with the new Focus ST on our challenging winding British roads. — David Miles

Ford Focus ST-2 | 23,495
Maximum speed: 154mph | 0-62mph: 6.5 seconds | Overall MPG: 39mpg
Power: 247bhp | Torque: 250lb ft | CO2 169g/km