Focused fast Ford brings pure pleasure
Sometimes you can sense how a car is going to be within the first few hundred yards.
Such is the case with the Ford Focus ST, impressive enough as an estate to make Jeremy Clarkson and chums make it their Top Gear hot hatch of the year.
The ST is a halo model for both the Focus and now the Fiesta, designed to make Fords cool and appealing for those who must have image as well as practicality. The truth, though, is that all Fords have delivered dynamic prowess for many years.
But the drive away experience of the Focus ST is still something to savour. Flex the right foot and you can feel something tethered and straining to be set free. There's just a hint of torque steer, a little tug on the steering wheel that flags all that pent-up energy.
That said, the car is controllable and not crude. Torque steer in the ST is nothing like the rim-wrenching experience it used to be, where staying in a straight line as the power ripped in was akin to wrestling a hungry python.
The Focus ST delivers just shy of 250 bhp, which sounds impressive. But more important is the 265 lb ft of torque, the figure which signals that here there's the real power to bring pure driving fun.
The Focus ST has a top speed of 154 mph but unless you are a regular visitor to continental roads or track days then more likely to be of interest is the 6.5 second 0-62 mph time. That can be shaved to 5.7 seconds with the Mountune 25 bhp power boost offered from September for £1,225.
Even so, this is not about ability to race away from the lights. Instead, it's a healthy indicator of the driving pleasure to be had from back routes and twisty roads, equally as abundant in the UK as power is from the ST's 2.0 litre four cylinder EcoBoost engine or the pleasure from swapping cogs in the six speed ECOnetic manual gearbox.
That Eco bit in the engine's name is also significant. The car has a CO2 output of 169 g / km, so getting down and dirty with the driving fun is not as dirty as it once might have been. Older petrol performance cars registered since Budget Day in 2006 can invite huge road tax penalties because of their CO2 outputs but the Focus ST doesn't carry such annual liabilities.
There is homage to performance Fords of old. Just 21 years ago, the Escort Cosworth launched to great acclaim and, typical of the era, had a huge spoiler to keep the rear end firmly planted. The Focus ST has a more discreet wing just above the rear window, where it doesn't obscure the traffic behind.
Of course the Focus ST, offered only as a five door in either hatch or estate form, also shares family car practicality with the other Focus models. So you can have your driving fun without inflicting a sports car on the rest of the clan. Those who don't need the space will find the more recently launched Fiesta ST, almost as quick if not as capacious, an ideal alternative.
But for very little more, and with so much more to offer, it's the Focus ST that wins the day here. Prodigious torque, everyday driveabilty, and family capacity are an unbeatable combination. So much so that in an Autocar magazine test the new VW Golf GTi failed to beat the totally focused ST.
Car: Ford Focus ST2 five door
Does it fit your ego...
0-62 mph: 6.5 secs
Top speed: 154 mph
Torque: 265 lb ft
...and your wallet...
Combined: 39.2 mpg
CO2 emissions: 169 g/km
Insurance Group: 34
Best bits: fast fun; family sensible.