The Ford Focus ST is the new hot version of Ford's small family hatch.
The previous ST was hugely popular with fast Ford fans; even though it wasn’t the sharpest-handling car of its kind, it made up for that with stonking straight-line performance, a great-sounding engine and a surprisingly comfortable ride.
Ford has chosen to stick with a similar formula this time around, creating a car that’s a cheap alternative to the VW Golf GTI, rather than a hardcore Renault Megane 265 Cup rival.
What's the 2012 Ford Focus ST like to drive?
The good news is that the ST’s comparatively low price doesn’t come at the expense of performance.
It uses a 247bhp 2.0-litre engine that can fire it to 62mph in just 6.5 seconds – almost half a second quicker than the Golf GTI.
There's 247bhp under the bonnet of the Ford Focus ST
Better still, the new ST sounds fantastic. That’s partly down to its burbling exhaust note, but also thanks to a clever system called a ‘sound symposer’, which amplifies the throaty induction roar of the engine when you put your foot down. The result is a noise that mimics the old ST’s five-cylinder warble.
Sadly, the new ST also has some of the old car’ less appealing traits. Accelerate hard and the steering wheel tugs left and then right in your hands, especially on uneven road surfaces. As a result, it’s difficult to keep the car on your intended line when you’re pushing hard.
Accelerate hard and the steering wheel squirms in your hands
That’s a shame, because in other respects the ST handles very well indeed. There’s plenty of grip, and it feels nicely balanced, allowing you to carry loads of speed through corners.
Better still, the ride is wonderfully supple for such a high-performance car, even on the scarred and pot-holed roads that make up most of Britain’s road network.
What's the 2012 Ford Focus ST like inside?
The ST is more practical than hardcore hot hatches such as the Renault Megane Cup and Vauxhall Astra VXR, largely because it has an extra couple of doors. However, the Focus has a slightly smaller boot than a five-door Golf GTI.
The driving position is excellent, and although the entry-level ST-1 car's cabin shares most of its layout with less-glamorous models in the Focus range, it does feature a set of supportive colour-coded Recaro sports seats.
Ford Focus ST: great driving position
ST-2 spec adds part-leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, and automatic lights and wipers for a £1500 premium.
Meanwhile top-of-the-range ST-3 trim gives you powered- and heated full-leather seats, bi-xenon headlights, rear parking sensors and keyless entry, but ramps up the price to much less tempting £25,495.
Should I buy one?
If you’re looking for a hardcore hyper hatch then buy a Renault Megane 265 Cup. However, if you’re happy to trade a few thrills for better comfort, superior practicality and lower running costs, the new ST makes a great deal of sense.
The only stumbling block is the Golf GTI. Which car you should choose really depends on how many luxuries you want; although the entry-level Focus ST-1 looks like cracking value, undercutting the VW by more than £4000, it misses out on things such as leather seats, climate control and automatic light and wipers.
If those things are important to you, go for the Golf. It’s no sharper to drive than the Focus and there’s nothing between the two cars on running costs, but the VW’ stronger resale values will more than make up for the £1000 premium that it carries over the equivalent Focus ST-3.
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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