For The ST handles sweetly and rides smoothly, plus it delivers awesome performance thanks to a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine that produces 247bhp and 250lb ft of torque.
Against There’s no fancy limited slip differential, so you feel some torque steer as you pour on the power. Resale values are likely to be weak.
The Ford Focus ST may not be as quick or as trick some hardcore rivals, such as the Renault Megane 265 Cup, but it’s a beautifully rounded machine, representing the cerebral choice for discerning hot hatch aficionados. In fact, it’s our Hot Hatch of the Year 2013.
Power comes from a four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbo, which produces a thumping 247bhp – enough to get the ST from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds. This engine is all out of puff by 5000rpm, but there’s bags of low- and mid-range torque, so it really drags you out of corners and delivers effortless flexibility.
The ST responds to the slightest turn of the steering wheel and remains remarkably flat and composed in corners. True, the wheel starts to tug left and right in your hands if you try to power out of a turn too aggressively, but a slight lift is all it takes to calm things down. It also has a cosseting ride compared with the vast majority of hot hatches.
The ST is brash when you want it to be - a rerouted induction pipe sends a deep bellow into the cabin every time you stamp on the gas – and reasonably hushed when you’re in the mood to just sit back and enjoy the journey. The excellent isolation of road noise makes it an accomplished high-mileage tourer, too, while the gearshift is slick.
The ST is cheaper and more fuel-efficient than its main rival, the Volkswagen Golf GTI. However, it won’t hold its value anywhere near as well and insurance premiums will be punitive, especially for younger drivers. Front tyre wear will also be pretty dramatic if you drive the car as it was designed to be driven.
The ST’s dash has a smart design, plus it features an expensive-looking soft-touch covering and metallic and piano black detailing. True, the plastics lower down are harder and cheaper looking, but Fords are pretty hardy machines, and if things do go wrong, they’re generally cheap to fix.
The ST comes with seven airbags and stability control, while its ‘torque vectoring’ brings a significant advance in performance and safety. This clever electronic system uses the ESP and brakes to distribute drive to the front wheel with the most traction. It’s a subtle, but brilliant piece of kit that enhances the ST’s stability as well as its agility.
As in all Focuses, the driving position is spot-on, plus the ST comes with figure-hugging Recaro sports seats that hold you tightly in place as you hurtle around corners. Most climate functions are controlled via simple rotary dials, but the stereo buttons are rather small and fiddly.
Many hot hatch rivals have only three doors, but because the ST is a five-door, it’s fairly easy to get your mates in and out of the back. Once they’re in, there’s enough space for two adults. However, the boot is a little bit pokey compared with some rivals’, and if you want to fold the rear seats flat, you'll need to flip up the seat bases first.
Standard trim includes Recaro sports seats and a ST-monogrammed leather sports steering wheel, while ST-2 spec adds part-leather seats, dual-zone climate control and automatic lights and wipers. ST-3 trim includes full leather, powered and heated seats, xenon headlights, rear parking sensors, electrical folding mirrors and keyless entry, but ramps the price up significantly.
The Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi 115 Edge is a great car to drive, and has superb official figures for emissions and fuel economy. You might struggle to match the claimed 67mpg, but it should still be cheap to run.