I've recently driven this on a test drive, it's a brilliant little car, the 6-speed box works well, power is good, handling is very good and the interior is nice, not flash but good for the money.
It is missing a few external extras to seperate it from the basic models but when your sat behind the wheel... who cares what the outside is like?
We had the ST at 120mph and it was still pulling! It seats for easily and the boot is big enough for the weekly shop.
If you want an understated sporty hatch, this is perfect. It would benefit from a decent looking stereo though.
It was a toss up between the 1.8 Zetec or the MP3 - second hand the difference was somewhere around £150 - well worth it for the alloys, an internal MP3 CD player (I've always fitted after-market units but this one works really well so i'll be keeping it in) and the solid 'bucket' sports seats.
The car feels solid. Then turn it on! The ride is superb - it has a sports 'hard' feel on it - but not like you've got rocks for suspension - speed bumps are a pain in any car and they're certainly no worse in this one. The suspension is adjusted to take into account that you've got these chunky wheels on so you dont get any problems with wheels rubbing on arches or feeling every bump in the road.
Spin around a corner and you literally just stick on the road - something which I didn't find in the 1.8 Zetec - must be a combination of the wide low-profile tyres and the sports suspension.
I live in an area with plenty of country roads with roundabouts dotted in them to take you back to civilisation. The dips and bumps and easily handled and I'm finding myself going out just to drive and feel the car glued on the road. No roll - NOTHING!
Looking at the performance times you might well decide to go for the 1.6 as 0-60 times don't seem to be that much lower. BUT it's the 30-70 time, the 50-80 when you pull onto the motorway. I'm finding myself jumping round lower BMW's and little boys in their suped up toys can go to the back of the queue.
80,000 miles and finally something has gone wrong - both coil springs have broken! Haven't had the bill yet! It has been a great car, handling is great and it is fun to drive. I note you mentioned suspension problems, looks like you were right. Still it's a great car.
Honestly, I have chosen this car among other alternatives because of its price. (Since the new Focus is on its way, the price has dropped considerably); but it surprised me by the way it does everything smoothly (except from the low speed ride.)
On the handling side, turn-in is immediate, body control superb and grip exceptional for the class. In the cabin, it is pretty spacious and everything seems to be screwed-together well, though it is very early to comment on reliability. For a seven year old design, it is still fresh looking to my eyes.
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