Family hatch with fire in its belly

Ford Focus ST

Model on test: £34,940

A few years ago I had the pleasure of driving the Focus RS for a week – the experience being that of driving a family car that sounded like an ASBO waiting to happen with a ridiculous amount of power and looks to match.

While the new RS is a couple of years away and, if rumours are to be believed will feature electric hybrid tech, the current hot hatch of the Ford family is the Focus ST. The ST has always been a balance between crazy power and practicality, and to a large extent, that remains the case. However, with the lack of an RS in the current line up, it seems that the ST has upped its game a little.

This iteration uses Ford’s impressive 2.3 litre EcoBoost… the same power unit that sits in the old RS, and indeed in the ‘lower’ powered Ford Mustang, so it’s no slouch. With almost 300hp in the five-door car, it accelerates hard and makes a very agreeable noise from its twin exhausts, but with a smidge less weight on the throttle, it rumbles along quite respectably.

Its looks are clever too. The clues to the performance are there in the 19-inch alloys, spoiler, bodykit and aerodynamic tweaks that make this stand out from the everyday Focus’ you may see. The ST-Line spec comes close in terms of looks, but if you want the full effect, you will have to fork out for the ST.

Is it money well spent? The mid-thirty-grand mark is a congested market, with offerings from Audi, BMW, Jaguar and many more to contend with, so can a Ford really challenge these? I’ll make that conclusion at the end. But it does well on interior space and equipment. The satnav is okay – I have always found the Ford navigation to be a little clunkier than many rivals, but functional all the same. The feel of the materials while you’re sat behind the wheel is very much a high-quality feel – no complaints there.

Practically, we took this on a long weekend to the North Devon Coast and took a lot of stuff with us as we were expecting bad weather and it swallowed everything we threw at it with a little space to spare. It was a bit thirsty, coming in somewhere around 30mpg for the trip, but I was probably a little heavy handed on the accelerator as I really liked the noise.

I’ve been looking at buying a Focus for years, but my wife has never been that keen. I made sure she was insured on this one, so she could have a drive – the Focus has always been given credit as a driver’s car after all – and now, finally, she sees why.

So does the blue-oval challenger fit in the price bracket it sits? On balance, I think so. But at the same time, it’s different to the options there. A Golf GTI doesn’t feel quite as spacious, a Jag XE will always feel more luxurious, but if you want a practical family sized car that still looks poised and ready and able to give a good kick when your right foot drops, then the ST is a very good choice. For the long term, I think I might be swayed to the ST-Line for the added fuel economy, but I would sorely miss the noise of the ST.

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