ALTHOUGH it’s now the second fastest critter in the Ford Focus litter, the ST hot-hatch continues the tradition of fast four-cylinder Fords that hark back to the days of BDA Escorts competing in international rallying.

It is a driving enthusiast’s car and although overshadowed now by the hyper-hatch Focus RS, the tamer and more affordable ST can still dish out plenty of thrills.

You can’t miss the ST on the road. There is no chrome, anywhere.

Window and grille surrounds are black as is the polygonal grille. Under the re-profiled front bumper is a deep chin spoiler with large air intakes and under the rear, a diffuser with drainpipe exhaust poking out.

Completing the look are side skirts, a roof spoiler, guard-filling 18-inch alloy wheels, obligatory large red brake calipers and auto-levelling Bi-Xenon HID headlights with cornering function. If you still can’t guess what it is there are ST badges on its rump, front and flanks.

Inside, are cloth trim Recaro semi-race seats that wrap around you and keep you comfy even on long trips. The flat-bottom tiller is a nice thickness and size and the full spread of gauges plus the multifunction display housed in a double-barrel instrument binnacle are easy to read at a glance. Sitting on top of the dash are three extra gauges that show oil pressure and temperature plus how much turbo boost your right foot is generating.

Under the trio of gauges is the easy-to-use and voice-activated Sync 2 infotainment system, with its spread of audio options, phone and music


BODY 5-door hatch ENGINE 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo POWER & TORQUE 184kW / 360Nm PERFORMANCE 0-100km/h – 6.5sec TOP SPEED 248km/h TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual SUSPENSION Front – MacPherson strut with semi-isolated sub-frame Rear – Independent rear axle with control blade BRAKES Front and rear discs WHEELS 18 x 8-inch PRICE $38,990 (+ORC)

streaming, sat-nav and a reversing camera.

But enough about its looks and the touchy-feely bits, the experience behind the wheel is what makes the ST a bit special.

The Focus ST always feels lively and responsive throughout the rev range; its direct-injected 2-litre turbo four-cylinder engine punches out 184 kilowatts and more importantly, 360 newton metres, from as low as 2,500 rpm which pulls you out of corners and throws you towards the next as you dance on the three sports pedals and slice and dice your way up and down the six-speed gearbox.

The chassis is one of the sharpest in the business.

As you’d expect the suspension is very firm and the low-profile tyres do little to absorb road blemishes. There are no electronic aids to change the ride either. You feel the road all the time and to me, that is exactly how it should be – you and the car as one, feeling every pimple and dip of the blacktop.

On the other side of the ledger the ride never becomes

uncomfortable and the stiff suspension ensures excellent body control, with the Focus ST cornering almost flat with oodles of agility and composure. The fat Goodyear boots ensure it sticks to the road like paint.

The electric power steering is nicely-weighted with loads of feedback but when you plant your foot on uneven surfaces the torque steer can be quite strong, necessitating a good grip of the steering wheel. Big brakes with a progressive feel do a superb job of pegging back your enthusiasm.

Downsides: The turning circle is not much smaller than a truck, a common trait in fat-tyred, quick-ratio steering, front–wheel drive cars. If I am honest, it’s a bit of a squeeze in the back, (I didn’t spend much time there). Oh, and it likes to drink from the bottle marked 95RON.

The Ford Focus ST is a good value all-rounder. It easily handles the drudge of shopping and carting folk about. It feels docile in the day-to-day urban grind, yet when you are alone and arrive at your favourite stretch of bitumen it’s a firecracker you will want to light the fuse on time and time again. It’s engaging and rewarding and bloody good fun.

It is well-made, competitively priced at $38,990, well-equipped, with a suite of safety kit including, auto high beam, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure and lane keeping and driver impairment mode giving it a five-star ANCAP safety rating.