THRILLS? NOW, PLEASE

Garage

ALEX INWOOD

GOODNESS, SERVED HOT AND PROMPT

A H, THE OLD ‘instant versus delayed gratification’ debate. Until now, I’ve considered myself a delayed gratification kind of person. Give me a piece of cake, and I’ll save the icing until last. And in a motoring sense, if offered the choice between an atmo screamer or one that’s heavily turbocharged, I’d prefer the fizzy heights of a GT3 to the brawny muscle of an AMG GT. And yet…

I’m now one month into Focus ST ‘ownership’ and this little blue hatchback has me questioning my stance. Everything in this fast Ford is readily accessible. The exhaust is surprisingly vocal at start-up and fills the cabin with a purposeful soundtrack at idle, the steering is crisp and meaty immediately off-centre, and the brake pedal is naturally weighted and easy to modulate when driving quickly. Only the seven-speed auto feels a whisper off the pace. Upshifts are fine, if lacking the crisp immediacy of a dual-clutch unit, but downshifts are frustratingly slow and often refused, even in manual mode.

Still, there’s very little in the way of a ‘getting to know you’ phase with this car. You could read that as saying it’s a little one-dimensional, but that’s not true. The Focus ST has layers to its personality, it’s just that there’s no need to hunt for any hidden goodness. Unlike a GT3 (or even an EP3 Honda Civic Type R) which has you forever risking your licence as you chase that next hit of 9000rpm, the rewards in the Focus are all within easy reach.

I like that more than I thought I would. Hustling your hot hatch up a deserted alpine road might be the dream but the truth is that most of our motoring kicks come from a squirt out of a junction, or the flip-flop of an empty roundabout. And in those moments, the torquey ST always feels up for a touch of mayhem.

There’s a pleasing honesty and simplicity to the cabin, too. This generation Focus has copped a bit of a beating for sub-par materials and the heavy use of hard plastics, but in truth, I’m yet to touch a surface that makes me think, ‘That’s a bit cheap’. And all of the controls are where you expect to find them, which again removes the need for an extended familiarisation phase as you hunt for hidden fan controls or through complicated Bluetooth menus. Having the Sport button within thumb reach on the right steering wheel spoke is also a boon.

So I’m a convert. Why tease yourself with goodies that make you work for them, when you can revel in 95 percent of the goodness 95 percent of the time? Judge it this way, and the Focus might have the measure of its more focused rivals.

ALEX INWOOD

REPORT TWO

FORD FOCUS ST

Price as tested: $45,340 

This month: 564km @ 10.3L/100km