Ford Focus ST Estate - First Drive

A family car that’s fit for the fast-lane

Price: from £22,740
Engine capacity: 2.0 litres
Power output (PS): 250
Top speed (mph): 154
0-62 mph (seconds): 6.5
Fuel economy (mpg): 39.2
CO2 emissions (g/km): 169

It’s not without reason that the Focus is a fixture at the top of the annual bestsellers lists. And it looks set to be the third-biggest car of 2012 with over 75,000 sold here (the Fiesta tops the list).

The Focus, especially the current third generation model, is a winner not just because of the sturdiness and functionability you’d expect of America’s most famous marque, but because, darn it, it’s pretty cool.

This may be the car from the Super Sunday idents and supermarket car parks from Aberdeen to , but the Focus just looks very good for a practical family motor.

The sportier ST is at the top end of the Focus range and, even as a daddish estate, it looks great. That’s helped by the subtle spoiler, the 18” alloys and the blacked-out back windows, but even without them  it’s a lovely car. 

The ST’s interior is immediately Ford-like when you first sit in the cabin and then you notice the sporty seats and metal pedals and think, “Hmm”. Then you press the ignition button and put your foot down and, whoosh, we’re almost in Cosworth territory. (Incidentally, Focus drivers could soon actually be in Cosworth territory. The famous high-performance engine-makers recently announced that their latest collaboration with Ford would be on a concept model for a new ST.) 

This is no racer, of course, but the ST is the sports-tuned, higher-performance member of the Focus family, the kind of car you can pretend to be respectable in and then find yourself quickly invited to a Speed Awareness Course.

Unlike a pricey saloon with soundproofed windows, it’s unlikely you could get up into the hundreds without realising it. The two-litre, 250 PS engine makes an absolutely glorious racket as you put your foot down. I took it down the M1 at two in the morning (don’t ask) and was thankful for the overnight roadworks and my fears of unmarked police cars for stopping me from seeing just how much of a snarl the car could produce.

The ST handles nimbly too,  both on country roads and in the city, where it felt lithe enough even in the most traumatic of London’s main roads.

On more prosaic matters, the ST hits all the buttons. This new estate version has a big, 1,500-litre boot – but that does eat into the back seats’ legroom a tad. Fine for kids but possibly not for five adults. 

As well as the usual smart armoury of gadgets (blind-spot alert lights; lane warning systems and an easy-to-use Sony DAB/media system) there are a couple of other neat touches. I was also taken, superfluous though they are, with the little LED lights hidden behind the interior door handles and the sporty “8”-shaped exhaust. The sporty metal pedals are neat, too.

If you don’t get too giddy on the motorway, you can get decent mileage too at 39.2mpg combined.

The ST estate is a slightly unique car – a hot estate, rather than a hot hatch – but feels more valuable than its middish-range price suggests. If you’re in the market for a new family car with a little bit of va-va voom (though not that va-va voom) you could do much, much worse than take it for a test drive.

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