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Ford Focus ST: White-knuckle ride

  • Diary of four fun days with the fast Ford
  • Comfy on motorways, great fun on B-roads
  • Sat-nav picked some odd routes, though

I recently managed to get my grubby mitts on the keys to the ST for a full four days and felt quite reluctant to return them to the office.

After putting several hundred miles under the ST’s fat Goodyear tyres, over a mix of busy motorways and deserted B-roads in fair and foul weather, I’ve become more of a fan than ever of the fast Ford estate.

The weekend began with a cross-country journey in the dark and rain on Friday evening, where the ST demonstrated one of its most attractive qualities – the ability to stop being a frenetic performance car and just turn into a normal estate when you want it to.

Automatic wipers, climate control and an MP3 player plugged into the stereo’s USB port all proved their worth over the journey.

Using the ST the next day for a trip to Alton Towers was a much nicer experience, although the sat-nav system picked a bit of a round-the-houses route to the park despite being in ‘Short’ mode (you can choose between three route settings when programming a destination: Fast, Short and Eco).

Taking the car to a theme park also revealed a not-so-hidden advantage of that lairy paint scheme: finding the car in the vast, crowded car park at the end of the day was a pretty easy task.

On the way home, the sat-nav (this time in ‘Fast’ mode) again decided to make things interesting by sending us down the narrowest and bumpiest lanes it could find (including a narrow stream to ford – no pun intended – at one point), which felt nearly as extreme as the rides at the park.

The ST can provide white-knuckle thrills of its own to match most rollercoasters. Its practicality credentials have already been pretty thoroughly tested by the rest of the Parkers team (see here and here) so it’s proved it can do the estate bit pretty well.

On the Sunday I went hunting for some good B-roads to find out if there’s still a decent hot hatch underneath the extra bodywork.

Is there ever. Be in no doubt, this is a genuinely quick car that’s a real pleasure to drive on a favourite road.

It turns in incredibly keenly and the 2.0-litre turbo engine’s 360Nm of torque makes for sports car-worthy acceleration on the way out of every turn.

There’s no need to wring it out in every gear to make the most of the performance; all that torque means it pulls strongly even when you shift up fairly early.

There’s an exciting soundtrack to go with it too. When you put your foot down, induction noise from the engine is transmitted through a pipe to a chamber behind the dashboard to create a suitably rorty sound.

It’s not too intrusive though, because when you just want to drive somewhere without fuss it quietens down - it’s only when you’re driving with a lead foot that you get the full orchestra effect.

The rest of my time with the car was spent slogging along the motorway on the way to and from Farnborough airport for the Subaru Forester launch.

It proved to be a much more comfortable motorway cruiser than you might expect given the deep-sided Recaro seats and sporty suspension setup.

Incidentally, to give an idea of just how bright the ST’s ‘Tangerine Scream’ paintwork is, I could spot it quite easily in the airport car park from the air on the return journey...

I actually quite like the way the ST looks, although I can understand how it might appear a bit yobbish to some.

One particular gentleman at a fuel station gave the car (and me) a particularly withering look while I was filling up on the way home.

On the subject of fuel, like my colleagues I too struggled to crest the 30mpg mark, although had my time with the car not included so much time exploring local B-roads I’m sure it could have managed it.

Hard to resist when that induction noise is just a flex of the right foot away, though…

Ford Focus ST sat nav

Focus ST sat nav offers three choices of routes - fast is very popular

Total mileage: 11,930 miles

Average mpg: 28.1mpg