Interior and tech
The good news is that, for straight-ahead practicality, the Focus ST is a clear winner. Ford's decision to make the Focus ST available in five-door hatch or estate body styles means it scores heavily for versatility in the hot hatch sector. General family paraphernalia can be kept in check with a large glovebox, deep door bins and plenty of cupholders. But while the hatch is more practical than a Renaultsport Megane, the Focus still has less boot space than the Volkswagen Golf GTI - the two cars offering 316-litre and 380-litre load bays respectively.
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And although boldly styled, the cabin still lacks the quality feeling of the Golf GTI. The new SYNC2 infotainment system and satnav is still some way off rivals' alternatives too - the menus are rather clunky and touchscreen fairly sluggish to respond - but admittedly it is much improved on the earlier system.
The interior is undeniably sporty. Even the base ST1 is fitted front Recaro sports seats, contrast piping, carbon fibre trim, extra gauges on the dash, a sports steering wheel, metal pedals, a metal gear lever and a generous distribution of ST badges throughout the cabin.
Further up the range, Ford gives the Focus ST-2 half leather trim, dual climate control and a heated windscreen, while the range-topping ST-3 is further softened by luxuries such as heated seats, full leather trim, and bi-xenon headlamps.
Thanks to standard traction and stability control, a torque vectoring system, strong brakes and suite of airbags throughout the cabin, the ST is also one of the safest hot hatches on the market. These combine to help the Focus ST achieve a maximum score of five-stars in Euro NCAP's crash safety tests. In addition, Ford offers options such as a Driver Assistance Pack that adds safety collision avoidance, blind spot monitoring and lane keep assist to make the Focus ST that bit safer.
Don’t overlook the charms of the ST estate. It offers a whopping extra 400 litres of bootspace with the seats folded down (that 1502 litres in total) and weighs only 24kg more than the hatchback. It measures nearly 200mm longer, but its wheelbase is identical to the five-door, as is its performance: the 6.5sec dash to 62mph and 154mph top speed are unchanged.
It's also worth noting that the Ford Focus RS is now on sale. With a starting price of £30,000, it's definitely a step up over the ST in terms of cost, but then the performance on offer is also significantly more. The RS puts out 345bhp and is four-wheel-drive, but retains nearly all the practicality of the ST. If you can afford it, it might just be the fast Focus to go for.