6th April 2020
I’ve always been an admirer of quick estate cars. Perhaps it’s the Q-car element of these load haulers that lets them drive under the radar more than their more obvious hatch or saloon counterparts, but whatever it is they have a deep appeal. In the case of the Focus ST, I was already keen on the latest model and in estate format it was very welcome as it rolled on to the drive this morning.
Okay, it’s a performance model, but let’s deal with the practical side of the ST first as this morning involved a quick blast to the supermarket. With 541-litres of load space with the rear seats up, not even my kids’ voracious appetites were going to fill all the space. In usual Ford fashion, there are a couple of hooks to keep bags from spilling about the place, so it’s a big thumbs up as a sensible wagon.
A rare opportunity this morning for an indulgent solo drive for no other reason than enjoying the experience. So, it’s time to engage the Sport mode on the ST via the steering wheel button and head on to some favourite twisting roads. Usually, I find sport settings a gimmick. After all, why not just make a sporty car sporty all of the time? In the ST, it offers quite a contrast between a very quick car in normal mode and a Mr Hyde version in Sport. Maybe the S should stand for ‘Selfish’ after a bit of me-time this morning.
A long drive today from home in Scotland to the south east of England for a meeting. Some hot hatches would either cripple you with fuel bills or rigid seats. Not so in the ST. It manages a very respectable 40mpg on the motorway and the seats offer up all the right kinds of support with no aches or creaks after a 430-mile trip. This is as much to do with the excellent driving position as the seats, so much applause to Ford.
Dropping into the Brooklands Museum this morning to meet a client offered the chance to have a look around this amazing collection. I’m always stunned at the variety packed into this quiet corner of Surrey and today my eye was taken by this tiny Austin 7 Ulster. It was very much the affordable sports car of its time, but I think the Focus ST might have the edge today on performance.
Not much need for gear changing today on the long drive back home, but a chance to ponder the manual versus auto debate with hot hatches. I know that automatics are quicker and cleaner, but the pleasure of a simple manual gearbox in a car like the ST is hard to resist. It has an oiled fluidity to its action that pulling on a paddle shifter can never offer. There’s also a delightful crackle as the car brushes the rev limiter before an up-change on the final few miles home on back roads.
As my week with the ST draws to a close, I’m struggling to think of anything much I don’t like about it. Even the 19-inch alloy wheels look just the right size and don’t undermine the ride quality as some other hot hatches suffer for the sake of appearances. A friend reckons the ST wagon is a bit too subtle in the looks department, but for me this is key to its desirability and why I’ve enjoyed this week so much – you can make progress without attracting attention. Ideal.