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First drive: Ford Focus ST – on sale January 2006

Ford

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Review

It is quite a rare occurrence but every now and then you come across a car that really gets the pulse racing, a car that just begs to be driven, because surely it would be a crime to leave it sitting on the forecourt.

It’s not always about speed or looks though, it’s that magic mojo, a combination of factors that all add up to give owners that extra special feeling when they look at their pride and joy, which is only bettered once behind the wheel.

For the average motoring consumer most of these cars are off the radar unless they own, or have recently held up, a bank. The closest they’ll get was the poster on their bedroom wall when they were growing up. But with the launch of the Focus ST, Ford has created a growling beast of a car.

The ST is the car that the latest VW Golf GTI should have been. Nimble, lightweight, but surefooted and aggressive, it’s got the whole kaboodle.

It’s powered by the five cylinder turbocharged 2.5-litre engine used by Volvo in its T5 models, but Ford has managed to truly maximize the unit’s potential.

It has the urgency that is so lacking in the Volvo models and allied to a short shifting and slick six-speed gearbox it feels much quicker than the performance figures suggest.

Potential customers will be wowed by the in gear performance which, thanks to the 236lb-ft of torque, can easily forgive you for selecting too high a gear. Ford uses a “sound symposer” system to bring the engine note into the cabin and it really does add to the driving pleasure.

But most impressive is the Focus ST’s ability to be an all rounder. Unlike the Astra VXR, it is easy to drive around town, with a light gear change and forgiving ride, and is happy with a full load. Let it loose on the open road and it shows its true colours with the outstanding chassis coming into its own.

It is available in three trim levels. The standard ST features 18-inch alloy wheels, Recaro seats, ST bodykit and a dashboard pod with three additional dials. The ST2 features an MP3 stereo, xenon headlamps and traction control, while the range topping ST3 adds electric seats, leather interior and six-disc CD system.

Dealers are already taking orders for the car, which doesn’t officially go on sale until January next year.

Ford is giving the first 1,500 customers who order one the chance to test their new ST at the Prodrive track in Warwickshire on an ST experience day. Owners will be able to put the vehicle through its paces on both road and track conditions designed to show off the ST’s performance and handling capabilities.

Strengths: Quick, superb handling and a great engine
Weaknesses: Potential police and thief magnet
Opportunity: A great car for the money
Threat: ST badge not quite as cult as renowned RS
The USP: It’s what the Focus was designed for
Price: £17,495 - £20,095
Engines: 2.5-litre 20v 5-cylinder: 222bhp
Performance: 0-62mph: 6.8sec; top speed: 150mph
Transmission: Six speed manual
Efficiency: 30mpg; 224g/km CO2
CAP RV 3yr/30k: £7,925 (46%)
Rivals: Vauxhall Astra VXR, Volkswagen Golf GTI, Renault Megane Renault sport 225

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