Great Drives - Ford Focus ST
Our next entry in our series round-up of Great Drives is a striking-looking hot hatch but is also the most affordable of the gathered performance motors.
The car in question is the new Ford Focus ST.
On our search to find the best cars of 2012, MotorTorque travelled to Bylachau, North Wales to drive some of the most exciting cars on offer today.
We asked professional racing driver Annalese Ferrari to test out this impressive collection, and MotorTorque was on hand to pick up her impressions of each car.
Starting from £21,995, the Ford Focus ST was certainly one of the cheaper models which attended the Wales car shoot, but this hot hatch which only went on sale in the UK last month means business and the early reviews from across the motoring industry generally reflect this viewpoint.
Under the bonnet the Focus ST is armed with a 247bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, connected to a six-speed manual gearbox.
While the Focus ST can't get close to the performance of most of the sports cars that were tested on our shoot, it still achieves the 0-62mph sprint in a respectable time of 6.5 seconds and the top speed is 154mph, just 1mph less than the electronically limited BMW M5.
Sitting behind the wheel, Annalese expressed her surprise at the large size of the new Focus ST. The car doesn't just look big in comparison to the other sporty cars attending the Great Drive shoot, but it also looks big against other hot hatches in general.
Combine this fairly big bodyshell with the bright yellow paintjob, the Focus ST should stand pretty much anywhere, never mind in the Welsh countryside which is surrounded by nothing but greenery and sheep.
Like the standard Focus family hatchback, the Focus ST is a practical motor with comfortable space for front and rear passengers. The new sport seats, which partially carry some of the same bright yellow colouring found on the body, are firm but well supported for aggressive driving through corners.
Our racing driver described the ride as 'generally comfortable' even after the switch to stiffer sports suspension which does a good job managing both city and countryside roads.
The boot is also practical, offering 363 litres of luggage space with the rear seats up, or 1,148 litres when they are folded down.
Our hired racing driver Annalese Ferrari had a fair punt at putting the Focus ST through its paces; however having already sampled the Lotus Exige S, the Aston Martin Vantage S and the Porsche 911 Carrera S, the Ford Focus ST already had some tough acts to follow.
Perhaps inevitably, Annalese was not quite as enthused about the Ford Focus ST after taking it for a spin, but there were no real complaints at the same time.
No doubt potential customers will be better enthused, particularly after the car starred in the new Sweeney film as the eye-candy for motoring fans.
If you want an interesting performance car mixed with practicality but also have a restricted budget, the Ford Focus ST certainly comes recommended by Annalese.
Written by Stephen Goldasz