I came home from work with an ST, in D, and my wife was thrilled. In fact, she reckoned that the oil-burning variant of the Ford Focus ST was the best car I’ve had on test this year.
Of course, her Ladyship hasn’t driven them all but, nonetheless, she might well be on to something with her assertion that the diesel hot hatch is a great car.
After a few days at the wheel of a hard-core two-seater sports car, the Focus was a welcome arrival. My nerves were somewhat on edge, my back was in spasm and I was sick to death of playing Buckaroo with my belongings piled haphazardly onto the passenger seat, so I sank into the monogrammed Recarro seats with something akin to relief, pleased that my belongings were stowed safely in the 316-litre boot behind a bench of sensibly proportioned rear seats.
I didn’t have to contort myself like a #fitspiration Instagram bore to get in, and once ensconced in the cabin all the controls were sensibly laid out, with all the important bits positioned where you’d expect them to be.
As well as the afore mentioned Recarro leather seats, there’s a neat, squared-off, leather-trimmed steering wheel, metal pedals, a metallic gear-knob and lots of ST logos to remind you that practicality isn’t the only thing this car brings to the table.
Put your foot down in second gear and there’s another reminder of what the ST is all about. The 183bhp engine will power you to 62 in a respectable 8.1 seconds which, while 1.8 seconds slower than you can achieve in the 247bhp petrol variant, feels quick indeed. This is down to the 295lb/ft of torque – up from 254lb/ft in the petrol version – which provide an undercurrent of menace to the throttle from 2000rpm onward.
As a consequence of all this power, there’s a bit of torque-steer and the Focus actually struggled for grip on a couple of occasions in wet conditions, but the excellent throttle response and superior handling meant that this was an entertaining, rather than a heart in mouth experience.
The Focus has long been held aloft as a class-leader in handling, and the ST is no different, the electronically-assisted steering is sharp and responsive, satisfying to throw into the bends and a pleasurable weave through the supermarket car park.
Externally, the diesel ST looks identical to it’s thirstier, petrol-powered twin. Centrally mounted exhaust ports, a sharp body-kit, red ST badges and a roof spoiler add a sense of drama to the already good-looking standard Focus.
So if it looks the same as the petrol ST, costs the same, is slower to 60 and has 64 fewer horses straining under its bonnet, why buy the diesel Focus?
Well, for me, hot hatches – and warm ones like this – are all about two things: performance and practicality. That’s what made them such a hit in the 1980s and that’s why they retain their popularity 30 years on.
The diesel Focus is the practical choice. Ford say it will achieve 67.3mpg and, having returned just shy of 50mpg in my own test, at the mercy of someone with a lighter right foot I’d be inclined to believe them. Spending less on fuel isn’t the only financial benefit either. While the diesel and petrol models are priced the same, motoring industry analysts CAP predict that the diesel Focus will retain its value better than the petrol model, so diesel owners will be doubly quids in.
You want the fastest Ford Focus? Join the queue for the mad 345bhp RS due in 2016. You want a Focus that’s fast, fun and practical? Consider the ST Diesel. Her Ladyship would approve.
Engine: 2.0-litre turbodiesel producing 183bhp, 295lb/ft
Performance: Top speed 135mph, 0-62mph 8.1 seconds
Economy: 67mpg combined