Ford has a long and illustrious history of taking its ordinary cars and injecting them with a powerful concoction of testosterone and madness. Cars such as the Escort Mexico in the '70s and the Sierra RS Cosworth in the '80s adorned the walls of many a young boy's bedroom, and sat in the driveways of well-to-do young men.
So when Ford launched the ST170 in 2002, it was loved by all in an instant. One decade and a few facelifts later and Ford is still making the Focus ST, albeit with a lot more power than the original car's 170bhp.
The current-generation Focus ST continues the marque's affordable but fast
ethos and is, arguably, the most exciting hot hatch money can buy. Here's why...
It's unapologetically brutish
With 247bhp tearing through the front wheels, you'd expect the Focus ST to be a handful. And you'd be right. Where the brilliant Seat Leon Cupra
manages to put all of its 276bhp through the front wheels effortlessly (thanks to its new trick limited slip differential), the Focus makes do with a cruder torque-vectoring system that uses traction control software to halt a spinning wheel. The result? Fistfulls of demonic torque steer.
At first, it's frustrating to have to fight
your way down a fast B-road, but it's exactly that which makes the journey so much more involving, exciting and rewarding.
The Focus ST sounds fantastic
Like many modern cars, the Focus pumps induction noise straight into the cabin. On some cars that can result in a uninspiring and artificial sound, but the ST's is absolutely infectious.
During acceleration, the engine makes an addictive 'brrraaapp' after 3000rpm that never gets boring. The noise is pumped into the cabin by a pipe that runs from the engine bay; no synthesisers here.
The engine is a peach
In the Mk2 ST, you'll have found a 2.5-litre Volvo-derived five-pot. In the current model, we're down half a litre and a whole cylinder. Despite that, the new ST gets a healthy increase in both horsepower and torque. It's responsive, torquey and loves to be revved.
What a colour
Our long-term test car features the coolest colour name in existence. 'Tangerine Scream' is the perfect colour for this occasional tear-away and certainly helps get you noticed.
Parked in any car park, the ST glows like a beacon in a sea of silver, black, white and beige.
Focus ST estate? Hell yeah
You can buy the Focus ST as an estate, and if history has taught us anything, it's that performance estates are seriously cool. Because it's only 25kg heavier than the five-door hatchback, it's no slower to 62mph. The estate is also as entertaining to drive fast and looks just as rude - we've got time for that.
It's surprisingly inexpensive to buy
Relatively. Prices start at around £22k, which is a far cry from the Golf GTI's £25k price or Astra VXR's £27k starting point. You get less class
than the Golf, and less power than the VXR, but arguably more fun.
To sum up, then, the Focus ST is slightly more crude than its established rivals, but a whole lot more fun to drive fast. It's exciting, challenging and will punish you if you don't give it the respect it deserves. And it's exactly these reasons why it appeals to petrolheads as the most exciting hot hatch currently on sale.