As a teenager there was one car I wanted more than any other – a Ford Escort Cosworth.
Yes, I know it was a bit ‘Essex’, but the huge whale tail, flared arches and insane performance from its 225bhp turbocharged engine for the time meant it was good enough for a place on my bedroom wall alongside the X-Files’ Gillian Anderson.
Fast forward 20 years and my latest long-termer has arrived, and while there’s no massive spoiler or outrageous arches, the Focus ST does boast more power than my teenage pin-up (Cossie, not Scully).
The Focus ST now comes with 276bhp and a 2.3-litre turbocharged engine – behold that progress on the Cosworth-tuned Escort that packed 225bhp from its 2.0-litre block back in the day.
Interestingly, the performance is pretty similar: The Focus will crack 60mph in 5.8 seconds, and the lighter Escort would hit it in 5.7 seconds.
But other than the badge, that’s where the similarities end. The latest ST is one of the most tech-heavy Focus models I’ve ever driven, packed with clever kit and premium touches that (sort of) justify the £35,680 price.
The estate arrived at the end of January and since then, thanks to lockdown, I’ve managed all of a few hundred miles. That’s still been more than enough to assure me this is one of the great fast Fords.
The 2.3-litre, also used by the now-axed smaller-engined Mustang, is an absolute corker. With overboost it produces 420Nm of torque, which is more than enough to start a fight with the steering wheel.
Torque steer is here in spades and, just like the old Fiesta XR2 I’ve got tucked away in the garage, it makes for a flighty fast Ford feel to the steering. It dances around in your hands under hard acceleration as the nose grips the road and slips around the grooves.
I actually quite like it, and when coupled to the raspy exhaust note it makes me feel like a boy racer all over again.
Currently, though, I’m achieving about 20mpg around town which is somewhat depressing compared to the 35.3mpg Ford claims it should do on the combined cycle.
To add to the sporty feel the ST comes with a manual gearbox which I’ve found quite a novelty. For years the long-termers I’ve been lucky enough to drive have all come with automatics and I must admit I turned my nose up at the fact the Focus was coming with a stick shifter.
That said, I’ve soon got used to it and now thoroughly enjoy manually swapping the cogs. The Focus has a brilliant anti-stall function on it that increases the revs as you raise the clutch to just below the bite point, meaning you can make parking maneuvers without blipping the throttle and pull away nice and smoothly.
The orange paintwork wasn’t my choice, but I’ve since seen the same model in black and it looks, quite frankly, rather boring. What’s more, my five-year-old car-loving nephew was impressed, although he did think it was a Lamborghini.
While my time with the Focus has been limited, it’s not been without its problems. The multimedia system has had a few funny five minutes, resetting itself and turning on and off again halfway through a drive, and I’ve had a couple of other warning messages on the dashboard.
In a future update, I’ll talk you through the changes to the multimedia system in detail – but in short, they’re overall much better and very clever. That said, I’m not a fan of it rebooting itself when it feels like it. I’ll be keeping an eye on that.
Hopefully by then the weird smell will have gone too. The glues and new car smell on this Focus ST have made me feel a bit sick so I’m still driving around with the windows open. I’d describe it as a combination of new carpet, diesel fumes and old people’s houses – it’s definitely not the ‘new car smell’ I was expecting.
Overall, though, I’m loving life with the ST. While it might not have necessarily got a place on my teenage bedroom wall like the Cosworth, as I cross the crest of 40 it’s certainly a great way of reliving my youth.
Model: Ford Focus ST Estate
Price as tested: £35,860
Engine: 2.3-litre turbocharged petrol
0-60mph: 5.8 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Fuel economy: 35.3mpg
Emissions: 184g/km CO2