Ford Focus ST hatchback

£22,495 - £26,295

The Ford Focus ST is the high-performance version of the company's best-selling family hatchback. It has a powerful 2.0-litre engine, but also all the practicality of the standard Focus. That isn’t a bad car to drive in the first place, so the hot hatchback upgrades make it even more fun.

Running costs are always higher for a performance model compared to the standard car (insurance in particular) and the Focus ST is no exception. However, like the smaller Fiesta ST, it's still reasonably affordable and easy to live with.

The ST produces 247bhp as standard, which makes it sufficiently rapid and good for 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds. More power and performance is available from the optional Mountune package, which can be fitted at Ford dealers and doesn’t invalidate your warranty.

There's also a 183bhp diesel version, which isn’t quite as fast as the petrol ST. It's still swift, though, and has heaps of mid-range pulling power as well as much better fuel economy.

That model opens up a different market for the Focus ST, putting it in competition with fellow diesel hot hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf GTD and SEAT Leon FR TDI, whereas the petrol ST goes up against conventional hot hatches such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Renault Megane Renaultsport.

Styling upgrades over the standard Focus are subtle – but not so subtle that you’d miss them. The ST has Ford's big chrome grille, a roof spoiler, wider wheelarches ST badges outside and on its Recaro sports seats, extra dials and sporty trim inside.

It's been on sale for a few years now, but the Focus ST is still one of the best hot hatchbacks on sale and utterly brilliant to drive. Faster rivals are available, but the ST is good for 154mph flat out and its turbocharged engine is seriously potent.

Compared to the standard Focus, the ST also has bigger brakes and firmer suspension. The regular model is great handling car, but this version stops and corners with sublime precision.

The ST is only available as a five-door hatchback. That might put off some enthusiasts who want the sportier three-door look, but in reality it makes the Focus a truly practical car that can be used every day. There's even an ST estate for those who need more space but still want the high performance.

As appealing as it is, there are a couple of downsides to the ST – namely a harder ride due to the stiffer suspension and higher running costs than the standard Focus – but that's to be expected from a car like this.

With that in mind, the diesel ST shouldn’t be ignored. Yes, the petrol version has better outright performance, but the diesel is still very quick and has superior fuel consumption and CO2 emissions figures, so it's worth considering, particularly if you cover a lot of miles.

The performance Focus comes in three trim levels: ST1, ST2 and ST3. The entry-level ST1 includes a bodykit, 18-inch alloy wheels, Recaro seats, sports suspension, DAB digital radio and Ford's SYNC infotainment system.

The mid-level ST2 model strikes the best balance between price and equipment of the three, as it includes features dual-zone climate control, a fast-demisting windscreen and automatic lights and wipers.

A big plus point is the ST's starting price, which is several thousand pounds less than that of the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Renaultsport Megane, making the Focus even more appealing.