Ford Focus ST hatchback

£22,745 - £27,895

The standard Ford Focus is one of the best cars to drive in the small family hatchback class, so it must have been an easy decision for Ford to add power and fine-tune the handling to produce the Ford Focus ST. More pace, sharper steering and a firmer suspension has only made the Focus more thrilling from a driver's point of view.

There are certainly quicker cars in the ST's class, like the Renault Megane Renaultsport and SEAT Leon Cupra 290, but they are more expensive and are arguably more 'hardcore' next to the Focus ST. Other rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Skoda Octavia vRS are both slower than the petrol ST, and aren't as much fun to drive either.

Two engines are on offer to Focus ST buyers - a 247bhp 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine or a 181bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine. The petrol is much the faster of the two, managing 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds compared to the diesel's time of 8.1 seconds. The trade off is that the diesel is much cheaper to run.

The diesel claims an economy figure of 67mpg and CO2 emissions of 110g/km, resulting in a tax bill of just £20 a year and a 20% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rating for company car buyers. The petrol engine is capable of 41mpg and its CO2 emissions of 154g/km mean tax is much higher at £180 per year. While significantly more costly to run than the diesel, the petrol engine is relatively efficient considering how powerful it is.

That power will take the petrol model to over 150mph but the car is also very entertaining to drive in corners. It may not be as capable or involving as the Megane and the Leon Cupra but it's more exciting than the Golf GTI, and it also manages to be comfortable and practical for family life at the same time. The ride can feel firm sometimes and the front wheels occasionally lose grip under hard acceleration, but overall the setup is conducive to excellent cornering and confidence-inspiring steering.

In terms of practicality, the Focus ST doesn’t suffer compared to the standard model. You can only get with five doors, which makes getting people and/or luggage in and out of the back seats easy, while the boot holds the same 316 litres as the standard car, although this is a little bit behind some rivals.

You can have your Focus ST in one of three trim levels: ST1, ST2 and ST3. The entry-level ST1 model includes a bodykit, 18-inch alloy wheels, Recaro seats, sports suspension, DAB digital radio and Ford's SYNC infotainment system.

We think the mid-range ST2 strikes the best balance between price and equipment of the three, as it includes dual-zone climate control and a fast-demisting windscreen, as well as automatic lights and rain-sensing wipers.

As it’s essentially the same car as the standard Ford Focus, the ST has the same five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating. It gets all the same safety equipment as the standard hatchback, including tyre-pressure monitoring.

Ford doesn’t have the greatest reputation for reliability, but the Focus fared reasonably well in our 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. Overall, it was ranked 65th out of 200 cars by owners, while it came 56th for reliability, so the ST should prove to be a decent long-term proposition.