This is the new 2012 Ford Focus ST. It’s Ford’s rival for the Golf GTI, but the blue oval hot hatch undercuts its equivalent key rival from Wolfsburg by over £4k. It also outpunches the GTI in the power and torque stakes, the ST’s 247bhp and 250lb ft being considerably ahead of the GTI’s 207bhp and 206lb ft.
Ah yes, the five-cylinder turbo Ford Focus ST and that retina-burning orange paint…
Well, here’s the thing, the orange paint kind of lives on in the guise of Tangerine Scream, a more yellowy kind of orange, but the five-cylinder is no more. Instead it’s been replaced by an all-alloy 2.0-litre four-cylinder Ecoboost turbo.
On paper, it’s a win-win situation: the old car’s 30mpg and 224g/km are shamed by its successor’s 39.2mpg and 169g/km, while performance increases from 221bhp and 236lb ft to 247bhp and 250lb ft.
Any other spec secrets on the new Focus ST?
The ST doesn’t use a limited-slip diff or clever RevoKnuckle suspension as the old Focus RS did. Instead it relies on torque vectoring, just like the rest of the Focus and C-Max ranges. This uses the traction-control software to cleverly mimic the effect of an LSD, subtly braking a spinning wheel so that the power flows instead to the wheel with more grip.
The ST also uses a variable-ratio steering rack, the teeth on the rack getting closer together at its extremities to gradually quicken the gearing, just like the optional system on the new Mercedes SLK.
Finally, there won’t be a three-door ST this time (there is no three-door Focus), but a Ford Focus ST estate will be offered.
Bet the four-pot turbo can’t match the character of the old five, right?
You’ll be surprised. Somehow, Ford has carried over some of the old five-pot’s aural character, because there’s a bassy, slightly staccato, highly endearing warble under acceleration. It’s not just the sound, though: this is a great engine. You can feel a huge rush of torque from around 1600rpm, and it doesn’t taper until 5500rpm, from which point the Ecoboost continues to pull.
Finally, nearing 7000rpm, there’s a soft rev limiter, so you can hold it there briefly if, for instance, you don’t want to upshift just before a bend or during an overtake. It’s a really eager, flexible motor with excellent throttle response.
What about that trick steering and torque vectoring?
The Focus ST's steering feels really meaty, but is a little too keen to self-centre itself for my liking. However, the variable-ratio bit works really well: at first it’s hard to get your head around how much lock you can apply without moving your hands from a fixed position. Then, before long, you acclimatise and other systems feel dozy.
The torque vectoring is a little more mixed. In powerful turbodiesel Fords, it works really well, but it struggles to contain the ST’s tyre scrabble and torque steer – the steering wheel pulling around in your hands – in first and second gear. However, it works incredibly well at higher speeds, lending the Focus an eagerness to tuck its nose into bends under power that you only really find in LSD-equipped rivals.
It’s a great drive, this new 2012 Ford Focus ST. Given the character of the old five-cylinder ST, it would have been easy for the new four-pot to feel like the poor relation, but the truth is that it still sounds great and has even more performance too, as well as those mpg and C02 wins.
The variable-ratio steering and torque vectoring aren’t perfect, but they’re still impressive, as is the fact that this ST still has the slightly long-legged compliance of its predecessor, a trait that bodes well for day-to-day drivability.
All we need to do now is see how it stacks up against that VW. Not to mention Vauxhall's brawnier, pricier Astra VXR.