As farewells go, this one has been hard – so much so I’ve been avoiding it like root canal surgery.
My colleagues have been telling me Ford has been desperate to get my Focus ST estate back for some time, but I’ve simply been ignoring their emails.
You see, it’s been quite a while since I’ve become quite this attached to a long term test car.
It probably didn’t help that I once bought a Focus ST. It was a 57-plate with the 2.5-litre engine and although it sent my legs to sleep every time I drove it, thanks to far-too-hard seat bolsters, I absolutely loved it.
It was fate then that I’d fall in love with the new version. Ford has worked incredibly hard to improve almost all aspects of the Focus and it’s worked wonders.
For me, it’s the interior where I’ve noticed the biggest change. The digital dashboard is brilliant and feels far more premium than before, the seats are infinitely better than those in my old model and the fit and finish is top-notch.
There is lots to love about the ST but it’s the little things that really made me appreciate it. Things like the wireless charging pad for my mobile phone, the one-touch locking system when the key is in your pocket, Apple CarPlay and the different information you can get on the screens on the main dash for journey insights and more.
I wasn’t convinced about the estate version’s looks at first, but now that I’ve got used to them I’m very fond of the extra space. A recent house move has required copious trips to the tip and I’m always amazed at how much you can get in the Focus.
With the seats down you can easily fit a single mattress in the back as well as the carpet from two bedrooms. It’s swallowed gardening junk, cardboard boxes galore and all the other junk the previous home’s owner left me because he ‘thought it might come in handy’.
While it might be incredibly practical, the ST is no shrinking violet on the road – and that’s not just because of its bright orange paint. It can be an absolute scream to drive when you want it to be and docile when you don’t. While the suspension is a little firm, it has a nice balance between a sporty ride and comfort, and I’ve loved the steering feel and, surprisingly, the manual gearbox.
I gasped when it turned up with a six-speed manual box – mostly because everything I’ve driven in recent years has been an auto – but the more I’ve used it the more I’ve loved it. It’s easy to forget how engaging a manual gearbox is when you’ve been treated to an automatic, but on a good country road, you can’t beat it.
The ST really is a hoot to drive and over the time it’s been with me I’ve had some cracking drives. The most memorable was a pan-Welsh jaunt that made me feel like a rally driver and stood the ST out in my mind as one of the greats.
Over the eight months I’ve had the Focus there have been a few minor niggles. There has been the odd random warning on the digital dash that disappears, while the central screen has got itself into a tizz occasionally and turned itself off and on again, but these are minor moans.
The most important question after a long term loan is would you buy one – and the answer is a resounding yes. I might be a fast Ford fan (I’ve got a MK2 XR2 tucked away in the garage) but I honestly think the combination of practicality and performance with this car is hard to beat.
Add in the fact it’s not ridiculously expensive when you consider everything you get, its premium feel and good looks and it’s hard to argue against it.
While the ST might be going to find a new owner, there is a replacement to look forward to. Sticking with the ST theme, Ford has dropped off a sporty flavoured Puma for me to try instead. First impressions are that it looks like a stormtrooper and is quite a bit smaller, but I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve lived with it for a little while longer. I can only hope it’s half as good as its bigger Focus brother has been.
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