It sometimes takes a bit of time to gel with a new car. Controls are in different places, there are quirks to the multimedia system you need to get used to – even the seats can feel different.
But when it comes to our long term Ford Focus ST, I’ve instantly felt at home, probably helped by the fact I’m a bit of a fast Ford fan.
I mentioned in my previous report that I used to have a 2007-plate Focus ST, so could be described as somewhat of a fan boy and this new model hasn’t left me disappointed.
In the interests of ‘proper’ road testing, though, I thought I really needed to stretch the ST’s legs a bit further than my usual lockdown run to the shops.
The Focus arrived at the start of the third lockdown and, as a result of our enforced winter hibernation, by the start of May the Focus was still hovering just above delivery mileage.
With that in mind, and the world opening up once more, I planned a trip to visit a friend in Wales.
The Focus easily swallowed my mountain bike with the seats down and a change of clothes or two and I headed for the glorious asphalt of the Welsh valleys.
My friend Dan and I fancied a bit of a challenge too, so we decided to climb the highest peaks in south and north Wales on the same day – Pen Y Fan and Snowdon.
There’s around 120 miles or so between the two across the middle of Wales, so not only would we be punishing our calves, but the ST would get a spirited run too.
We started early for the hike up Pen Y Fan and hit the summit before breakfast at 7am. An hour or so later we were back down again and hitting the stunning, winding roads that bisect the country.
The A470 heading north is a glorious stretch that twists and turns across breathtaking countryside.
The ST’s pace and surging torque was a delight. The six-speed gearbox rifles through the ratios with accuracy and there really is nothing like stirring a manual on an engaging road.
I love the direct steering, the car’s wonderfully dampened to soak up undulations in the road and results in a comfortable ride despite its sporty credentials.
As we turn on to the B4158 that rises up past Clywedog Reservoir I’m truly in the groove. While the ST is fun around town, it excels on roads like this. It’s seriously rapid and gives you bundles of confidence to chuck it around.
Under the bonnet is a 2.3-litre Ecoboost engine that produces 276bhp and 420Nm of torque. You can ride the latter in third gear on roads like this, bungeeing towards the apex and back on the finely-controllable throttle.
In Sport mode it really picks up its skirt. It feels meaner, grimaces even, as it snarls its way around with even more purpose.
We got to Snowdon in, well, rapid time and started our ascent. Unfortunately, this didn’t go quite as smoothly as the drive over and we took a wrong turn on the way up.
If you haven’t heard of Crib Goch, it’s a knife-edged ridge back around to the top of Snowdon that has a few thousand feet drop on either side. At one point Dan and I were edging our way along it like the top of a wall, fearing for our lives.
Needless to say we weren’t planning on taking the hardest route up the mountain, but we did. As we approached the summit it was howling wind, hail and -6 degrees C.
Six hours later we returned to the orange battlewagon broken men. We sat inside eating foot-long sandwiches in silence wondering how we made such a hash of getting up the mountain and thanking our lucky stars we made it down safely.
With the mileage on the Ford now approaching 3,000 there are a few problems to report. Occasionally it warns of intermittent faults on the dashboard which then mysteriously disappear.
The collision avoidance system can be infuriating as it flashes angrily about many impending crashes that simply were never going to happen and CarPlay only seems to work when it wants to – which is rarely.
My biggest issue, though, is with the automatic handbrake. Most of the time it turns it on with little hassle when you park up, but occasionally it decides not to. There’s no rhyme or reason to when it might turn itself off and you can imagine how incredibly dangerous that can be if it’s not spotted before you get out.
I’m going to report it to Ford because something isn’t quite right.
Overall, my time with the ST is turning out to be very pleasant. While those gripes are frustrating, the positives far outweigh them and the fact it’s just so good to drive puts a smile on my face every time I get behind the wheel.
The Welsh trip was proof that this Focus isn’t really designed to be confined to town, though – it needs the open road to really show you what it’s good at, and I’m glad Wales helped do just that.
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