While North American customers must make do with new iterations of the first generation Focus, Ford of Europe is forging ahead with a fourth generation. The range is headed by the fast, fun and fabulously good looking performance flagship Focus ST, which goes on sale in May.
Created by Ford TeamRS, the company's dedicated performance vehicle arm, the 2008 Focus ST benefits from the new exterior and interior styling changes introduced across the rest of the Focus line-up earlier this year. Importantly though, while offering new technologies and features, the car's well-honed dynamics remain untouched.
At the heart is the familiar 225hp, 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder Duratec engine. Powerful, and accompanied by a suitably sporty soundtrack, it delivers 150mph top speed plus 0-62mph in just 6.8sec.
Indeed, as a measure of this car's ability, a standard production Focus ST set a segment-leading record time of 8 minutes 35 seconds around the Nordschleife circuit at the famed Nrburgring.
This sort of achievement requires more than just brute power and the Focus ST remains one of the sharpest handling cars in its class. In fact, the ST may well be the definitive choice for enthusiastic drivers who also demand comfort around town and an array of subtle suspension enhancements ensures this is still the case.
A powerful braking system is top of this list while Electronic Stability Program (ESP) and Traction Control are now standard on all versions.
Every Focus ST boasts 18" five-spoke alloy wheels, sports styling, body-hugging Recaro seats, a unique steering wheel and upgraded instrumentation. New to this generation of ST are the 'Ford Power' starter button and Easyfuel capless refueling system. Upgrading to ST-2 adds a Sony audio system, bi-xenon headlights, LED rear lights and Quickclear heated windscreen, while the ST-3 includes an in-dash six CD player plus full leather trim.
In common with other members of the 2008 Focus family, a range of high-tech options can be specified. Among the list is a Tyre Deflation Detection System, a new audio connectivity module for external devices like Bluetooth, voice control and navigation systems, plus various infotainment options including an affordable sat nav system with SD card slot.
Combining bold looks with a thrilling driving experience and numerous new features, Ford of Europe's new and improved Focus ST is the definitive hot hatch.