FORD has always ridden high on the reputation of making cars with handling and performance capabilities at an affordable price.
And the Focus ST-3 is a prize example of the old Ford magic interwoven with some of the latest automotive technology.
Ford driving excitement in the past has centred mainly on petrol power but the Blue Badge marque has taken it all a stage further with a diesel version of the ST-3 which has to be driven to be appreciated.
It features a throaty engine beat and although the petrol version is faster, the diesel version shows its mettle further up the rev range with torque and power capabilities that will prove conclusively Ford's wisdom in fielding this model.
Mix this with the Focus's already impressive handling and ride qualities, tweaked of course for the ST-3 and slick six-speed gearbox and that old Ford magnetism kicks in to create a performance icon out of what is ostensibly a family hatchback.
Beautifully supportive leather faced seats, and a businesslike chunky steering wheel complete the picture of a classic modern performance car that delivers what you would expect from a much more expensive vehicle.
Enhanced front-end body stiffness - achieved by increasing the thickness of two structural brackets within the engine bay and using a stronger metal arc welding technique - delivers reduced body flex during cornering, resulting in sharper responses and greater agility.
The sports suspension features all-new front springs and sportier new shock absorber tuning front and rear, with stiffer suspension bushes on the front lower control arm and rear spring links. In combination with the model-specific anti-roll bars and rear springs from the previous generation ST, these enhancements deliver an even sharper dynamic performance.
The calibration of the electronic power assisted steering (EPAS) and electronic vehicle control systems also has been revised to meet the specific sporting requirements of the ST-3.
Key innovations include the industry-first Enhanced Transitional Stability (ETS) system as part of the vehicle's advanced Electronic Stability Control (ESC). ETS senses vehicle stability and driver inputs, predicts when a skid or loss of control might occur, and intervenes as required using individual wheel braking to maintain optimal precision and control during rapid changes of direction at speed - for example in a lane-change situation.