There’s a corner at the far end of the straight at Bedford Autodrome’s East Circuit: a fast right-hander that tightens into a double apex. To add to the fun, you have to get the car balanced early as you exit to dive straight into a tighter-still left-hander.
Here, our fast front-drive duo were like pigs in the proverbial. Nothing but the Caterham jinked with such precision through that complex. Yet it was also here that the differences between the Honda Civic Type R and the Ford Focus ST were most telling.
Let’s start with the Civic. As the all-new contender to the Focus’s mild refresh, the Type R waded into this class with the meek humility of a bull charging a matador. With trick suspension, adaptive dampers and mechanical diff to make the most of the raging 306bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged motor, it dispatched our circuit using brute force tempered with fierce traction.
Stick it in R mode, to perk up the suspension, diff and throttle response, and it turns in to the complex with just the right amount of keenness, keeping body roll to a minimum before settling into a face-warpingly grippy steady state.
Ford Focus ST-2
Price £23,995; Engine 4 cyls, 1997cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 247bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 266lb ft at 2000-4500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1437kg; Top speed 154mph; 0-62mph 6.5sec; Economy 41.5mpg; CO2/tax band 159g/km/26%
Honda Civic Type R
Price £29,995; Engine 4 cyls 1996cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 306bhp at 6500rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 2500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1382kg; Top speed 168mph; 0-62mph 5.7sec; Economy 38.7mpg; CO2/tax band 170g/km/29%
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