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.
The steering builds nicely in weight as the tyres load, and when you do push it hard enough to trouble the grip limits, a subtle lift-off snaps it out of understeer and back into line with no lairy oversteer pending.
The flipside is that there’s little of the playfulness that the Focus serves up. You can trail the Ford’s brakes to keep the nose pinned as you enter the right-hander, then jump on the throttle to modulate your angle of attack and keep the playful rear end where you want. Its chassis feels so much more adjustable than the Civic’s.