What is it?
This is the far extreme of the new Ford Focus ST family from the petrol hatchback that we've already reviewed. The 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine will be offered in both the hatchback and estate, and it's the practical wagon we have here.
With 187bhp, this is the most powerful diesel-powered Focus to date, but it's still substantially down on power compared to the 276bhp 2.3-litre ST Ecoboost.
Diesel buyers must make other concessions, too. The EcoBlue will be offered only with a six-speed manual gearbox, not offering the Ecoboost's optional seven-speed automatic. It's also 42kg heavier and therefore slower: Ford's claimed 7.7sec 0-62mph time is respectable but some way off the petrol estate's 5.8sec.
Estate versions of the Focus ST ride on passive dampers, rather than the standard adaptive set-up of the petrol hatchback, while diesel hatchback buyers will be able to opt for the active system. The diesel also does without the clever electronically controlled limited-slip differential.
Recompense comes from the EcoBlue engine's far superior economy – 58.7mpg combined on the official test - and lower price; at £30,595, it's £2500 cheaper than the Ecoboost.
What's it like?
There's little surprise that the EcoBlue feels a bit dull and worthy when compared directly against the snarling petrol model. Yet against the criteria that can be fairly applied to a diesel estate, it's a seriously impressive thing.
Beyond an artfully tuned, bass-heavy exhaust note that might occasionally persuade occupants there's something bigger and brawnier lurking under the bonnet, the EcoBlue engine offers little in the way of excitement. It has slightly less torque than the Ecoboost (295lb ft to 310lb ft), but its peak is available at a lowlier 2000rpm, and it quickly makes its preference for an easy life obvious. It will rev all the way to the 5000rpm limiter if the mood takes you, but it clearly doesn't enjoy the exercise and makes a vocal protest. It's happiest in its muscular mid-range, and on a test route that included the demanding Col de Vence road near Nice, the EcoBlue proved willing to pull without complaint on steep gradients from less than 2000rpm in fourth and fifth gears.
Throttle response is much mushier than that of the snappy Ecoboost, and even Sport mode does little to sharpen it. The diesel Focus ST carries almost all of its extra weight over its front axle, and without the clever electronically controlled differential, it feels much less fleet of foot and unable to over-accelerate its outside rear tyre under power. On the plus side, grip levels remain high and the handling balance is entirely benign, with the estate tightening its line progressively on an eased throttle.