It may not have an ‘RS’ badge on the bootlid, but be in no doubt that the new Ford Focus ST is a major strategic departure for Ford. It’s the firm’s first global performance car.

This car’s mission isn’t just to sell in the familiar, performance-savvy Western markets, but pretty much everywhere else, too. It is designed and developed to appeal to palates as different as those you’ll find in Hong Kong, Los Angeles and the all-important Chelmsford and Southend.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
Ford’s pop-out door protectors are a great idea, but they make an odd noise like you’ve trapped something in the door every time you open or close them

What’s more, the mechanicals are the same everywhere, from engine to suspension tune.

Relative to the previous Focus ST, the car has lost a cylinder, switching from turbocharged five-pot to four, and has dropped in capacity from 2.5 litres to just 2.0. But power has grown by a healthy margin, as has torque, while one of the previous car’s few disappointments – fuel economy – has been addressed.

This ST is alleged to go 20 percent further on a gallon of unleaded than the previous one, and nearly 40mpg is promised on the combined cycle. In that vein, it’s more deliberately cast as a more usable, practical and accessible performance car than it was. There is also the addition of a 2.0-litre diesel engine which produces 182bhp and 295lb ft and is capable of 135mph, but is capable of 40+mpg and produces a mere 110g/km of CO2.

Top 5 Hot hatchbacks

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

It’s available as a five-door hatchback and a five-door estate, but not as a less-versatile three-door this time around. And it’s affordable. More than £2500 cheaper, in fact, in entry-level form, than a Volkswagen Golf GTI, while the diesel ST weighs in almost £2k less than the GTD. Ford clearly hasn’t forgotten what made its door-handle specials so popular.

On the flipside of that particular coin, though, you’ll find little of the mechanical richness of some of the ST’s hot hatch rivals: no mechanical limited-slip differential or RevoKnuckle front suspension here. The chassis is fully independent, though, as you’d expect.

The car rides 10mm lower than a standard Focus, has uprated dampers and anti-roll bars, and an extremely direct electromechanical power steering system which needs barely two full turns from lock to lock.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week