What is it?
This is the Ford Focus ST Wagon, the estate version of the Blue Oval’s latest performance car. Early predictions suggest it will account for around 10 per cent of the anticipated 4000 annual sales of the ST in the UK (of a total of 800 worldwide), although Ford insiders admit that they are “prepared to be surprised” if that ratio is in fact higher.
That’s because the early feedback is that the ST’s overall usability, and particularly the all-round suppleness of the ride, has significantly enhanced its credentials as a fun family car rather than niche enthusiast’s vehicle. The Wagon’s increased boot capacity only adds to that reputation.
The Wagon is 204mm longer than the hatch and 21mm higher, but the same width and wheelbase. Unsurprisingly, the boot is also longer, wider and higher; seats down and with no spare tyre, it’ll take 1516 litres of luggage, as opposed to the hatch’s 1148 litres, thanks in part to redesigned rear suspension over the hatch, with the shock absorbers angled to avoid encroaching on boot space . It also weighs marginally more, at 1386kg, as opposed to the hatch's 1362kg.
Elsewhere, it’s the same story as the Ford Focus ST hatchback which we have also driven: the Wagon is powered by the same four-pot engine as the hatch and records almost identical performance and efficiency figures, running to 62mph from a standstill just 0.1sec slower.
Prices start from £23,095, a £1100 premium over the hatch.
What's it like?
Very much like the hatch, in almost all respects bar boot space. And that means it is very good indeed.
The first impression when you climb aboard is just how grown up the cabin feels, which could be quite a surprise given some of the fittings in a low spec standard Focus. On our mid-spec ST2 example the Recaro sports seats were supremely comfortable, the seat and steering wheel had plenty of adjustment and the trims and fittings were of a high quality.
The engine fires with an appealing rumble, and the noise projected in to the cabin (with the aid of an "active sound symposer system") as you go up the revs has a meaty, almost five-pot sound. It goes well, too, pulling energetically and smoothly, gathering noise and pace with more revs. There is only the slightest hint of torque steer, and then it only serves to remind you you are in a car that is a little bit special. The six-speed gearshift is also enjoyably slick.
Steering feel is reasonable, and a quick rack gives the car a great sense of agility. This is aided by two electronic systems – a torque-steer compensator, which uses a motor to feed forces back into the electric power steering system to counter disruption and torque vectoring, which uses the ESP system to brake a lightly loaded inside wheel and pass power to the outside. Throw the car in to a corner and you can feel the electronics intervening, but only rarely and then only to help tuck the nose in. The extra weight off the estate hardly comes in to play.
Our test was on largely smooth motorway, town and mountain roads in southern France, and the ride shone. While it undeniably has a firm edge to it, over the worst bits of rough it soaked up the bumps to a surprising degree. Despite this, any roll and pitch (and there is some) is well controlled. The changes to the rear shock angles do little to change the car's character over the hatch. This really is a performance car you could live with every day.