The discrepancy between how this car’s cabin looks and how it feels is considerable. Open the doors (now fitted with automatically deploying edge protectors as standard) and you’re met with a monochromatic sea of dark plastics – some supple, others brittle and all too prominent – and a modest amount of leather.

There are red ‘ST’ icons dotted about, a punchy ‘Ford Performance’ is scribed across the door sills and the H-pattern etched into the chromed gearknob is also highlighted in red, but this isn’t the belligerently hardcore cockpit you’ll find in certain hot hatch rivals (Honda, ahem). Some will be disappointed by this, although Ford’s approach with these cars never has been to transform the canvas laid down by the basic Focus, at least so far as visual appeal goes.

There’s a dedicated shortcut button on the steering wheel for Sport mode, likely the one you’d use most on the road. The ‘mode’ button cycles through the others.

Were you to be blindfolded, it would be a different story. The design of the half-cloth Recaro seats is evolved from that of those found in the Fiesta ST, only with a greater emphasis on comfort, which has resulted in broader backs. They’re still heavily bolstered and, if not quite true ‘buckets’, impart very serious vibes indeed, cupping one’s thighs and rib cage firmly but not restrictively. What’s more, and breaking with fast Ford tradition, neither are they set too high.

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Meanwhile, the thick steering rim is leather-lined and perforated around the midriff and the pedals are very well spaced if you don’t fancy using the car’s new rev-matching function. So although the Focus ST might not look hardcore, it does feel it, even if we’d like a touch more reach in the adjustable steering column.

Crucially for this sort of car, the Focus ST is also very usable, being no less impressive in its dimensions than lesser Focus variants. Notably, the new C2 platform, with its lengthened wheelbase, means rear leg room is among the class best.

The Focus ST comes as standard with Ford’s now ubiquitous Sync3 infotainment system. The 8.0in touchscreen and the software it employs are in no way different from that which we found in the standard Focus we road tested earlier this year, so the same pros and cons apply.

Highlights are an extensive suite of standard features that include satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as an interface that’s clear and easy to read.

For the most part, the process of navigating from one menu to another is an easy undertaking because of the presence of shortcut buttons along the base of the screen, but the fact that these disappear when using smartphone mirroring software is an irritating UX oversight.

Graphics that look as though they’ve been lifted from a Windows desktop computer from well over a decade ago are also a bit of a turn-off.

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