What sort of hot hatch, then, has Ford given us? Within the remit of delivering a very quick front-driven hatchback designed to be used day in, day out, there were surely several approaches it could have taken.

Bottle the ultra-adjustable playfulness of the Fiesta ST or use the car’s new-found technological bite to unleash a track-day-ready product with a much more serious demeanour. Take the fight to the Golf GTI’s door with effortless performance and sublime road manners or craft a more esoteric device that takes time to master and deliver driving satisfaction.

Richard Lane

Road tester
Big on character and performance, but not quite truly immersive

As it happens, there are elements of all the above in the fourth iteration of the Focus ST, making it a prodigious all-rounder. With such practical roots, usability is right at the sharp end of the class. But what we really like is its enthusiastic, dynamic character, huge real-world performance and adaptability to conditions under wheel, the task at hand or the driver’s mood.

As such, even a slightly uninspired cabin and a subtle lack of mechanical authenticity compared with the very finest hot hatches can’t stop the Focus ST from taking its place as the best all-round package among its talented peers.

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