When the Ford Focus burst on to our roads in 1998, it was clear that its sharp chassis would make the perfect platform for a hot hatch. But while most manufacturers gave their pocket rockets maximum visual impact by adding huge spoilers and bulging wheelarches, the blue oval took a more restrained route with its ST170.
Look carefully and you’ll spot the multispoke 17-inch alloy wheels, while the tailgate carries a subtle ST170 badge. And if you wanted the ultimate in understatement, you could always choose the boxy estate!
Inside, there are a few clues to this family Ford’s performance potential. Heavily bolstered seats, extra dials, a sports steering wheel and close-ratio six-speed gearbox all feature. But it’s the way the Focus behaves on the road that reveals its true driver’s car credentials. It lacks the raw, hard-edged thrills of the turbocharged Focus RS, but the ST170 is still entertaining. As with the standard car, there’s poise and agility, while lowered and stiffened suspension results in reduced roll and even more body control. Larger brake discs also ensure improved stopping power.
The ST170’s biggest drawback, though, is its performance – the 2.0-litre powerplant is smooth and refined, but lacks punch. Ultimately, this Focus is more of a warm hatch than a red-hot thriller, which means that it narrowly fails to make it into the top 20.
* Performance: 2/5
* Heritage: 2/5
* Style: 2/5
* Driver appeal: 4/5
Model tested: Focus ST170
Chart position: 21
* Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 168bhp
* 0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
* Top speed: 131mph
* On sale: 2002-2004