Having commandeered the Focus I've wasted no time whatsoever in stamping my identity on it with some very 'lifestyle' modifications.
With a bank holiday looming speedy work by, respectively, Ford and Thule equipped me with roof bars and bike carriers. The latter I've previous experience of and are quick and easy to use, fitting painlessly to the T-track of Ford's roof bars with the supplied adaptors.
So, yes, with these and the baby seat the ST is now fully lifestyled up. My old Impreza Wagon served a very similar purpose and, indeed, was comparable in size, power and mindset to the Focus. Certainly the ST shares my old Impreza's appetite for devouring entertaining back roads that, as luck would have it, usually end in fun places to ride mountain bikes.
ST-owning PHers seem to rate the blend of pace and practicality too, former RS owner oobster saying "the main reason for going for the ST from the RS was that I have a five-year-old daughter. Before the RS I had an Octavia VRS which was fine for getting the young 'un in and out and I assumed she was old enough to get in and out of the Focus RS without too much hassle but it ended up being a ball ache. So I thought the ST would be a better proposition, five-door but with some decent grunt." The relationship with the ST didn't get off to a great start either but he seems to have been won round.
Meanwhile PHer Rythmic slapping (nice handle!) says "I have an ST3 estate in Frozen White and it is epic - cannot fault it. [It] is something that can be used every day and is not back breaking and when you want it to fly put it in third and watch the scenery go blurry."
Now, obviously at this point I have to point out that all my observations about the Focus are being made from the passenger seat. But I can report that everyone who's driven the ST has come back nodding with approval.
And the ST is such a complete car. It does all the stuff you'd ever want of any Focus estate, just at a more PHey rate of knots. I'll have to leave further driving impressions to others but two aspects of the ST's demeanour I can comment on from the passenger seat are the ride quality and noise. The latter might be artificially enhanced but there's just a hint of classic BDA/twin-cam rort. And it rides brilliantly. It's obviously very composed but I've frequently braced myself for an oncoming pothole only to feel it pass with little more than subtle tha-dunk. I have driven the ST in the past and, compared with the recently departed Megane, it's a good deal softer and less manic. More of an all-rounder but, for the above role, bang on target.
Alex's previous comments about the torque steerseem to be a button push away from sorting too, a couple of PHers commenting that it's a lot less manic with the stability control pegged back one notch. Something I recall from my Clio 197 in fact, whose power delivery was much smoother when not corrupted by ESP interventions.
Are we paying the price for the drag of the racks and bikes on the roof at the pumps though? Well, the last couple of tanks of mixed driving with and without bikes have seen numbers in the high 27s, which seems on a par with what others have experienced. Enjoyable as it is to rag and rev the muscular torque means there is at least the option of moderating intake via driving style that my old Impreza, or indeed a five-cylinder ST, wouldn't have offered.
Niggles? I'm hearing from the driver's seat that the appalling turning circle is a proper PITA at times. And with the baby seat behind me the bulky Recaros have my knees up against the dash, meaning his lordship will be riding behind mum in future. And the infotainment interface is a bit clunky and fussy too.
Beside that the Focus is such an all-round hit there have been 'what if...' discussions about making one a permanent addition. I'm lucky enough to be in a position to try out all sorts of cars I'd never actually considering owning in this job. But this one nails my vehicular needs so perfectly I'd be happy if it were.