It's close but not as hard edged. Think the previous Focus XR5 and you're close to the money though the new ST is a sportier drive and has more sting in the tail. Golf GTi springs to mind but the Ford has a lot more grunt.
It also has torque steer (momentary loss of directional control in the steering) when you boot the throttle that causes the ST to wriggle around like a worm on a hook.
There's no clever "RevoKnuckle" independent steering axis system on the ST instead, straight line control is down to a torque vectoring electronic system.
It's partially successful and we have to admit, once you get the hang of it, the problem isn't as pronounced. In fact, you can use it to advantage cornering by letting the car pull you through. Takes a bit of getting used to though.
PRICE AND EQUIPMENT
Where the Focus ST has an advantage is in the price at $38,290 - about five grand under the others and those extra doors come in handy-up. To get the ST Ford essentially did a hot-up job on Focus - pinched the EcoBoost engine out of Mondeo and Falcon, enhanced it, lowered the car, fitted lower and firmer suspension with bigger wheels, bigger brakes, body kit.
It's all text book stuff. There's more kit too, including satnav, premium audio, Bluetooth phone and audio, LED running lights, Recaro seats with partial leather upholstery, a super steering wheel with multi controls and a reverse camera among the generous feature list.
The engine is a 2.0-litre four pot with direct injection, turbo charging and variable cam timing on the inlet and exhaust sides. No wonder it achieves a handy 184kW/360Nm output and can even drink lower octane 91RON fuel though premium fully unleashes the beasts.
That's enough to propel the small/medium size hatch from 0-100kmh in a sharpish 6.5 seconds while sipping fuel at an average of 7.4-litres/100km. But the turning circle is atrocious often requiring four point turns in relatively wide streets.
The drive experience is excellent with plenty of grip from the big Goodyears and strong stopping power from the large diameter discs. It sits flat through corners and has an overtly sporty feel - just what you want from a hot hatch.
The exhaust note is strident aided by possibly the best designed dual tailpipe around short of a Boxster. We found the car easy to live with especially with folding rear seats, a decent boot and easy rear seat access.
The seats hold you tight in corners and offer plenty of adjustment for the long haul. We would suggest it's a four seater and not five. The two mode stability control offers normal and sport which is all you need.
Some neat touches include the capless fuel filler hidden on near the right tail light, the xenon headlights and auto wipers and lights. Not bad sound either from the Sony system.
After initial reservations, we wound up liking the Focus ST on most counts. It really gets up, sounds excellent, has a strong practical side, is generously equipped, looks good and bets of all is pitched at an affordable price. Can't argue with that.
Ford Focus ST
Price: from $38,290
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Service interval: 12 months/15,000km
Safety: 5-star ANCAP
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl petrol, 184kW/360Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, FWD
Dimensions: 4.6m (L), 1.8mm (W), 1.5m (H)
Spare: temporary steel
Thirst: 7.4L/100km, 95-98 RON 172g/km CO2 Tank 62L
Volkswagen Golf GTI
Price: from $40,490
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo-petrol, 155kW/280Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, FWD
Thirst: 7.7L/100km 180g/km CO2