I can’t believe it’s almost a year since our Focus bludgeoned its way into our car park with its throbbing five-cylinder engine soundtrack, muscular bodywork and vivid orange paintwork.
As first impressions go, I was left in no doubt that subtlety wasn’t high on the ST’s agenda. Instead, it was a statement of intent – “We’re going to have some fun together, are you ready?”.
Indeed I was, and 11,000 miles later we still are. I was the car’s initial custodian when it arrived in June last year and in between several colleagues have had the pleasure of the Focus’s company.
Everyone who has driven it has come back enthusing about its performance and soundtrack, and this encouraged me to get behind the wheel again for the last few weeks of the ST’s stay with us.
Despite a very hard 11,000 miles separating my drives, the Focus still feels as solid as the day it arrived.
The interior shows no signs of wear and the only sign that it’s been used are the smudgy fingerprints over the optional touch-screen system in the centre console which, incidentally, are almost impossible to remove even with the help of Mr Sheen.
Not that this is a worry when you’re driving, because the ST has an insatiable appetite for entertainment. Everything feels so right: from the heavily-bolstered Recaro seats to the slick six-speed manual gearbox to the wonderfully gruff engine note. Then there’s the handling, which is at such a level that it really encourages you to corner harder and harder.
All of which is great, but as a fleet manager I can already sense your finger twitching over the costs sheet. So let’s get to the bad news. The ST likes a drink, slurping a gallon of super unleaded every 24 miles. Not great, but then again not bad for a 225bhp hot hatch, although we’ve never got anywhere near Ford’s claimed 30.4mpg average.
The other problem is the ST’s range, or lack of it. With a 55-litre tank, the Focus has a range of well under 300 miles, meaning regular visits to the filling station. I’m sure it would be possible to extend this if a driver has a light right foot, but if they’ve got one of those they really shouldn’t be driving an ST in the first place.
Surprisingly, tyres weren’t the horrendous expense we envisaged them to be. With so much power going through the front wheels, and my childish antics of disengaging the traction control so I could light up the tyres when exiting the corners, we did remarkably well to limit tyre costs to replacing the two fronts at 12,500 miles.
Some shopping around brought the cost of replacing the 18-inch Continentals down to £130 apiece. Other than that, we spent £18 on a touch-up pen to fill in some paint chips on the bonnet and £135 for a routine 12,500-mile service.
Excluding fuel, the ST cost us around £400 in 12 months, which is not especially steep. And with a strong residual value prediction from CAP of 40% after three years/60,000 miles, it almost makes financial sense. Almost.
Price: £18,250 (£22,365 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 224
Company car tax bill (2007) 22% tax-payer: £104 per month
Combined mpg: 30.2
Test mpg: 24.3
CAP Monitor RV: £7,425/40%
Contract hire rate: £396
Total expenditure: £135 (12,500-mile service), £260 (two new front tyres, £18 (paint touch-up kit)