Focus on models that stand their ground

It is pretty unusual for us here at Examiner Motors to take on three cars at once.

Indeed, it is almost as bizarre as the leader of the free world allegedly paying off a porn star. But, hey, we’re all for a bit of experimenting every now and then and today we focus (sic) on three models from the Ford range — all, coincidentally, from the company’s ST Line range, which covers cars across the Blue Oval’s model line-up.

In this case we’re looking at the Kuga, the Focus and the Fiesta — all in ST Line trim. And while they might be very different cars aimed at very different customers, they all reflect the current state of play at a company which is — and has valiantly been — fighting off rival companies who do not always play fair when it comes to pre-registering models to stack sales figures at the end of every month and make themselves look rather better than they really are.

That ongoing jiggery-pokery aside, it is important to note at the outset of this three-ball that the ST Line models have nothing at all to do with the sporty ST models — particularly the Focus and the Fiesta, the new one of which is on top of our can’t-wait-to-get-our-hands-on list.

No, these machines are imbued with sporty body styling and interior kit, but don’t have anything special under the hood that hugely might quicken the pulse.

But they do look good in a vein which Ford has successfully mined in recent years and which has seen them design and build cars which look good, even when they’re not supposed to.

My nephew has an 04 Focus Estate, and even though it’s clapped and with a zillion miles on the clock, when he polishes it up, which he does occasionally, it still looks smart, modern even.

All the testers on hand here are involved in an economic and qualitative fist-fight with, well, everything in the substantive markets: Mid-size SUV, family stalwart, and supermini.

In two of these categories, Ford has had a winner for many years. Apart from traditionally being very good cars, Fiesta and Focus have been — rightly — top of the pile and exemplars of how to bring good product to the masses.

However, we’ll start with the Kuga first, and the car I expected to like least of these three. Yours truly is not a big SUV fan, but the car grew on me.

Creaky bones or not, owners are offered easy access, plenty of kit and a decent willing engine to make for a palatable combo. They have stiffened up the suspension which won’t encourage some of the older brigade, but will certainly encourage the yoof market.

Sharper handling and tighter steering makes for a compelling mix and when I got out of it I felt a strange feeling. I had connected with this thing. Don’t know why —the Tiguan and RAV4 are every bit as good — but I connected with the Kuga and I liked it a lot.

I liked the engine, I liked the revised suspension and I liked the level of kit. Even so, I’m not sure all those things made it better than, say, the Titanium version, especially with a near 50k price tag.

Next up and the Focus has always been a fave in this quarter. It is a car you’d always like to drive. If perhaps you were in Bristol Airport and facing a drag across Brexitville and you’re upgraded to a Focus from the Dacia Stepway your airline booked, there can be a feeling that life is truly amazing sometimes.

Thankfully, that was not the case here — the Bristol thing — and the Focus which arrived chez Colley was one with the excellent 1.5 diesel turbodiesel engine offering 120 bhp.

We have predicted the death of diesel here, but as things stand — and without poisoning any monkeys — this one works. It might be a little too sprightly in the lower gears which leads to unnecessary wheelspin for the accelerators among us, but that aside the car’s performance, economy and running costs should make a great case for this, even if it is an oil-burner.

In truth, though, there was little to get mingy about here.

The leather dressing (steering wheel, handbrake, etc) and the sports seats add class, as does the ‘ST’ body kit, the alloys, the kick plates, and all that, but don’t kid yourself that there’s any performance advantage to be had. Nonetheless it is a lovely thing to drive — tightened suspensions and moderate other add-ons notwithstanding.

And, finally, on to the dear Fiesta ST Line.

Well I can confess that when I got the call and the words ‘Fiesta ST’ were uttered, I came across all funny. Of course, it was a case of “OMG, when can I have one?” But no, it was the mere ST Line that was on offer and we’ll have to wait for the ST proper.

But how bad? This thing is a cracker anyway.

Take an afternoon spin to West Cork in the 100 bhp one litre three cylinder ‘EcoBoost’ and you will — if there’s still any blood flowing in your veins — find a terribly engaging companion.

On offer here is a car with a great engine, great six speed manual ‘box, great handling and whip-smart ride. It also boasts easy connectivity, all those leather bits, better seats are good, but the lowered suspension makes for something which could have Auntie Iris holding onto her falsies.

Again though, the car is aimed at youth rather than experience, so I don’t think Auntie Iris should worry.

All of the above came with a vivid white exterior which would not be a personal favourite — I love the blue they do — they all look sharp as modern cars should do. So many designers these days ape the look of other companies, but Ford has still the confidence and muscle to plough its own path and that is a good thing.

I’ve not had a Damascene conversion to Ford by any consideration, but the three ST Line machines I drove spoke of the essence of the brand and while I have no doubt dealers are facing the combined threat of vicious local competition and the insidious threat of imports, they can console themselves with top drawer, competitive product.

Indeed this is where Ford should be at. This is an area in which the company has always thrived — offering people that little bit more than the norm for not much more by way of price.

Forget all that exclusive Vignale nonsense the company recently tried to peddle — top end executive cars are not their forte — but look very closely at these ST Line models because they truly shine.

It is pretty unusual for us here at Examiner Motors to take on three cars at once.

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