Ford Focus ST-2 estate, from £25,095
BACK IN 2010 the Conservatives announced that there would be no more idiotic bus lanes on the M4 and that speed cameras would be switched off. New Labour’s 13-year war on the motorist, they declared, was over.
Sadly, they were lying. Because today, if you have to get from, let’s say, west London to Luton airport, you are monitored by hidden speed cameras on the motorways and average-speed cameras everywhere else. You cannot stray over the limit even once. Compared with Tony Blair’s puny war on the motorist, this is nuclear.
Smug speed-camera enthusiasts will argue through their muesli-stained teeth that the new blanket coverage means that no one can ever break the law. But I have a couple of points on that.
No 1. In a modern car with good brakes and airbags on a good, well-designed road where pedestrians and traffic are kept apart by railings, it is absurd to impose a 40mph limit. Forty is just a number plucked from the sky by a fool who knows nothing. There’s no science or sense to it at all.
If you want total safety, make the speed limit 1mph. But if you accept that casualties are inevitable, then balance the need for safety with the need for speed. And on a dual carriageway that means a limit of 70mph. As it always used to be when the country was run by sensible people, not ill-informed morons.
No 2. And this is more important. Just because we now have the ability to prevent speeding of any kind everywhere, that does not mean we should use it. Hey, why not implant everyone in the country with a tracking device so the police can keep an eye on their movements until the day they die? Why not take a DNA sample from every newborn baby? We could do that easily, and if fighting crime were our priority we would. But it isn’t.
From London to Luton it is now possible to amass enough points to mean that you arrive without a driving licence
No 3. Speed cameras do not cut accident numbers. In fact when they were switched off in Oxfordshire recently — they’re back on again now, by the way — the number of casualties showed no noticeable increase. We all know they are a tool for raising money. So why can’t the government admit it? Why can’t it say: “They are a tax on people who want to go quickly.” I wouldn’t mind that because if I were late for a flight I could make the choice: do I pay the speed tax and catch it, or do 40mph and get the next one?
The only thing ministers would have to do to make this work is drop the penalty point system. Because that’s the real problem. The fact is that on one journey from London to Luton it is now possible to amass enough points to mean that you arrive without a driving licence.
Of course, that’s not going to happen. So I guarantee that we will reach a stage very soon where it will be impossible to get away with speeding on any road anywhere. And there will be no point hiding from the law in a bothy in Scotland because there will be a tracking device in your head and Plod will send attack choppers to hunt you down.
This is something you should bear in mind when choosing your next car. Because what’s the point of having a 500 brake horsepower engine when all you need to reach 40mph is just one actual horse? Certainly that would make more sense than the car you see in the photographs this morning.
It’s called the Ford Focus ST and it’s wilfully set in about 1984. There are extra dials above the dashboard to keep you informed about temperatures and pressures, which is important in a 1940s fighter plane but less so in a modern car; there are illuminated Essex disco motifs in the kick plates, body-hugging seats and — what’s this? — yes, it’s a manual gearbox that you operate with a stick on the floor.
Oh, and let’s not forget the name. ST. Doubtless Ford will tell you this stands for Sports Technologies, but we all know what it really means, don’t we, ladies? And now it’s available as a diesel. So that’s an STD. Excellent. I haven’t been able to make jokes along those lines since Citroën’s Project VD.
I’m trying at the moment to work out who would want to buy a practical estate car that’s named after a feminine hygiene product and comes with Wayne and Kev styling, a Dickensian gearbox and enough power to put you on a speed awareness course every time you go into third. Nobody is springing to mind at the moment. Is there someone perhaps from Dexys Midnight Runners who has a dog that’s only really happy when it’s doing 150mph?
I’ll be honest: I’m partial to a fast Ford. I go all gooey about a 3-litre Capri, I spent most of the 1990s in an Escort RS Cosworth, my first car was a Cortina 1600E, I adore the GT40 and there’s no doubt in my mind that for sheer fun there is no better car on the market today than the Fiesta ST. But I dunno — this Focus ST estate seems a bit weird.
Partly this is because I know it’s a fluffer designed to warm us up for the all-wheel-drive 345bhp Focus RS. And partly it’s because I was in London most of last week and the manual gearbox made my teeth itch with rage. Using your leg to change gear in 2015 feels as old-fashioned as using the phone on the hall table.
However, I must say that when I got out of London it did what all fast Fords do: it put a big smile on my face. Yes, there is a huge amount of torque steer when you accelerate hard in second or third gear — you don’t drive this car so much as hang on for dear life. But the engine is a gem, the ride is nicely judged, the seats are epic and my dogs appreciated all that space in the back. It covers a lot of bases, this car. And it appears to be good value as well.
But while it comes with a lot of toys, many don’t work as well as you might hope. There is the option of headlights, for instance, that dip automatically when a car is coming the other way, which is handy. But they also dip when you are approaching a reflective warning sign, which means you are suddenly no longer able to see either the sign or whatever it was warning you about.
Then there’s the sat nav screen. Mostly it all works very well, except that in an effort to look snazzy Ford has completely overdone the amount of information that’s being conveyed. At any given point you have 33 features on the screen, and that’s not including the map.
This has always been a Ford thing. Its kit is a bit like supermarket own-brand baked beans. It looks the same as the real thing. But it isn’t.
And that’s never really bothered me because, all things considered, fast Fords were bloody good fun. They still are. But, because of the jackbooted Tory Stasi with their surveillance cameras, you struggle to enjoy that fun on the road any more.
Which means that today this car only really works as a wistful cameo on the Antiques Roadshow. Not as something you’d realistically want to buy.
2015 Ford Focus ST-2 estate specifications
- PRICE: £25,095
- ENGINE: 1997cc, 4 cylinders, turbo
- POWER: 247bhp @ 5500rpm
- TORQUE: 266 lb ft @ 2000rpm
- TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
- ACCELERATION: 0-62mph: 6.5sec
- TOP SPEED: 154mph
- FUEL: 41.5mpg (combined)
- CO2: 159g/km
- ROAD TAX BAND: G (G (£180 a year)
- RELEASE DATE: On sale now