Decent performance is available in all three: 0-62mph in 8.2seconds for both the 2.2 Astra and the 2.0 Focus, and a whisker over 8 seconds in the (in this case slightly battle-scarred) 2.0 Megane.
In the moderns, Chris came down in favour of the Focus ST, and after setting the controls of our time machine back to 2003 we're going to make the same choice.
The dynamic and visual purity of that first Focus has since been eroded away by our caring insect overlords in Brussels and elsewhere. The ST170 is a refreshing reminder of the first and (many would say) best Focus.
The ST170 paint palette was sober, featuring colours like Deep Navy or Magnum Grey, but this 139,000 miler looks bright in Stardust Silver with the half leather interior, aircon and CD in a practical 5-door body that makes it a clever choice for the PHer-turned-family man.
There's a dent in the back of it which we can't see, but you wouldn't be able to see it when you were driving it either, and as far as true Shedmen are concerned, not seeing something is the same as not having it. As long as it's not taken a really hefty biff up the back end of course.
Something went wrong somewhere. You'd have to be a sadist to find that new power peak because it didn't arrive until 7000rpm and the long-stroke engine really didn't like higher revs. You'd expect one upside of an undersquare design to be decent torque, but the motor's peak figure of 195Nm at 2500rpm was puzzlingly weedy.
The fact that the ST delivered more or less the same 8.2-second 0-62 time as the 145hp Astra does make you wonder if all of those 170-plus Ford nags turned up for their oats. Weight was a factor – this '03 5-door tips the scales at 1314kg, about 100kg more than the Vaux – and the trucklike Getrag 6-speed 'box didn't help. You wouldn't buy an ST to save money on fuel either.
You would buy it for smooth handling though, courtesy of the Control Blade multi-link rear suspension. With luck, you'd also be getting good used car value, but remember that Foci are not the world's best made cars. My local grease boy hates them with a passion. "Bloody rust buckets," he says whenever he sees one. Mind you, he says that about Kas as well. And Pumas.
A vibey or sticky throttle can be either a worn cable or dirty throttle bodies. One light you won't want to see is the engine management bulb: that could be a failed lambda sensor or a stuck-open (or closed) Inlet Manifold Runner Control. This cable-operated butterfly-valve gizmo was designed to boost torque at low revs but in reality it wasn't one of Henry's better moments.
Ford dealers may attempt to sell you a new IMRC at £300 or so. Quite often there's nowt actually wrong with it, it's just a wonky sensor again, but Ford component quality is not always NASA-standard.
Manifold or cat heatshield brackets will work loose or break, usually signified by a rattle under the car at around 2000rpm. Again, a Ford dealer may try and flog you a whole new exhaust, but as with the IMRC thing you can tap into much cheaper fixes/bodges online from Ford and ST170 help forums, of which there are a raft – which is either good or bad, depending on your outlook on life.
FORD FOCUS ST170 2003 (£950)
Ford Focus ST170 on 03 plate in silver with half blue leather, 5 door, MOT till march 13, superb runner, recent new clutch which cost £500, CD player power steering, alloys, A/C good overall condition.....small dent in boot, electric window switch intermittant, requires temp sensor easily fixed to make great car... this is the cheapest ST170 you will find...phone 07840782724