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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Britain's best driver's car 2012: Big thrills, smaller bills



This year’s Britain's Best Driver's Car test was grounded by a twin-test sideshow that we’ve been anticipating all year. The issue of Ford Focus ST vs Toyota GT86 was set to be a duel of affordable virtuosos with real sporting pedigrees, and already in possession of glowing road test recommendations. These were cars at the apex of entertainment and attainability, of the sort that have taken past panels of Autocar judges by storm. But they arrived here via philosophies so different that choosing between them was never likely to be the work of a moment.

Ford’s new Focus ST isn’t just usefully cheaper than the Toyota GT86; it’s also quite a lot quicker and has all the usability advantages that you’d expect of a five-door family hatch compared with a smaller two-door notchback. And then there’s the trademark fast Ford handling, which was never likely to be found wanting on sheer excitement.

Throughout the duration of BBDC judging day, and even in the presence of cars with much more focus and raw performance, neither the Ford nor the Toyota stood ticking cool in the Bedford pitlane for longer than 10 minutes. Lotuses were overlooked and Porsches put firmly on the back burner as long as this one teasing question loomed over proceedings.

Bedfordshire’s excellent rural roads were the obvious place to begin looking for answers, and the Focus took to them like a 400m runner on his home track. It doesn’t tear down straights quite like Usain Bolt’s four-wheeled double – whatever that may be – but it’s in the same stadium. That turbocharged engine, quick to respond with its 250lb ft, allows it to eat short straights with serious pace. T

he chassis tune is typically ‘Ford’, so strong-willed, but soft-edged. It’s compliant enough to keep four tyres in contact with the ground, even when you hit a mid-corner bump that you hadn’t seen coming. But it’s firm enough to check body roll before it disturbs grip levels, not to overwork the front end under braking, and to inspire more than the confidence generally needed to take a typical B-road apart, corner by corner.

What it isn’t, however, is a scruff of the neck, chuck it in and sort it out kind of car; beyond a certain point, the harder you drive the Focus ST, the less impressive it gets. At its most rewarding – about eight-tenths of your maximum commitment levels – the Ford has super-quick steering that allows you to carve smooth, neutral lines through turns, provided you don’t rush your inputs. Leave the ESP on and traction is strong. But there’s plenty of torque steer, still not as much steering feedback as from the best front-drivers, and one very apparent omission in the case of an open front differential. All of which can make your corner exit ragged with the ESP switched out and if you’re too keen with the controls.

The circuit brought out no shortage of amusing off-throttle adjustability in the Ford but, that apart, it served only to confirm a key suspicion: that this is above all else a road car.

read more: autocar.co.uk/car-news/motoring/britains-best-drivers-car-2012-big-thrills-smaller-bills

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The Winner: autocar.co.uk/car-news/motoring/britains-best-drivers-car-winner

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Another great review, and while I wish my car would have won, when you see that it lost because it was too everyday useable, I can happily live with that. The Toyobaru was on my shopping list, but its lack of everyday usability made it a no go for me. It sounds like a great, fun car, and my hat's off to it as an affordable driver's car.
 

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I had to get the starter replaced on our Corolla so I followed my wife over to the Toyota dealer. I parked the ST right out front with the FR-Ss... The ST got a few looks while I check out the FR-S. The car looked good in the white pearl.
 

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I think the FR-S/BRZ will win most auto mag face offs with the ST. If only on the basis that auto magazines attract RWD sports car fanatics when it comes to writers. But it is a pretty much single purpose car. It's made for the track, the ST just gives a nod to the track. The biggest problem the FR-S has is that's as a daily driver the suspension is too stiff, it's too low when you're in traffic and you can't take passengers with you unless they're contortionists. I was considering an FR-S, but as a practical daily driver or car for social people, it fails.
 
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