Review and photos by Brendan McAleer

I’m not saying diaper-changing goes any faster if you make impact-wrench noises while you’re doing it, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. I’m clocking in a three-minute pit-stop time these days – sometimes the smell makes me wish I was allowed to wear a racing helmet though. [I taught my daughter to raise her arms above her head when we’d finished –Ed.]

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Being a parent is all about shifting priorities and changing attitudes (take “changing” as literally as you want). Squeamishness about bodily functions goes by the board very quickly; in fact, I’ve taken up the habit of timing how long after our family bumps into another young family until the word “poo” is mentioned. Again, seems to be averaging out in the three-minute range.

One thing that doesn’t get wrapped up and thrown in the trash – at least, not if you’re the sort of Dad who changes a diaper while going, “Pssshhhht pewpewpew!” – is the desire to occasionally go for a blast in the family wagon. Hence, the entire hot-hatch segment: founded by the Volkswagen GTI, apex-predatored by the loony-tuned Mazdaspeed3, and underpinned by a whole host of Yur-o-peen turbo-tykes that can only be found overseas or in the pages of Top Gear.

There’ve been plenty of hilariously over-powered front-drivers in the domestic market as well (Omni GLH? Cobalt SS?), but somehow the popular Fast Fords across the pond never made it here. Sure, there was the SVT Focus, a neat little 170-hp naturally aspirated car sold between 2002 and 2004, but it’s been defunct for years. If you like the Blue Oval and you want to drive quickly, you get a Mustang.

I’ll likely have a go at slotting the kid into a Pony car over the next few weeks, but you only need look at the thing to see that it’s going to be a hard sell if you’re a one- or two-car family that needs to share kid-hauling duties 50/50. A two-door coupe, no matter how spacious the back seat, is a royal pain in the keister if your kids are too young to be scrambling back there themselves.

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Good news then, as this Tangerine Scream of unsubtlety is a regular four-door Focus with a bench-style back seat. Giant, butt-pinching Recaros might dominate up front (looks like I haven’t lost much of that sympathetic pregnancy weight), but the flat back seat allows a rear-facing kid-carrier to be slotted in the middle, reachable if there’s a need to stretch back and reposition a soother.

Two or more kids isn’t a problem either. The front Recaros appear to take up more real estate than the standard Focus seats, and stumpy little legs will doubtless drum away on your kidneys until you scootch up a little, but there’s width enough for a demilitarized zone between siblings. Best yet, a sturdy-feeling leather is standard on the ST, and while single folks would probably prefer a cheaper, better-breathing cloth option, harried family types will appreciate kitchen-counter-style wipe-down properties.

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Safety, too is a focus (pun! *sigh*) of the ST, with solid ratings right across the board, earning the hatchback a top safety pick from the IIHS. There’s a lot of sheet metal in the rear there – which isn’t great for visibility – but the after-shot of the side-impact crash test shows how well the Ford can soak up punishment.

The ST’s Darth Mallard schnozz and pet-vacuum-attachment exhaust-pipe promise rorty performance and a bellowing engine note. They lie.

In fact, this is quite a quiet little car, scooting off the line under gentle throttle. There’s little drone on the highway from the big fat Goodyears, and even when driving with the windows down, lets sleeping babies lie. By the way, those tires are summer-only, but the 18-inch diameter is reasonable enough such that keeping a spare-set of winters around won’t bankrupt you.

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