In these wary economic times, attainable is the new aspirational; fitness for purpose and usability are the new cool. In which case, say hello to the car of the moment - the Ford Focus ST Estate. Now, TopGear has a history of loving rounded hot hatches and useful estates, so combine the two and it's pretty simple, really - you've got a new TG favourite.
Other than the enormous 490-litre boot (or 1,516 litres with all the seats folded flat), the ST estate is largely the same as the ST hatch. It's got the same 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, producing 247bhp and 265lb ft. And despite the higher kerbweight (only 24kg more), the ST estate sprints from 0-62mph in exactly the same time as the hatch - 6.5 seconds. The top speed is identical as well.
But it's about more than simple figures. It's about how brilliant it is to drive. The turbo builds from a usefully low 1,500rpm, so it's always in the power band. It's beautifully responsive - you only have to flick the throttle to get a blip in the revs - and it's a hoot to drive because you feel so tuned in. I got into a BMW M5 straight afterwards and didn't have anywhere near as much fun.
But the real reason the Focus Estate is so great is because by adding a boot, Ford hasn't killed any of the hatch's zing. You're aware of a bit more space around and behind you, but the chassis balance and grip are still spot on. You can really lean the wagon into a corner, feel the springs compress, and then slingshot through a bend, perfectly poised.
You don't need to be doing silly speeds to have a laugh because the controls and chassis give you so much feedback. And, unlike some estates, Ford hasn't fitted stiffer springs to cope with the extra weight you can load into the boot, so this car rides just as well as the hatch. It's stiff, but nowhere near as firm as other hot hatches.
It gets to the point where you start to wonder whether there's anything about it you can possibly criticise. The one thing is that torque-steer is still noticeable at points - it's not unpleasant, but it does make you concentrate on gripping the wheel.
We could live with that. As a car for all seasons, all moods, all roads, all journeys, little manages to come close to matching the breadth of ability in the ST Estate. Practical and useful? And TopGear likes it? Who'd have thought it?
1997cc, 4cyl, FWD, 247bhp, 265lb ft, 39.2mpg, 169g/km CO2, 0-62mph in 6.5 secs, 154mph,