After a week spent with the new Ford Focus ST-Line Estate, I find myself wondering if I’ve accidentally stumbled upon the sweet spot of the Focus range.

To start with, it’s quite a handsome thing.  Long gone are the days when the wagon was considered the poor relation, often arriving only after the manufacturer had had a chance to graft a few extra inches of pig iron on the back.

In fact, at first glance the Focus Estate is easily mistaken for the hatchback, so successfully have Ford added nearly a foot to the overall length, all of it behind the rear wheels.

The result is an additional 370 litres of cargo space – that’s about what you can fit behind the seats of the regular hatchback – and with the rear seats folded the boot jumps from 575 litres to 1,620.

It’s a well thought-out space, too, with minimal wheel-arch intrusion, handles in the boot walls to fold the rear seats forward, and a split level floor beneath which you can hide things out of sight, or the cargo cover when it’s not in use.  There’s even a couple of pop-out hooks to hang your shopping from.

Accessing all of this is easy enough, too – the tailgate opens to reveal a wide aperture with hardly any lip, and it’s available with both power and hands-free operation if you fancy a spot of Morris dancing.  There’s also a whole slew of accessories to help you carry bikes, kayaks and Labradors in safety.

This is all very admirable, of course, but for us it’s the ST-Line trim that lifted the Focus wagon out of the realms of ‘just another estate car.’

Gone is the somewhat dowdy-looking chrome exterior trim from the regular Focus models, replaced instead with some tasteful black stuff and a mesh grille or two.  Then there’s the chunkier bumpers, side skirts, roof spoiler, seductive twin tailpipes, and gunmetal alloy wheels.

The interior hasn’t been left out, though, with a sportier flat-bottomed steering wheel, aluminium gear knob, alloy pedals, dark headliner and some neat red stitching.

Opt for the ST-Line X and you also gain red brake calipers, 18-inch wheels and rear privacy glass, while the kit list receives a welcome boost with a larger navigation touch-screen, part-leather heated electric seats, dual-zone climate control, automatic wipers, and more.

Both ST-Line models benefit from a sportier suspension set-up.  We’d go as far as to describe it as a remarkably well-balanced blend of compliance and road-holding, delivering not only decent ride quality but also an engaging character.

In short, this is an estate car you can enjoy driving briskly, but it’s also one that doesn’t come with any compromises.  On the days when you need a wagon, it will happily accept being loaded to the gunwales and will maintain its composure once you’ve done so.  But on its day off, it’ll drive with the same fluidity and flatness that you’d expect from the hatchback.

The larger 18-inch wheels of our ST-Line X did kick up a little more road noise on coarser surfaces, though, but as they suit the ST-Line character they’re a sacrifice we’d be willing to make.

Two petrol engines are available – a 1.0-litre with 125ps and a 1.5 with 150ps – plus two diesels – a 1.5 with 120ps and a 150ps 2.0-litre.

Transmissions are six-speed manuals as standard, with the option of an eight-speed automatic on all of them.

Go for the ST-Line X and you can also specify the 182ps 1.5-litre petrol fitted to our test car.  It’s a willing performer, accelerating from 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds, although it doesn’t produce any more torque than the 150ps version at 240Nm.

Fuel economy is rated at 42.8 mpg under the new WLTP regime, although we managed to beat that figure by recording an average of 45.1 mpg during our time with it.

Prices for the Focus Estate are typically £1,100 more than the hatchback, with the cheapest wagon – the Style – kicking off the range at £19,400.

Our ST-Line X 182ps test car weighed in at £26,750, although after a few options that quickly became £31,945.  Similar money can easily see you behind the wheel of a Mazda 6, arguably a car from the class above.

The Focus is undoubtedly the sharper drive, though, and if the idea of a sporty workhorse appeals, the ST Line might just be the answer.

Entry-level Price£19,400Price as tested£31,945
Engine1.5-litre 3-cyl turbo petrolTransmission6-speed manual
0-628.5 secsTop speed137 mph
Economy42.8 mpg (WLTP)CO2129 g/km
Dimensions4667 x 1848 x 1485 (LxWxH)Kerb Weight1408 kg