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2013 Ford Focus ST Review & Test Drive

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The all-new 2013 Ford Focus ST has put Ford well into the hot-hatch game with their brightly shining and highly anticipated hot-hatchback star. With a sharp focus on performance, no pun intended, the new Focus ST exudes front-wheel-drive performance at its best in functional hatchback package.

The new 2013 Ford Focus ST is something that I would have jumped at the chance to purchase during my late teen and early adult-hood years, if such a thing were available. The boy-racer aptitude of the Focus ST is surely present as it somewhat departs from the sophistication of its competitors. But don’t let that distract you from its 252 horsepower and 270 ft-lbs. of torque turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. The powerplant for the Focus ST is the ‘fast’ beating heart of a vehicle that has the moves to match whatever rpm-rhythm thrown at its chassis.

The handling dynamics of Ford’s new Focus ST pocket-rocket are among the best in the market for a front-wheel-drive vehicle, especially one with 4 doors and a rear hatch. Driving the new 2013 Ford Focus ST you will come to know that Ford engineers did their homework on most aspects of turning out a vehicle capable of daily commutes, as well as weekend track days. Possibly one particular cue that may have been an afterthought, is the abundance of torque steer you get when the surge of all 270 ft. lbs. of torque kicks in around 2,500 rpm. Torque steer is not only noticeable, it is notorious.  Torque steer from the new Focus ST, however, is not a complete deal breaker for me as it should not distract potential consumers, because this hot-hatch has the over-all performance to overshadow this minor drawback.

Acceleration in the new Focus ST comes on strong and carries through until about 500 rpm short of redline. As a common characteristic of turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, the 2.0-liter starts to gasp around 6,200 rpm. Though, there is a large enough sweet spot in the rpm band to keep you well-entertained even with a slight patch of turbo lag until it reaches 2,500 rpm. The Focus ST pulls hard with authority, well enough to have the front 235/40 18-inch Goodyear Eagle F1 tires begging for mercy and the tendency to shutter with a bit of axle hop, if you are not careful. Basically, you can light up the front tires at the drop of a dime placing a large smile on your face after the front wheels hook up. Be sure to hold down the traction control button for a few seconds to fully disengage stability and traction control. Just pressing the button will put the Focus ST into Sport mode, which is allows some extra lateral slide but starts to clamp the brakes down on the front wheels in between your money shifts.

The 6-speed manual transmission, the only one offered on the new 2013 Focus ST, is a joy to row through all gears with somewhat of an assuring direct feel. Shifts are easy to precisely land every time while the nicely weighted flywheel keeps the engine hanging onto its momentum just as it should.

All of the performance qualities of the new Focus ST can be had with an economical sound mind in knowing that the 2.0-liter force-fed 4-cylinder engine gets 23 mpg in the city and 32 mpg highway. Though, the Focus ST makes you want to drive like a hoon, so I only saw an average of 21 mpg around town and a nearly EPA estimate matching 31 mpg on the highway.

Handling is a mastered balancing act in the new Focus ST, getting an astonishing average of 0.96 g in lateral acceleration tests. You can push it around with a slight kick out of the rear end and still nail your anticipated apex without breaking too much of a sweat. Understeer is present as expected but is kept to a minimum. How did you do it Ford?

The steering rack is extremely quick, almost razor sharp with the slightest movement nudging the front wheels in your desired direction. With such a quick rack, steering turn-travel lock-to-lock is among the shortest of performance vehicles currently on the market. Road feedback through the electric steering is good, though with an abundance of torque steer, you would guess that the Focus ST’s steering wheel is one of the strongest force-feedback sets you can find for the latest gaming system. Aside from the torque steer, steering dynamics are ideal for track use, even if the steering assist is supposed to counteract torque steer when the ECU detects it. Basically, any noticeable counteraction from the assist gives you an unnatural feel as it tends to boost your effort to steer in the opposite direction. With that said, ‘torque-steer correction’ is non-existent -so plant your paws firmly on the padded-leather-wrapped steering wheel at all times.

Any relatively high-horsepower front-wheel-drive car deserves the looks to go with its capabilities. Ford has left nothing to really be desired in this forefront as the Focus ST is unmistakable for being something different and special. From my test vehicles visually loud ‘Tangerine Scream’ paint color and center-mounted exhaust, to the color-accented Recaro bucket seats and large bass-mouthed grill, the Focus ST is a head-turner. Don’t worry, if you are not fond of my test vehicle’s yellowish Tangerine Scream exterior color and seat color scheme, Ford offers 5 other color options to choose from: Performance Blue, Race Red, Ingot Silver, Oxford White and Tuxedo Black.

Inside of the new 2013 Focus ST is a familiar dashboard layout, much like the new Ford Escape CUV of which these vehicles share some underpinnings and the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine on certain trims levels. Much of the interior uses plastics that really do not pretend to be anything other than plastic. Though the optional MyFord Touch infotainment system adds substance to what would otherwise be a boring dashboard apart from quickly-sweeping red rpm and speedometer needles. With every new generation of the MyFord Touch system I find it to be better than before with faster processing of inputs, once the major qualm among consumers. Controls are easily dialed-in with the slight exception of the MyFord Touch interface. Still, despite the upgrades and improvements made by engineers, MyFord Touch can be somewhat of a cumbersome interface. As an example, the buttons require precise inputs from your fingers as there is not much room for error within a half-inch space on some on-screen buttons. In-all, the system works well and I totally get where they are trying to go with it but have not quite crossed that finish line. It is more of a white flag deal headed for a photo finish here.

The seating positions in the new Ford Focus ST are ideal for track use. The Recaro buckets with their loud body-color accented bolsters are aggressive in their approach to supporting your body. Basically, the bolsters are not friendly to those with a posterior wider than your average skinny jeans-wearing person. Though, the seats provide exceptional lateral support almost hugging you like your favorite aunt. In a nutshell, the seats perfectly match the Focus ST’s handling abilities and performance-edged style.

For obvious reasons, the new Ford Focus ST is a deviation from the normal run-of-the-mill Focus sedan and hatchback models. Making the choice for the Focus ST to be a hatchback makes perfect sense considering its target demographic and direct competitors, such as the MazdaSpeed3 and VW Golf R. Looking past the new Focus ST having the most torque steer out of its competition, it has a slight edge with its performance numbers. Although, the new MazdaSpeed3 plays catch-up in straight-line performance tests, the Focus ST gets up to 60 mph in just under 6 seconds.

My loaded-up 2013 Ford Focus ST test vehicle has an as-tested price of $28,290 including a $796 destination and delivery charge. The added options on my test vehicle included the Equipment Group 201A (MyFord Touch system with added GPS navigation option, Sony sound system, Sirius radio and dual-zone climate control), and the tri-coat Tangerine Scream paint job.

The all-new 2013 Ford Focus ST is the return of an American pocket-rocket with the added European refinement that cumulates practicality and a spicy blend of performance. With a low starting price point at just $23,700, you would be hard pressed to find anything that can compete in its class and performance bracket for a lower price of admission.

Copyright: 2012


  • Price: Base Focus ST $23,700 / As-Tested $28,290
  • Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC Turbocharged 4-cylinder 252 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm / 270 ft-lbs. torque @ 2,500 rpm
  • Wheelbase: 104.3in.
  • Total length: 171.7in.
  • Total width: 71.8in.
  • Total height: 58.4in.
  • Track: f/r-61.2/60.4in.
  • Fuel tank: 12.1 gallons
  • Turning circle: 39.4 ft.
  • Headroom: f/r-39.1/37.9in.
  • Legroom: f/r-43.1/33.4in.
  • Rear Cargo Capacity (seats in place): 23.8cu.ft.
  • Curb weight: 3,150lbs.
  • 0-60 mph: 5.9 seconds
  • EPA mileage: 23 mpg/city, 32 mpg/highway

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