2013 Ford Focus ST Review and Road Test

We’ve been waiting for this one for quite some time.

The 2013 Ford Focus ST is a derivation of a model which Ford’s had in other markets—ranging from as far away as Germany to as close as Mexico—for quite some time; the highest-po Focus was called RS then, those two letters having graced many a fast Ford, ever since the Escort in the 1960s. Recently, however, us Canadians have only gotten the watered-down hi-po Focuci; 2003’s SVT model came close, but it was banished from Ford’s line-up as soon as the first generation Focus met its end in 2003.

So, while others got the bonkers RS—nasty torque-steer and all–we had to make do with the wheezy SEL as our top trim, and it was no sports car.

The 2013 Ford Focus ST seen here, however, is as-near-as-makes-no-difference to a sports car. Yes, yes, I know; it’s front-wheel drive, not rear-wheel drive and it has five doors as opposed to two.

But you know what? Jimmy cracked corn, and I just don’t care.

First Impressions

When I look at the Focus ST, I see a proper-looking sports hatch that stands out from the Volkswagen Golf GTI, the Subaru WRX and even the Mazdaspeed3 with its big wing and hood scoop.

The ST does its own thing with sharp 18-inch wheels, a spoiler of its own, new rocker panels and a gaping maw for a front valance the almost looks like an aftermarket conversion, but stops just short of doing so entirely.

Big wing, 18-inch wheels and center-exit exhaust ensures that the ST looks like the special Focus that it is

I’ve driven all those cars, and with the exception, perhaps, of the latest GTI, I would have the Focus ST in a heartbeat. It looks right and is outfitted with all the right go-fast details like Recaro sports seats, supplementary upper dash-mounted gauges and chunky three-spoke steering wheel.

That’s all standard fare; our tester also included the $1,000 tech package, $1,200 moonroof and $700 Navi system. My advice? Other than the moonroof, skip the other stuff.

That’s because really, it’s all about that punchy little four-banger and no fancy navi system is needed to experience that to its fullest.

While the ‘Speed3 still has the “most powerful FWD hatch in Canada” title, the 2013 Ford Focus ST, making 252 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, comes close enough that the Mazda will have to start looking over its shoulder.

On the road

Of course, power figures are one thing, but if all that power is delivered improperly, it’s another story altogether. Luckily, the six-speed manual transmission (your only choice) and engine are well-synched, allowing you to bang home shifts with hardly a loss in power. It’s an addictive feeling, so you’ll want to watch out, especially if your ST is finished in “Tangerine Scream” pearl paint, like our tester.

Deep-dish Recaro racing seats and supplementary dash-mounted gauges leave little to the imagination

Equally addictive, if not more so, are the handling characteristics, as long as you hold on tight.

The lack of a limited-slip differential of any kind means you have a torque vectoring system that relies on the brakes to automatically sap power and keep things copacetic. It works, but only part of the time because when you really push it, really start delving in to the swooshiness of that turbo’d powerplant, the wheel will writhe in your hands. This, of course, only really matters on the track, though. In normal conditions, the ST remains a darty little car that tackles the windy bits with a gumption unlike many much more expensive so-called “performance cars.”

Helping it achieve this agility is a sport-tuned chassis set-up that provides MacPherson struts up front, a control-blade independent set-up at the rear and stabilizer bars at each end.

In the end…

While the ST may not be able to out-do the Mustang in Ford’s performance stable (it doesn’t help that a base V8-powered Mustang GT Coupe starts at less than our fully-optioned Focus ST), the ST comes as close as any model has to the crown.

Well done here, Ford.

2013 Ford Focus ST – Specifications

Price as tested: $34,849

Body Type: 5-door, 5-passenger hatchback

Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive

Engine:  2.0-litre turbo inline four, DOHC, 16 valves

Horsepower: 252 @ 5,500 r.p.m.

Torque (lbs.-ft.): 270 @ 2,500 r.p.m.

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Curb weight: 1,462 kg (3,223 lbs.)

Observed combined Fuel consumption: 12.9L/100 km (18.2 US mpg)