2013 Ford Focus ST Road Test Review
2013 Ford Focus ST rewards compact performance drivers on a global scale
Scores High: Superb ride and handling balance, engine offers wide powerband, variable steering works well
Scores Low: Recaro seats can interfere with shifter, no automatic version available
Total Car Score Analysis
Ford’s performance unit has officially gone global. That means the research, development and execution of Ford’s performance products will be coordinated to reflect Ford’s global performance DNA. The 2013 Focus ST is the first product to fully reflect this global approach. The previous, and relatively short-lived, Focus SVT was unique to the U.S. market, while the ST performance moniker has a long history in Europe across several Ford model lines. That’s among the reasons Ford went with “ST” for the latest hi-po Focus.
But this new, global approach isn’t just about adopting European brand names. Ford reps told us it’s about defining a consistent philosophy that all Ford performance models will follow. That policy, according to Ford reps: “Create excitement and value for the Ford brand with an inspiration and profitable product line-up for performance enthusiasts.” We can’t say how the rest of Ford’s performance product line-up will work out in the coming years, but we can confirm the 2013 Focus ST is an effective combination of power, handling, style, functionality and value. If this is the new Ford take on global performance, we like it.
The latest Ford Focus hatchback already starts out with a more aggressive look than your typical 2013 compact car. However, to reflect the increased capabilities of the Focus ST, Ford’s performance engineers specified a unique grille and front fascia, plus more aggressive side valances, a prominent roof spoiler and a chrome center exhaust tip.
In addition, all Focus ST models ride on 5-spoke, 18-inch alloy wheels (a “Performance Pack” option changes the wheel finish from silver to black). This combination of appearance upgrades gives the Focus ST even more street cred, though some might feel the roof spoiler is, literally and figuratively, over-the-top. We noticed several double takes by young adult males during our driving loop, though that could have simply been due to our test car’s retina-burning “Tangerine Scream” shade of metallic paint. Other Focus ST color options include Performance Blue, Race Red and White.
The “scream” part of the 2013 Ford Focus ST comes from more than just the ‘60s sounding name of its bright orange paint. Driving this this car along the twisty roads outside Ann Arbor, Michigan, revealed the fluid integration of upgraded suspension technology underpinning the ST. A variable-ratio steering rack allows the ST to quickly change directions when clipping apexes, yet it keeps the car stable at highway speeds through excellent on-center feel. This variable steering system works with upgraded suspension knuckles and roll bars to nearly eliminate body roll without sacrificing ride quality (the Focus ST rides 10 millimeters lower than the standard Focus).
Powering the ST is a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder Ecoboost engine making 252 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 270 pound-feet of torque at 2,500 rpm. To achieve over 125 horsepower-per-liter Ford upgraded nearly every part of the ST’s 2.0-liter engine. High performance elements include direct injection, variable valve timing, a low-inertia turbocharger (16 psi max boost), sodium-filled exhaust valves and an exhaust manifold that’s integrated into the cylinder head. Peak torque hits at a relatively low 2,500 rpm, but the broad range of useable power is what really impressed us. Redline is marked at 6,500 on the tachometer, though we found upshifting at around 5,500 seemed to offer the best acceleration because power tends to flatten out beyond that.
Speaking of shifting, it’s done with a 6-speed manual transmission in the Focus ST (no automatic version is offered). The ratios are well matched to the engine’s power band, getting the Focus ST from zero-to-60 mph in around 6 seconds and providing a top speed of 154 mph. When not testing it’s maximum acceleration or top speed the Focus ST is rated at 23 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined.
During our drive we noticed a couple unique features in the Focus ST. First, this car comes with a three-stage stability control system that can be set to on, off or (our favorite) “Sport” mode. The latter allowed for a bit of wheel spin and rotation in the corners before it intervenes. Less encouraging was the interference we noticed between the heavily bolstered Recaro driver’s seat and our reach to the shifter. It’s not an insurmountable problem, but the seat’s right bolster forced us to angle our right arm out and over it rather than letting it hang down in a natural position. The overall benefit of the Recaro’s added lateral support probably makes it worth paying the extra cost for them, even with this small ergonomic flaw, but check it out during your pre-purchase test drive to ensure it’s not an issue for you.
Interior Design and Function
All Focus ST’s feature a thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, plus aluminum pedals, a darker headliner material and auxiliary gauges on top of the dash for oil pressure, oil temperature and turbo boost. The standard ST seat is the same as the base Focus seat with regard to overall structure and side bolstering, though it does feature unique ST badging. Two Recaro front seat options exist, with either a partial or full leather treatment being the only differentiator. As noted, these seats offer very aggressive bolstering to effectively hold front passengers in place during spirited driving, but that same bolstering somewhat interfered with our right arm when operating the ST’s shifter.
The rest of the Focus ST interior offers the same benefits seen in the redesigned Focus last year. That means plenty of legroom in the first and second row seats, plus a versatile cargo area with up to 23.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row seats, or 44.8 cubic feet of space when the second row seats are folded down. Additional “ST” badges reside on the shifter and steering wheel, and racy red needles in the gauge cluster replace the standard Focus’ blue needles.
Primary Features and Options
Standard items on every 2013 Ford Focus ST include keyless entry with push button engine start, cloth ST sport seats, ST scuff plates, Goodyear Eagle F1 performance tires and a full-size spare tire. Basic convenience features, including cruise control and the voice-activated Sync phone and audio system with a CD player and a USB port for iPod control, are also standard.
An ST2 package, priced at $2,385, adds the partial leather Recaro seats, a Sony audio system with 10 speakers, MyFord Touch with 8-inch screen, HD and satellite radio, plus dual-zone climate control. The ST3 package throws in full leather heated Recaro seats, HID headlights with LED accent lighting, heated mirrors, ambient interior lighting and a navigation system for $4,435.
It’s Perfect For…
It’s a happy day when Ford is again producing a performance-worthy compact car. Fans of the former Focus SVT can rejoice in the all-new 2013 Focus ST – even if Ford went with the European naming convention. The base Focus is already one of the more fun-to-drive cars in the compact segment, so Ford had an excellent platform on which to build the ST – a car that retains all of the standard Focus’ functionality while providing some of the most entertaining driving dynamics available for under $30,000. Ford expects their pocket rocket to pull in long-time Blue Oval performance fans, as well as younger driving enthusiasts looking for a Mazdaspeed 3/WRX/GTI alternative. We suggest all of the above give the 2013 Ford Focus ST a try.
Vehicle Tested: 2013 Ford Focus ST
Base MSRP of Test Vehicle: $23,700
Options on Test Vehicle: ST2 Package (includes Recaro partial leather seats, Sony audio system with HD/satellite radio and 10 speakers, MyFord Touch w/8-inch screen, dual-zone climate control -- $2,385), Destination Charge ($795)
MSRP of Test Vehicle (including destination charge): $28,170
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The manufacturer provided Total Car Score this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Photos Courtesy of the manufacturer.