Driven: Ford Focus ST

Written by & Photography by Shaun Keenan on .

ford focus

Ford has tried everything to disguise the fact that a fun, sporty, hopped-up hatchback like this has been missing from North America for quite some time. Alas, the 2013 Focus ST has officially landed. It landed last fall actually. Within weeks it had already been awarded the title of “Best New Sports Performance Vehicle (under $50,000)” as determined by back-to-back-to-back comparisons by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada during its annual TestFest event in October. This honour is not just a tip of the hat to Ford of Canada for getting this hot hatch over here – it truly deserves it!

Performance-wise, its two-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder has some balls, making 252 hp at 5,500 rpm and 270 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm. It is capable of going from zero-to-100 km/h in a respectable 6.9 seconds. When the throttle is wide open for passing maneuvers, the engine's  “overboost” feature allows the turbocharger to produce more boost for up to 15 seconds – it certainly helps when passing from 80-to-120 km/h in 4.1 seconds – and produces a nice, raspy almost Vtec-sounding exhaust note. Its 12.6-inch front and 10.7-inch rear brakes reel it back in from 100 km/h over 40.3 metres – good stuff!

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Like I said, the ST has got some balls. It does, however, have issues with torque steer due to its unequal-length driveshafts. Though, good drivers with smooth hands and feet will be able to manage this without terrible difficulty. While it's true that many high-power front wheel drive cars have issues with torque steer, there just are not that many of them around these days. And, when it comes to the Focus ST, it really adds to the fun factor and – especially when it's being pushed hard around a closed course.

It is quick and nimble out on the TestFest handling course. The three-mode electronic stability controls and enhanced torque vectoring control technologies allow skilled drivers to get maximum performance from the car. The variable-ratio Ford sport steering works well – it's light when traveling in a straight line and at slow speeds, but stiffens up for more precise fingertip feedback when pushing it in corners. The ST team has done a great job on the sport suspension and the chassis is responsive and well-balanced to give drivers outstanding feedback and control.

I did drive it from Oakville, Ontario down to the Mid-Ohio SportsCar Course with DriveTeq.ca, and I did consider taking it out on the track at the Chin Motorsports annual Memorial Day TracQuest event. But, no sooner did it pass tech inspection with flying colours – speaking of which, the Tangerine Scream tri-coat is gorgeous – did the guys from Roush Performance arrive with a pair of Stage 3 Mustangs for a two-day track test with PRN Ignition.

While it was difficult to resist and relegate the ST to playing second fiddle in Mid-Ohio – especially when the rain came and the track got slippery – it did prove its worth on the 1,200 km (total) drive road trip. The ST cruises quietly and confidently to the tune of 7.3 L/100 km on the highway, which is lower than advertised, but still very, very good considering it is a performance car. It is in fact an excellent everyday car that punches above its weight and price range.

Against a competitive field filled with the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T, Scion FR-S, Subaru BRZ, Volkswagen Golf R, Honda Accord Coupe and a several others in the last Canadian Car of the Year test, the 2013 Ford Focus ST certainly earned its stripes.

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Based on previous Focus ST (or Sport Technologies) models in Europe and engineered by the Global Performance Vehicle Group – a partnership between Europe's Team RS and North America's Special Vehicle Team (SVT) – the new 2013 Focus ST is the first truly global performance car from Ford, and an excellent global ambassador at that!

Pluses:
+ Great highway fuel economy
+ Quiet interior, nice sounding exhaust
+ Smooth transmission
+ Stylish design
+ It's a hatchback!
+ Impressive driving dynamics

Minuses:
- Unequal length front driveshafts cause torque steer
- Few storage cubbies or functional storage spaces in front seat
- SYNC touchscreen slow to respond to inputs
- Push button starter

2013 Ford Focus ST
Base Price: $29,999
Price as Tested (before taxes): $33,329
Engine: 2.0L EcoBoost 4-cyl. turbo
Horsepower / Torque: 252 hp / 270 lb-ft
Configuration: FR
Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission
Observed Fuel Economy: 7.3 L/100 km combined (1,280 km highway)
Fuel Economy Ratings: 8.9 / 6.2 / 7.7 L/100 km (city / hwy. / comb.)
Basic Warranty: 60 months / 100,000 km

Options on Test Vehicle: Tangerine Scream tri-coat paint ($300); Technology package ($1,000) –MyFord Touch with 8” colour LCD/Sirius/10-speaker sound system, dual zone automatic climate; Navigation system ($700); power moonroof ($1,200). Additional charges: Destination and delivery ($1,550); Federal excise tax ($100); Ontario environmental fee ($30).

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