By Jack R. Nerad, Executive Editorial Director, KBB.com
Ford performance enthusiasts have traditionally bemoaned the fact that Europe gets all the sophisticated good stuff, and that was the case until Ford presented us with the 2013 Ford Focus ST. It's as European as a lean-cut suit, but a lot easier to wear, and we think it will hit a homerun with performance drivers who have always craved the intelligently modified ST versions of European Ford models but have found them impossible to purchase in the United States. Having put the Focus ST through its paces on more than 250 miles of demanding European roads, we can attest to the Focus ST's good looks, its razor-sharp handling, and its ability to perform the dual role of weekend canyon runner and weekday commuter car.
Those seeking European-style performance – precise handling and substantial power from a relatively small-displacement engine – will find the Ford Focus ST their cup of cappuccino. The bonus is the ST can function as a family car as well.
If you want traditional American power and torque from a V8 or even from a V6, then the Focus ST will not be your performance-car of choice. Its charms are more subtle and sophisticated than simply brute force.
The Ford Focus ST is all-new for the 2013 model year, and it includes a wide variety of Euro-tuning tricks that set it apart from its more pedestrian Focus brothers. With minor exceptions, it is exactly the same car European Focus ST buyers get.
Driving Impressions Ford's ST team has cleverly adapted a proven, high-volume platform to performance-car standards without sacrificing much utility or user-friendliness. That's a neat trick, but the platform seems infinitely adaptable. Drawing...on American, Asian and European resources, ST engineers supplied the picante sauce with engine, steering and suspension upgrades that go beyond mere tuning. They changed what engineers refer to as "hard points" to give the suspension better geometry and better anti-roll bar attachment points, and they made ingenious modifications to the steering rack to give the steering a more precise feel, whatever the conditions. Of course, a performance car isn't really a performance car without quick acceleration, so ST engineers decided to let the 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine go into "over-boost" mode for 15 seconds of hard-on-the-gas bursts.
2.0-LITER ECOBOOST ENGINE
The 4-cylinder engine in the previous-edition Ford Focus offered 140 horsepower, so you can see why we like the new EcoBoost 4-cylinder that delivers 112 additional horsepower with a negligible drop in fuel economy.
SPORT STEERING SYSTEM
The extremely quick steering is a specially calibrated version of Ford's Electronic Power Assisted Steering system that detects and compensates for torque steer virtually before it occurs, enabling Ford to send 252 horsepower through the front (driving) wheels.
There's nothing unattractive about the stock 2013 Ford Focus interior, but, as you might expect, the ST kicks it all up a grade. The highlight is the optional Recaro front bucket seats, which offer both cushion tilt and length adjustment that provides nice support for the thighs. While they don't get the same level of comfort as those in the front seats, the rear-seat passengers do ride on a newly designed bench stuffed with special foam. To make it clear that you're motoring in a special Focus, the ST features a specially-designed steering wheel, gearshift lever and pedals. The headliner and trim on the pillars is darker than on standard Focuses, adding an edgy feeling of menace. The 2-pod dash arrangement logically groups instruments and controls, and at the same time offers an open expanse in front of the passenger.
There is no mistaking the 2013 Ford Focus ST as anything but the most performance-oriented variant in the Focus line, yet to its credit it is not covered with scoops, spoilers and all other manner of hey-look-at-me tomfoolery. Instead, the 5-door offers a well-integrated, high-mounted spoiler and mild rocker panel skirting to exhibit its performance-cred without shouting it. We're fans of the brawny 5-spoke alloy wheels and the blacked-out grille. The rear of the car is also attractive with the spoiler balanced by center-mounted twin exhaust tips.
If you buy a 2013 Focus ST you get a very well-equipped performance machine, complete with 252-horsepower engine, 6-speed manual transmission, performance-tuned suspension and steering, plus a variety of interior and exterior trim distinctions.
Recaro seats lead the option list, although we'd consider them a must-have in the ST. Other options include automatic temperature control and LED interior ambient lighting.
We are big fans of the 252-horsepower 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine that is the only choice in the Focus ST. Not only does it provide impressive peak horsepower, but it also offers a wide, flat torque curve, making for good all-around drivability. Direct injection and a low-inertia turbocharger that is allowed to go into short bursts of "over-boost" is the reason. We were impressed with the 6-speed manual transmission, but we were disappointed that a paddle-shifting dual-clutch transmission is not on the option list. With a 0-60 mph time in the mid-6 seconds, the 2013 Focus ST offers serious quantities of fun-to-drive.
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
252 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
270 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/32 mpg
The 2013 Ford Focus ST is a fun-to-drive 5-door independent of price, but when you figure the starts-at-$24,495 price into the equation, the Focus ST becomes even more attractive. Its 252 horsepower blows away all other vehicles in the compact-performance segment with the exception of the much-more-expensive Mitsubishi Evolution GSR and Subaru WRX STI. Both of those rally-inspired Japanese cars have starting MSRPs over $35,000, while a fully loaded Focus ST will cost you less than $30,000. Because of this, we expect the Focus ST to hold its value better than the average of the class. In the Focus ST, we finally get what many of us have wanted for years: European sophistication in an affordable compact using Ford's best technology from around the world.
By bradp0924 (IN) on Sunday, May 19, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 11,320overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Plenty of power and great fuel economy."
Cons: "Back seat a little tight & no std Satellite Radio"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I drove every small manual transmission 4 door car and bought the Focus. This is my first new Ford and I am impressed. Just took a trip to Tennessee and averaged 39.1 there and back running 70-75 mph. My overall gas mileage for the first 11k miles is 33.6. This thing definitely has more power than the other cars and is very comfortable. No problems at all so far."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By Pepe (FL) on Thursday, May 16, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Nice, sporty design"
Cons: "poor fuel efficiency, transmition vibrates"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"This car was advertized as a very fuel efficient car with over 30 miles per gallon on highway and that was the only reason why we bought it. Nothing so far to be true!. A combined average of 23 is what we usually get with a hardly 25 per gallon on highway (in winter with no A/C), a total disappointment. Besides that, the automatic transmission is not as smooth as you might think for a new car and after taking the car twice to the dealer the only answer we got was that everything was ok but I dare you to try the car and you will notice what I am talking about. (when different people in the passenger seat mention the strange vibration on the transmission, that means something...)"
4 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Brian (MD) on Thursday, May 16, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 55,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"bought for the value and the MPG and not disappointed..averaging over 32 mpg in mixed driving with a lot of idling. ........I got a new job after my purchase and drive 150-200 miles a day now. .. very tight in the back seat and hard for some larger adults to get in and out of the front seat as its a slight drop down. ..A fun car to drive, nice acceleration and great on cornering. ......definitely a great commuter car you will enjoy every time you have to buy gas"
By WishIBoughtaLeaf (CA) on Friday, May 10, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 3,200overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Cons: "Absolutely unreliable and very poor service"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"This review applies to the Ford Focus Electric car. This is, or was, my commute car. For the first three months, I was very satisfied with it. Then, without warning, the car came to a dead stop in a high traffic area. All of the electrical systems were on. In fact, I could not shut any of them off. The battery was nearly at a full charge. The car simply would not move. We were fortunate to be rescued before someone smashed into the back of us. There were some close calls! The dealership has no idea how to repair my car. I've been told the onboard diagnostics showing 30 different trouble codes. When they check each one individually, no problem is found. However, the car shuts down if they attempt to drive it. The dealership is waiting for Ford to send an engineer because they have no idea what to do. That's encouraging! I don't want this car back. I have 2 years, 9 months left on a 3-year lease but that car is too dangerous to drive again. I know a few Nissan Leaf owners who love their cars, but I picked the Ford. HUGE MISTAKE!!!"
1 person out of 3 found this review helpful
By Koz (MI) on Thursday, May 09, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,500overall rating 2 of 10rating details
Cons: "Auto Transmission, SYNC, Fuel Mileage,"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I have owned this 2013 Ford Focus Titanium for 7 months now and I wish I could go back in time and kick myself not to buy it. It's fully loaded and cost $25500. I know right for a FOCUS!! It is a company car and I bought it for the 39 MPG on Highway. I don't even come close to that. On the highway I can get 33 MPG. No matter what I do it does not get better then that. I have had it looked at and the dealer tells me that is within range for the model. Not what the sticker says... It has had a new radiator at 3000 miles, the door locks do not work all the time because of the Titanium package, you don't need to use the key FOB just touch the door handle and it unlocks or locks. The AC did not work, service had it over a week to find the problem and fix it. SYNC is very touchy and does not like iPhones with more then 100 contact numbers so Ford tells me not to download my phonebook into Sync but that still doesn't help (most be Microsoft). Don't get me started on the JUNK 6 speed transmission!! nothing smooth at all regarding this transmission. it's jerky, shifts awful, drifts back on a hill like a manual would. Great concept of the dual clutch transmission and many cars on the road have it and have no issues. Ford does not have it right and they need to fix it. The dealer agrees that he feels all the things I state but says it is the characteristics of the transmission and that is all normal for a $25500 car. This will be the last Ford I buy, you can get much more car for you dollar at other car companies. STAY AWAY!!"
4 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Veronica on Thursday, May 02, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 26,000overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "great look, great ride"
Cons: "too much maintenance & problems for brand new car"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I loved this car from the moment I got it, I bought it with the idea that I wouldn't have to worry about maintenance or breaking down on the side of the road since it was a brand new car. Since purchasing it I have had 3 recalls and now my power steering has gone out on it, which left me driving home from work last week struggling just to turn the wheel. I got the extended warranty, even though when I agreed to it I was thinking that if I ever had to use it then I would never buy a Ford again because why should I expect my brand new car to need this, anyways, I'm glad I purchased it now, however due to the continuous maintenance that this car has required I don't think I will purchase another one, I had a Honda for the previous 7 years, never a problem, I think that will be my next purchase, unfortunately. Like I said I really wanted to love this car and I did for the 8 months, now a year and a half later, not so much..."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful