By KBB.com Editors
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
By pbguy on Tuesday, January 13, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 14,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun and comfy to drive; great price; simple"
Cons: "poor sync feats; poor turning radius; poor resale"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I bought brand new and have been loving it since. Of course I have not had any mechanical issues with it because it is still only a year old, so I yet have to see how it treats me when it's time to take it to the doctor for repairs. However I am enjoying its smooth ride and gas-friendliness. All my passengers think it's quite roomy, comfortable and nice on the inside as well as cool looking on the outside. The one thing that does not let me rate this car a 10 is its Sync system and its poor turning radius compared. I find Sync poor and whacky to use and wish I was able to update its system/software somehow."
7 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By ford_owner on Friday, January 09, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 9,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Very good build quality and very good handling."
Cons: "Not great for long trips with people in back seat"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Very good build quality and very good handling. 2 L engine gives good acceleration in traffic. It looks good too. For longer road trips with more than 2 people, the car is probably too small."
4 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Joe on Thursday, January 08, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 28,600overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Good size, great fuel mileage, good looks/design"
Cons: "Automatic transmission- would be perfect w/manual"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"Overall the Focus is a great little car, I just wish I bought the manual transmission. I ended up buying an automatic because that's the only thing the dealers in my area had in stock, and I couldn't get any discounts/incentives if I special ordered one. After driving it for a couple years I really regret that - I should have held out for a manual transmission as the automatic is the only major negative. Like most everyone else, my Focus SE with the automatic also suffers from shudders and quirky/noisy shifting particularly at low speeds. However during more "spirited" acceleration it cleans up a lot and the shifting is much crisper. But still, the automatic's shifting pattern is clearly tuned for fuel mileage and it keeps the RPM's pretty low all the time. The push-button sequential shifting feature is also completely useless - it is awkward to use, and there is a long delay (1 second or more) between pushing the button and the actual shift. That being said, although the transmission is annoying, it has been reliable for me. Haven't had any mechanical issues since buying it new (~2.5 years, 30k miles, averaging 35.5 mpg)."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By Tom on Thursday, January 08, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "great price, really a poor man's Porsche"
Cons: "not a great all weather car"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I'm about 155 lbs and 5'9", but any bigger and it would be a tough fit. I enjoy the ST version. Plenty of power, fun to drive and reasonable gas mileage. I can haul my three kids easily. The manual transmission is forgiving and lots of fun. The only complaints are that the performance tires are not really all-weather tires so beware when it rains or snows (even a little). Also, the rear seat belt connector is not working. Small issues, really. I've owned a BMW, and a Miata, in my day and this is a nice, comfortable and practical alternative. This would be a fun car if they had a convertible version! I do agree with another writer, though, the console cup holders are inconveniently placed and a center interior light would be helpful."
1 person out of 3 found this review helpful
By John on Wednesday, January 07, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 47,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great price, fun to drive, and great on fuel"
Cons: "Cramped back seat, short-lived OEM tires"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought the 2012 Focus S sedan, with the 5-speed manual, in very early 2012 and have owned it for almost 3 years now. It was the first new car I've ever bought, and I do not regret waiting for this car for a minute. I love everything about this car, and it's a blast to drive. I do have the lowest trim level, and I prefer that actually: it has all the bells and whistles I care to have in a car. The seats are comfortable, though the back seat has tight legroom, which is a problem for taller people on longer drives. The trunk is plenty big, and I've managed to pack way more into the car using the back seat and passenger seat than I ever would have imagined possible. I really love the exterior styling, and the interior is nice as well. Having the manual transmission for this car is the way to go. It's got plenty of giddy-up when needed, and can be pretty smoothly driven otherwise. Handling is really good, as I've hugged a lot of tight mountain turns in it at decent speeds. It's smooth in highway driving, and it's also surprisingly good in the snow, though super deep stuff is tricky, as it is for almost anything that isn't 4WD/AWD and higher off the ground. I exceed all of the mileage ratings by a solid margin. I routinely see 40-41 MPG in highway driving, 32-34 in mixed, and 28-30 in heavy city driving. I have noticed the car runs a little smoother on ethanol-free fuel, so I buy that when I can find it, and use higher-quality E10 gas otherwise (I avoid the super discount chains). Basically, in highway driving 500 miles on a tank is feasible, though I tend to fuel back up after 450 in highway-only, and around 350 in mixed to avoid running it too low. The only knock I have on this car was the OEM tires. The Continental tires that came on it were horrible on treadlife. Rated for 60k, but they were pretty well worn down by 30k. I replaced them at 43k after stretching them. And no, the car was not out of alignment...the tires were just that bad, and I've seen that mentioned by many owners of this car. In summary, I've always preferred the smaller vehicles anyway, be it compact trucks and SUVs or cars, and the Focus has been my favorite so far. I've had experience with Acura, Chevy, Dodge, Ford, Honda, Jeep, Nissan, and Subaru, and the Focus has surprisingly been the best of that bunch in my experience. It's a real pleasure to drive, and economical on gas to boot."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By booger on Sunday, December 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 4,500overall rating 2 of 10rating details
Pros: "nice color"
Cons: "mileage, design,performance"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Poor interior design, cupholders are in the way of controls and shifting, folding down the back seats is a chore, chrome dash vent trim reflects in the side windows and looks like there's a car next to you when there's not. The automatic shifting leaves a lot to be desired, I could shift better on my manual when I was just learning to drive, it's very rough and jerky. Mileage estimate was deceptive, it's supposed to get 27 city 37 hwy, avg 31. I'm averaging 27.5 and most of my driving is highway."
42 people out of 67 found this review helpful