KBB Editors' Overview
By Jack R. Nerad, Executive Editorial Director, KBB.com - Updated Date: 10/15/2012
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.
You'll Like This Car If...
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.
You May Not Like This Car If...
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.
What's New for 2013
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.
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.
Notable Standard Equipment
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.
Notable Optional Equipment
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.
Under the Hood
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.