By KBB.com Editors
For decades, American driving enthusiasts have grouched that the Europeans really did get all the good stuff. Then Ford shipped the Focus ST 5-door hatchback across the Atlantic, had the gumption to leave it alone, and the grouching is over. This IS the good stuff. All the usual cliches about what it means to have a finely-chiseled, European-style performance driving experience apply, and those who have been waiting for this level of response and refinement should beat a path to the local Ford dealer. It looks great, drives even better and, to top it all off, it's roomy, fuel-efficient and affordable. Being able to compete with such pocket rockets as the Mazdaspeed3 and Volkswagen GTI, the 2014 Focus ST is, assuredly, the good stuff.
If you've looked with envy at those fortunate European enthusiasts who could experience the crisp handling of a responsive chassis and the exhilarating performance of a strong yet relatively small-displacement engine, the Focus ST means your wait is over. It's also an efficient family car – but we won't tell.
Admittedly, the 2014 Focus ST is not for everyone. A relatively small turbocharged engine won't deliver the low-speed torque of a V8 or V6, its smallish size and its characteristics may not be welcome or advantageous on slogging commutes or Interstate cruises. It's for the curvy road less traveled.
As the Ford Focus ST was all-new for 2013 the changes for 2014 are minor. There's a Rado Gray Alloy Wheel Package that includes darker argent wheels and red brake calipers, and optional "Focus ST Racing Stripes" to adorn things from front to back.
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 a more precise feel, whatever the conditions. Of course, a performance car isn't really a performance car without quick acceleration, so ST engineers gave the 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine the ability to go into "over-boost" mode for 15 seconds of hard-on-the-gas bursts. The result is the best driving experience you'll find in this country that has a Ford blue oval.
2.0-LITER ECOBOOST ENGINE
The 4-cylinder engine in the previous-edition Ford Focus offered 140 horsepower, so you can see why we really like the new EcoBoost 4-cylinder that delivers an amazing 112 additional horsepower with a negligible drop in fuel economy. This thing rips!
SUPERBLY RESPONSIVE HANDLING
Handling that seems tuned by a laser is the reason serious enthusiasts are drawn to cars like this, and that's not only the Focus ST's strongest suit, it's the car's most important reason for being. It really has to be experienced to be appreciated, and appreciate it we do.
The "normal" Ford Focus has an attractive interior, but the Focus ST takes it upscale. Among our favorite features are the optional Recaro front seats, which allow the cushion to be both tilted and extended, enhancing thigh support. The Recaros are also terrific for holding the occupants in place when the driving enthusiasm picks up steam. In the rear is a bench seat made more comfortable with an advanced type of foam. The Focus ST also has a unique steering wheel, gearshift lever and pedals to further announce its high-performance mission, and the twin-pod instrument panel groups instruments and controls in a manner that's ergonomically logical and easy to use.Exterior
There is no mistaking the 2014 Ford Focus ST as anything but the most performance-oriented variant in the Focus line, yet to its credit it's not covered with scoops, spoilers and similar 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 an interesting and stylish approach to its center-mounted twin exhaust tips.
The Focus ST has everything one needs for the adrenaline-rushing business of high-performance motoring, including the wonderful 252-horsepower EcoBoost turbocharged engine, a slick-shifting 6-speed manual gearbox, impeccably-tuned suspension and steering, plus distinctive interior and exterior treatments – everything about the Focus ST very tastefully, yet unquestionably, announces that this car is for serious driving enjoyment.
Recaro seats lead the option list, although we'd consider them a must-have in the ST. New options for 2014 include the Rado Gray Alloy Wheel Package, which includes 18" aluminum-alloys in a darker argent tone and red brake calipers, and the Focus ST Racing Stripes, available in black only, which wrap up and over from front to back. Continuing 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 and superb performance, it also delivers a wide, flat torque curve, making for surprisingly good all-around drivability. Direct injection and a low-inertia turbocharger that is allowed to go into short bursts of "over-boost" contribute to the remarkable power output. We were also impressed with the 6-speed manual transmission, but slightly 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 great-fun-to-drive 5-door no matter what the price, but when you figure it starts at just over $24,000, it becomes an eye-opening bargain among high-performance cars. 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. For the serious driving enthusiast, no matter what the budget, it's a terrific choice.
By frazgo (CA) on Monday, December 16, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,600overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to Drive, great value and cheap to keep runnin"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I looked at several before going to the 2013 Focus SE Hatch that I bought last January. The DSG transmission has a learning curve to drive smoothly, but its been flawless for me since I got the car. Whether its LA bump and grind traffic or a high speed run to Las Vegas this tranny and car performs very well. I've tracked the economy on fuelly.com and have averaged 32.8. Best tank was a sedate freeway run to Palm Springs at 44MPG. Worst was all heavy traffic at 27MPG. I love the sync system. I got an iPhone to take advantage of most of the MyFord features and love it, especially on road trips. MyFord sync in this generation is light years ahead of our other car with generaton 1 sync. Who needs sirius/XM when you have an iphone with 32 gigs of music? The only thing I've done to the car is to limo tint it. Need that here in the SW to help keep the car comfortable on 110f+ trips through the desert. I've been really happy with how easy the standard cloth is to keep clean. Smart choice by ford to with a durable textured weave instead of the mousefur used in the last generation. I looked at Civic, Dart, and Cruze and none could match the features and technology for the price."
1 person out of 3 found this review helpful
By guido (OR) on Wednesday, November 27, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 22,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "fit/finish of interior. Sporty looks."
Cons: "None as of yet.."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Interior fit/finish is excellent. In the first 5 K miles I did have my Dual clutch transmission /computer re-flashed due to some shifting issues. Those were solved. Car is fun to drive with the DCT transmission. I am averaging 32.4 MPG. Sync/my touch work fine, no issues. Sporty fun little car."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By DriverDriver (NC) on Tuesday, November 26, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,200overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"0 out of 10 is how I rate this car. It accelerates poorly and erratically...makes loud grinding and rattling noises. At first I was only having these issues during certain driving maneuvers(making left turns or going over railroad tracks or speed bumps) now they occur at all times. The dealership recommended that the clutch be replaced but Ford Motor Company will not pay for the fix. I do not feel safe driving this car. The resale value is so low I can even trade it in without paying thousands of dollars."
4 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Tim (NJ) on Monday, November 25, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, great fuel economy, good cargo space"
Cons: "cramped back seat, Microsoft Sync is finicky"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I got the Ford Focus SE Hatchback last January and have loved every minute of driving it. The car is small but there's enough room in the front seats to be comfortable. The back seat is less than ideal but that's to be expected. The car has an impressive amount of cargo space and once after putting the seat down I was able to fit 2 15' poles in it once. The car has great pickup which is great for highway driving. The integrated blind spot mirrors are a great feature because frankly the back window doesn't have the best viability. I average around 32 MPG with my driving split about half city and half highway. The one downside to the car is the Ford Sync system. It will either work perfectly on the first try or fight me for 10 minutes while I try to get it to play a song. I once had to reset the system manually by pulling a fuse which was very difficult to reach. Voice commands are hit or miss as well. Sound quality is great from speakers and even phone calls can be heard clearly while driving. Overall a great car."
By Ruben (TX) on Saturday, November 23, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 3,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Power handling looks"
Cons: "lots of plastic"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have the 2014 Ford Focus ST. This car handles great and has the power to pass on the highway. Handling is awesome, takes corners with ease. When merging onto traffic on the highway, all you have to do is down shift and it takes off really fast. The only reason I don't give it a 10 in reliability is because the rear hatch plastic feels cheap."
By Denny (NC) on Friday, November 22, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 16,000overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Pros: "Good fuel mileage."
Cons: "Stutters on acceleration and grinding sound"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"This car has had many issues in the 8 months that I have owned it. The constant problem is the little stutter it does when you accelerate forward. To accompany that is the grinding in the transmission area. It feels and sounds like the transmission is going out but the Ford service department keeps telling me it is normal. Whatever! I don't know how they can keep telling themselves that lie. Who would design and build a vehicle that acts like its going to break every time you move forward. It gets decent Fuel mileage, which is the only thing I like about the vehicle."
10 people out of 11 found this review helpful