Is it the new king of the hot hatches?
With the start of every warm season the last couple years, the introduction of new hot coupes and hatches becomes something to look forward to.
Exactly one year ago, as the summer season started, I distinctly remember the most anticipated car was the Scion FR-S (or its twin, the Subaru BRZ). With the start of every warm season the last couple years, the introduction of new hot coupes and hatches becomes something to look forward to for car enthusiasts. This year, it was the Ford Focus ST. Though this car has been around in the world market in different iterations for a while now, it’s the first time that a stupid-fast version of the Focus has been sold on North American shores in the past decade. My test drive of the 2013 Ford Focus ST was abbreviated to a few days because some fellow writers from other publications were “less than kind” to the poor thing. It still didn’t matter; I was so excited to drive it that even a few hours would have sufficed.
This new ST looks awesome. At first glance, it hardly looks any different from a run-off-the-mill Enterprise-spec Focus. When you look closer, the blacked-out grille, the unique bumpers, rear hatch spoiler, center-mounted exhaust, and “ST” badges set it apart from the rest of the lineup. My “Performance Blue” tester was getting stared down everywhere it went. At one point, I had it parked outside the Starbucks in Liberty Village, and multiple pedestrians stopped to take pictures of the car. The Focus ST is definitely the cool kid on the block right now; the FR-S’ 15 minutes of fame seem to have ended.
Ford has tossed in an EcoBoost 2.0L turbo-4 putting out a staggering 250 horsepower and 265 foot-pounds of torque. The numbers are right between the Mazdaspeed3 and the Volkswagen GTI; the Focus ST’s main competitors. While I like both of those hot hatches as well, they’re both aging. The GTI lags behind in a straight-line (the Focus hits 100 km/h in 6.1 seconds flat), and the interior of the Mazda feels like it’s been put together with snap-on plastic pieces.
My main complaint with the Mazdaspeed3 has always been the torque steer; it’s far from refined in a line and on the highway is literally all over the place. The Ford has “torque steer compensation”, which does exactly what the name suggests. It detects the amount of torque going to each of the front wheels, and adjusts assist in the appropriate manner. Sounds great in theory; I still noticed a ridiculous amount of torque steer when going flat out in the car. The handling of the Focus did impress me though; some twisties through the Niagara Escarpment sold me on the capabilities of my new favourite hot hatch. I wish the turning radius wasn’t awful; it makes parking in tight areas require much more effort than any compact car should need.
The Focus ST also sounds great. The “sound symposer”, which is essentially a duct directing noise from the motor into the air intake plenum, brings a more throaty sound into the cabin. Noticeable and very cool, that. The Focus is also a lot quieter than I’d have expected. The center-mounted exhaust is barely audible at highway speeds and lacks the horrendous amount of exhaust drone that the Mazdaspeed3 puts out. The engine also sounds a lot less computerized than the GTI.
I didn’t really like the optional Recaro seats in the Mustang GT we tested last summer. They’re great and super-supportive (especially for a guy of my physical build), but I found they hugged me too tightly for comfort on longer drives. The ones in the Focus ST however, are absolutely phenomenal. They have the right amount of grip without making me feel like I’m being spooned. The Recaros are great; the Focus ST would be incomplete without them. I would like a little bit more adjustability though; I wasn’t able to get the driving position quite right the entire time I had the car. I much preferred the position in the Honda Civic Si (a car that needs to offer a hatchback soon). The shifter isn’t quite as precise as the Honda’s either. I much prefer the Mazda, Honda, and Volkswagen competitors for clutch/shifter relationship.
One thing I will say about the Focus ST; it’s been hyped way too much. It’s a phenomenal car; extremely capable, and boatloads of fun. What truly works to its advantage though is the fact that its two main competitors, the Mazdaspeed3 and the Volkswagen GTI, were made in the Stone Age. The Focus ST reminded me of what the Volkswagen Golf R was, just minus the all-wheel-drive. If it had AWD, it’d be a huge bargain. It would get rid of my main complaint; the torque steer, and give a much better overall feel on the road.
I liked the 2013 Ford Focus ST. I actually love nearly everything about the current-generation Focus. MyFordTouch is horrendous; but that’s a rant I’ve complained about far too many times. This car is about the drive. At $35,000 fully-loaded, it’s a bargain. It’s a hell of a lot of fun on backroads, it’s awesome in the city, and it’s essentially unbeatable in its class. This is where Ford’s recent tagline is very applicable. Have you looked at Ford lately?
2013 Ford Focus ST Gallery