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The 2013 Ford Focus ST delivers performance like a hot hatchback from Michigan, yet doesn't forget to deliver the poise and polish of a fine European sedan.
Powerful turbocharged engine; precise six-speed manual gearbox; sharp handling; poised ride; stylish interior with many high-tech options.
Infotainment controls are finicky to learn and use; no automatic transmission offered; backseat is a little short on legroom.
Available Focus ST Models
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For 2013, the Ford Focus ST is an all-new model.
It's understandable if you find yourself thinking of the 2013 Ford Focus ST as an exotic model imported from Europe.
The sleek lines of the bodywork surely suggest innovative European style. A 252-horsepower turbocharged engine with direct fuel injection surely suggests exotic European technology. A poised, comfortable ride combined with agile, fluent handling surely suggests European tuning. But as it turns out, the 2013 Ford Focus ST is built in Michigan, and it can be had at a discount price, just as you'd expect from anything made in America.
As small cars have lately taken a more premium aspect in appearance, so, too have these cars also morphed into the kind of high-performance packages that appeal to grown-ups as well as kids. The Honda Civic Si, Mazdaspeed 3, Mini Cooper S, Subaru WRX and Volkswagen GTI all have become respectable as well as fast, and the Ford Focus ST takes its place among them.
To be sure, the Focus ST makes its mark in this group with performance, thanks to its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, quick-shifting six-speed manual transmission and clever electronics that help make this powerful front-wheel-drive car tractable and easy to drive quickly. Yet more surprising is the availability of features and options that you would expect only from a car with a far grander price, notably the MyFord Touch and Sync electronics interface for the audio and navigation systems.
Just like the Ford Focus itself, the 2013 Ford Focus ST looks and feels as if it should be priced higher, which is just about the highest compliment that can be paid to any automobile. In a way, it offers the best of both worlds offered by the GTI and Mazdaspeed. For performance, it keeps up with the Mazda and outperforms the GTI. And for refinement, it matches the VW and bests the Mazda. It's also much more practical than a Cooper S.
The Focus ST does have a couple drawbacks -- namely the finicky-to-use MyFord Touch interface and the lack of an automated transmission -- but overall we think it's raised the bar for the hot-hatch class.
The 2013 Ford Focus ST is a performance-oriented version of the Focus four-door hatchback. There is no sedan version.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, performance summer tires, performance brakes, an electronically controlled limited-slip front differential, keyless ignition/entry, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40 split-folding seatback, the Sync voice-activated phone and audio player interface, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, USB/iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack.
The ST2 package (Equipment Group 201A) package adds Recaro front sport seats, cloth/leather surfaces, dual-zone automatic climate control, the MyFord Touch electronics interface (with 8-inch touchscreen display) and a 10-speaker Sony sound system with HD radio and satellite radio. The ST3 package (Equipment Group 202A) includes the ST2's features and adds xenon headlamps, heated front Recaro seats, full leather upholstery, Recaro-designed rear seats, ambient interior lighting and a navigation system.
Every ST is available with a sunroof and the optional Performance Pack, which offers the standard 18-inch wheels with a dark finish plus red trim for the brake calipers.
The signature of the front-wheel-drive 2013 Ford Focus ST is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 engine that delivers 252 hp and 270 pound-feet of torque. It's matched with a six-speed close-ratio manual transmission.
Ford claims the Ford Focus ST will reach 60 mph in 6.2 seconds. The EPA estimates the Focus ST will achieve 23 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined, placing it near the top of the hot-hatch class for fuel economy.
The 2013 Ford Focus ST comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. The Ford Sync system also includes an emergency crash notification feature that automatically dials 911 when paired with a compatible cell phone. Also standard is Ford's MyKey system, which can be used to set certain parameters for teen drivers.
In government crash testing, the Focus received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for overall frontal impact protection and five stars for overall side impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Focus its highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
The interior of the Focus ST shows the way in which compact cars now blend utility with an appreciation for fine materials and leading-edge design. The interior is attractive and the materials are best-in-class. And just as you'd expect in a performance car, the driving position is excellent, while the optional Recaro front seats offered in the ST2 and ST3 prove supportive without being punishing. The ST also incorporates a binnacle of three supplementary gauges on top of the dash.
However, the layout of other gauges and controls is a little complicated, particularly the optional MyFord Touch system. It provides some neat customization possibilities, but in real-world operation we've found that the virtual buttons are difficult to identify at a glance, and too often get pressed accidentally or fail to respond properly. At the very least, though, technologies controlled by MyFord Touch like Sync and HD radio help set the Focus ST apart from the pack.
The rear seat is slightly short on legroom, although the Recaro seats in the ST3 make the accommodations perfect for two. The hatchback configuration offers excellent utility, with 23.8 cubic feet of space with the 60/40-split rear seats up and a generous 44.8 cubic feet with them folded down.
Just as you'd expect from a car in this category, the 2013 Ford Focus ST bristles with performance, and the sound that the turbocharged engine makes as it revs toward 6,000 rpm is deeply thrilling. The precision of the steering and the crisp action of the six-speed manual transmission make you feel as if you're in touch with this car's mechanical soul.
Yet it might be more surprising that the Focus ST manages to keep its composure along the way. Special tuning of the electric-assist power steering, electronic differential control and stability control help maintain traction without making the car feel clumsy. And if you're looking for more excitement, you can dial the stability control into a more permissive setting or switch it off altogether.
In the end the Ford Focus ST delivers just the sort of European refinement that it projects at first glance. This is a small car meant to drive long distances: a compact, practical car that can deliver the experience of speed and style that you want from a luxury coupe. It's a European car made in Michigan, and, best of all, it's priced like an American car, too.
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