October 23, 2012
For years it felt as if Ford was having an affair with the drivers in Europe. Not a one-and-done tryst, either, but a long-term, secret-family-in-another-town (or on a whole other continent, in this case) arrangement. Of course, it wasn't secret at all. Ford flaunted its sexy, fast European family, which included the Focus RS, while giving us Americans the scraps. If it hadn't been for the Mustang, we would've felt completely unloved.
Now, after years of watching and longing, we're getting our due in the form of the 2013 Ford Focus ST.
It's a true world car. It's a compact hatchback. It's turbocharged. It only comes with a manual transmission. It's the best chance America has to take down the Mazdaspeed 3 and Volkswagen GTI, and now it's ours for the next 12 months.
What We Got
The 2013 Ford Focus ST is available in one trim level with one powertrain option. Lucky for us, it's a good package.
Every Ford Focus ST is equipped with a turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produces 252 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 270 pound-feet of torque at 2,500 rpm. All that torque flows to the 18-inch front wheels with summer performance tires through an electronic limited-slip differential and a six-speed manual transmission. There is no automatic transmission option.
But just because there's no automatic, don't assume there are no niceties. In fact, the ST comes standard with one-touch power windows all around, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio controls mounted on it, and a six-speaker stereo with a USB input and, of course, Ford's Sync voice-control system.
All this for $24,495? Not bad, but we weren't going to stop there. Not when there was an option to get Recaro seats.
These supportive, race-inspired seats are part of the $2,505 Group 201A option package that also includes dual-zone climate control and an upgraded 10-speaker Sony audio system, and for better or worse, saddles you with MyFord Touch. We also considered Group 202A, which adds desirable HID lights, plus heated seats and LED accent lighting. But checking off 202A would have pushed the sticker price past $30,000 — a psychological barrier for most sport compact buyers — so we passed on it.
Apart from the Recaros, we really wanted our ST in the signature Tangerine Scream paint, which costs another $495 and, in California at least, significantly thinned the ranks of available cars.
Besides that, we don't like paying above MSRP. So when the first dealer insisted on a $3,000 markup, we walked. It turned out Galpin Ford in North Hills, California, had one in our color, but in addition to our preferred options, this Focus ST had the moonroof ($895) and navigation system ($795). We could either take it or wait. We don't like waiting.
Since we'd bought another car from this dealership, our 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, and we were paying cash that day, Galpin agreed to drop the $2K markup they had on the car and sold it to us for sticker: $29,065.
Why We Got It
From the first time we drove the 2013 Ford Focus ST in the French Alps, we were hooked. Our own Michael Jordan wrote that Ford's new hot hatch was the $24,495 BMW M3.
"It's civilized enough for a day's drive through the mountains, yet tough enough to shred every corner if you'd like."
We were just as impressed when we drove the 2013 Ford Focus ST on our own turf. In our full test we wrote, "The Focus ST is quite simply the best front-wheel driver's car to date."
That's a huge statement, but the 2013 Focus ST promises Mazdaspeed 3 levels of performance along with near-GTI levels of drivability and sophistication. We've already owned both the Mazda and the VW, so we know the differences well. Will this Ford deliver the best of both worlds over 12 months and 20,000 miles, or will it turn out to be not too hot, not too cold, but not quite perfect?
Current Odometer: 1,488
Best Fuel Economy: 27.2
Worst Fuel Economy: 15.2
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 21.1
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.