2013 Ford Focus ST On Track Lifting Wheel

2013 Ford Focus ST Front Three Quarter On Track

2013 Ford Focus ST Front

2013 Ford Focus ST Rear Three Quarter

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2013 Ford Focus ST Front Three Quarter On Track

I would have loved this 2013 Ford Focus ST a lot more when I was 19 years old. I grew up with hot hatches, commuting in them, racing them, even coveting all the bonkers high horsepower hatches only sold in Europe. With its Tangerine Scream paint, matching screamin’ accents in the interior, techno-troubled infotainment system, and torque-steer — oh the torque steer – this turbo-charged monster is a lot to take in.

The Focus ST gets noticed everywhere, and it isn’t the good kind of noticed. Non-enthusiasts all have to make a comment about the color and the giant catfish grille in the front fascia; enthusiasts give you the “you don’t want none” look; and the local authorities track you with a see-you-later-smile. I am pretty sure that while quietly loping by a group of orphans out on a walk, one nun leaned over to the other and said, “Look at that douche.” OK, that last one may have been my imagination, but the nuclear orange color is way too much.

Ridiculous looks aside, the Focus ST has the go power to hold its own, even if it’s only in the hot hatch world. The Ford is powered by a 2.0-liter, direct-injected turbo-charged I-4 making an angry 252 hp and a tire-torturing 270 lb-ft of torque. Did I mention this citrus-flavored wonder is putting all that down through just the front tires? Even with front tires squealing, spinning, and otherwise begging for the abuse to stop, the ST throws down an impressive 5.9-second 0-60 mph run. It gets through the quarter mile in 14.6 seconds at 95.9 mph but takes a total of 15.9 seconds to reach 100 mph.

2013 Ford Focus ST Front

2013 Ford Focus ST Rear Three Quarter

2013 Ford Focus ST Front Three Quarter

2013 Ford Focus ST On Track Lifting Wheel

2013 Ford Focus ST Grille

2013 Ford Focus ST Wheel 1

One of the few front-wheel-drive cars that can really touch it is the MazdaSpeed3, which has slightly more power and torque and just squeezes by it in terms of performance. We tested a MazdaSpeed3 in 2010, recording 5.6 seconds to 60 mph and a 14.1-second quarter-mile at 99.9 mph. Looking back in our archive, a front driver playing in the under-6-seconds-to-60 realm is pretty rare. A Chevy Cobalt SS ran a 5.5 second 0-60 mph with a 14.0 in the quarter, and, more recently, a 2012 VW Passat — calm down, I’m just using it for reference, not saying the two are in the same class — ran a 5.7-second 0-60 with a 3.6-liter V-6 mated to a DSG transmission. Clearly, the ST is no slouch in a straight line.

2013 Ford Focus ST Interior

The real surprise came in figure-eight testing. While that same Speed3 ran a 26.2-second lap with an average of 0.69 g, the ST clicked off a blistering lap of 25.4 seconds with an average of 0.70 g. Running a sub-26-second figure-eight lap puts the ST in more rarified air than the acceleration. The Cobalt SS was able to do a 25.9-second run at an average of 0.69 g. Again, just for reference, a Mustang GT we just tested ran a 25.6-second lap. The numbers are impressive, without a doubt, but how the Focus gets around the figure-eight might be the most shocking. Apparently, nobody told Ford that high-performance, high-horsepower front-wheel-drive cars are supposed to suffer from terminal understeer. With any luck, no one will ever tell them, because the Focus ST is one of the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars ever built.

2013 Ford Focus ST Cockpit

2013 Ford Focus ST Gauges

2013 Ford Focus ST Nav Screen

2013 Ford Focus ST Front Seats

2013 Ford Focus ST Center Stack

2013 Ford Focus ST Shifter

Ford gave the ST a quicker steering rack than the regular Focus, and it also happens to be variable-rate. Dearborn did not stop there. Front spindles were redesigned with shorter steering arms to make the rate quicker yet. The result is a lock-to-lock that takes just 1.8 turns. The vote among the eight or so testers here is that it’s overkill. After driving the car for a week on streets, tracks, and canyons, I still find it twitchy. If this was the only car I drove on a regular basis, my senses might recalibrate, but I drove a Lotus Exige in the same time period and didn’t find it nearly as darty. That said, turn-in is rabid. I have never felt a front driver bite into an arc like the ST. Even full race cars won’t commit like the little Ford. Front slip is nonexistent. If you turn in too aggressively, the car rotates around like a formula-D car. At the track, I got to the point where I could toss the car in, get it sideways, counter-steer, jump on the throttle, and ride it all the way out to corner exit. It was also possible to throw the back end out, jump on the gas, light up the front end, and four-wheel drift like I was on my way to the end of a WRC stage. Sadly, these kinds of automotive acrobatics don’t really happen on the street.

2013 Ford Focus ST Rear Seat

On actual roads, you more often than not find yourself wrestling all 270 lb-ft of torque for steering superiority. In first and second gear, make sure you have some space when getting onto the gas with the wheel anything but straight. Even then, you’ll want a full lane, stripe to stripe. I haven’t felt torque steer like this in a very long time. In fact, I’ve driven GTIs with 400 hp at the wheel that were more docile than this Ford. Part of me likes it, but part of me would rather just accelerate in a straight line instead of throwing elbows trying to stay off of the curb, then the car next to me, then the curb again. Part of the problem may be the “assist” from the electric power steering. When the car senses torque steer, it ups the steering assist in the opposite direction. It feels very unnatural and suddenly you’re correcting your efforts to correct the steering to correct the direction of the car in an effort not to have to correct a curbed wheel. Like the steering ratio, this is hopefully something you’d learn to work with rather than against by spending more time in the car.

Aside from the torque steer, I can’t overstate how impressive the handling is. Unfortunately, I have a feeling most of these cars will be sold on horsepower alone so people can race other front drivers in a straight line from third gear roll-on. What a waste that will be. With many of the hot hatches becoming a bit too refined to be considered true hot hatches – yes, I’m looking at you, GTI and Cooper S — it is refreshing to see something aimed at being a hooligan. I can see one of two things happening if I drove this car daily. The more likely one is me losing my license when a cop isn’t impressed with the Focus’ ability to four-wheel drift. Less likely is me keeping my license long enough to get tired of the comments and challenges, wrestling with the torque steer, and paying for new tires every couple of months.

2013 Ford Focus ST Auxillary Gauges

2013 Ford Focus ST Recaro Badge

2013 Ford Focus ST Seat Badge

2013 Ford Focus ST Exhaust 1

2013 Ford Focus ST Exhaust 2

2013 Ford Focus ST Spoiler

2013 Ford Focus ST Wheel 2

2013 Ford Focus ST Engine 1

2013 Ford Focus ST Engine 2

2013 Ford Focus ST
BASE PRICE $24,495
PRICE AS TESTED $28,170
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback
ENGINE 2.0L/252-hp/270-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3193 lb (60/40%)
WHEELBASE 104.3 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 171.7 x 71.8 x 58.4 in
0-60 MPH 5.9 sec
QUARTER MILE 14.6 sec @ 95.9 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 112 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.96 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 25.4 sec @ 0.70 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 23/32 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 147/105 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.74 lb/mile

By Michael Febbo

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