2013 Ford Focus ST first drive review

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If there's a poster car for the 'One Ford' mantra, it might just be the new 2013 Ford Focus ST. Without Ford's initiative to consolidate global development for same-sized vehicles under single development teams—and models that will work in all major markets—it's likely we'd never have seen a high-performance Focus that's this good, this much fun to drive, and with this high-value, under-$25,000 base price.

What's arriving to dealerships in September is a sophisticated, high-performance hatch that doesn't feel like a Focus with some bolted on go-fast equipment; rather, it's refined for a hot hatch, worth the extra money over a well-equipped standard Focus, and a better performance deal compared to some other rivals.

It’s not all that surprising that the 252-horsepower 2013 Ford Focus ST can dash to 60 mph in about 6.3 seconds (conservatively) and reach a top speed of nearly 155 mph. For this much-anticipated model, that’s pretty much exactly the performance package we’ve been primed to expect in this true enthusiast hot hatch.

What is surprising on many levels is the suave execution. This is a vehicle you could drive daily, without annoyance, and without having to budget for a chiropractor. We say this because many of the smaller performance models make some sacrifices in ride and road/engine noise that can be pretty hard to live with daily. As we found in a drive of the Focus ST on a wide range of road types in Southern France this past week, this is one small performance car that you shouldn’t at all be afraid to drive on the commute, or take on the long-distance road trip.

Refined enough for the commute

The new 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine is superb, and we confess to wondering whether it was too quiet and refined at first. It features direct injection but is lacking the clattery sounds at idle that usually call it out; once underway, you'll also note that Ford has masked this turbocharged engine's telltale whistle of forced induction, and the rap of a wastegate (it points to very precise metering instead). Match that with the remarkably instant power delivery in the mid-range revs, and it's sometimes easy to forget that you're driving a significantly boosted (16 psi) turbocharged engine.

Those technologies, combined with Ford's Ti-VCT variable cam timing system allow the engine to make 250 pound-feet of torque, with a remarkably flat, wide torque curve that makes it all available from about 2,000 rpm through to 4,500 rpm. And thanks to a special overboost allowance in the ST, it can go into an 'overboost' mode for up to 20 seconds (depending on conditions), making a peak 270 pound feet at 2,500 rpm.

On small French backroads, passing slow-moving Citroen Picassos and overloaded cargo trucks, the wallop of that overboost mode proved addictive for quick passing bursts. Provided you're in second, third, or fourth gear and at 2,000 rpm or higher, a quick foot to the floor is met with an almost instantaneous rush of acceleration. No need to worry about peakiness or a narrow sweet spot here, either; although less frenzied near the top of its rev range than you'd expect, it builds all the way up to its 6,500-rpm redline.

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