2013 Ford Focus ST Launch Review

Tim O'Brien | 28 Comments

FORD FOCUS ST REVIEW

Vehicle Style: Five-door Small Sports Hatch
Power/Torque:
184kW/340Nm (with 360Nm overboost)
Price: $38,290 (plus on-roads)
Fuel consumption (listed): 7.4 l/100km

Here's one more to add to the hot-hatch brat-pack: Ford's bad-boy Focus ST. With 184kW and 340Nm pummeling the tarmac, there's some serious business going on under its bonnet.

It's Ford's 2.0-litre turbocharged EcoBoost doing the pummeling - the same engine, in a slightly different state of tune, as you'll find powering the EcoBoost Falcon.

As you'd expect, it makes the relatively light Focus ST a rocketship. Ours, in bright yellow, had all the understatement of a travelling circus.

Of late we've been stalked by bright yellow hot-hatches: first the Opel Astra GTC, then the 'bad-to-the-bone' Renault Sport Megane RS 265...and now the Focus ST.

The Astra GTC is cheapest, but, with just 132kW, it's more warm-hatch than hot (but the OPC is coming); and the 195kW Renault is definitely the maddest.

In fact, I vow and declare the Sport Megane RS 265 to be the fastest and best-handling front-wheel-drive performance car I've ever driven.

It's simply phenomenal. It has such levels of grip, balance and ability to keep power to the road, that I have absolutely no doubt it would give an STi curry around a mountain pass.

But is the Focus ST better? Is it possible?

At $38,290 it's certainly cheaper. The ST is also better equipped (by a country mile) than the RS 265, and it seems 'tighter'; the Focus has a 'hewn from a single billet' feel about the body; and it's certainly more comfortable.

So, let the hostilities begin. In the hot-hatch wars, who reigns supreme?

THE INTERIOR

The previous Focus might have lacked a little for feel and trim-quality, not so the new range.

The interior of the ST is really special, particularly at the price. With soft-touch plastics, a cockpit-style 'control deck', and really smart polished black and buffed alloy garnishes and highlights, it's very easy on the eye and just as pleasing to the touch.

From a practical perspective it's not as convincing. The layout of the buttons and controls is as busy as a fish-market, and the multi-function wheel is absolutely festooned - on top, behind, in front - with buttons and functions.

Looking at it is a pain in the head - you know you won't work it out for at least a week.

But, otherwise, for the ergonomics of driving fast, everything falls exactly to hand, and feels really classy.

The Recaro seats, both front and rear, are deep and bum-hugging. They're also tightly bolstered in the back-rest (maybe too tight for our more lardy compatriots), but trimmed to perfection. I found them really comfortable.

Our yellow rocket came with yellow-leather bolsters and stitching - it's a look that might not be for everyone, but it grew on me, and adds a sporting ambience.

So too does the black headlining. Though it gives a coal-scuttle look to the interior, it adds to a high-quality, snug interior feel.

2013 ford focus st australia 21

That steering wheel, with reach and rake, a nice solid feel and sitting square-on to the driver feels terrific. So too the stubby six-speed shift.

The shift-action is superb; far less notchy and more precise than the 'baulky' feel to the Sport Megane.

But its the feature-list at that $38k price point that sets the Focus ST apart. For what you get loaded in, this thing is a bargain.

Heading the features is Ford's SYNC in-car voice-control Sony audio and Bluetooth communication system. It comes with the expected aux-connections, 5-inch display, and nine-speaker audio system.

It's easy to use, allows you to keep your eyes on the road when driving, and is unexpected technology at this price.

Add to that satellite navigation, reverse camera, park assist, Ford's 'active city stop', smart-key (push button) ignition, ambient interior lighting, dual-zone climate control, 18-inch alloys, performance gauges (in a nice raised binnacle above the centre-stack), LED daytime running-lamps, alloy sports pedals, and tyre deflation detection system - all standard fare - and you've got a feature list that absolutely smashes the ST's hot-hatch opposition.

So chalk up a very clear win for the ST for feature-list and interior accommodation.

ON THE ROAD

You reckon a front driver can't handle all those ergs getting loaded in a rush onto the tarmac? Think again.

The Sport Megane RS 265 is the benchmark here. The way it slams Newton-metres onto a winding road will have you thinking that 4WD is two-driven wheels too many.

How well then does the Focus ST match up?

Like the Megane, the Focus uses a relatively conventional front-end set up (no 'revo-knuckles' here). However, its ST-tuned suspension geometry with torque-vectoring and 'enhanced torque-steer' compensation, all-but eliminates the wild tugging at the wheel that once bedevilled powerful front drivers.

Under full power though, the Focus is not as civilised nor as tamed as the Megane. Slide the foot off the clutch at 6000rpm and you'll feel a bit of left-right squirrelling through the wheel.

But even under full-power on lock (like when belting out of a T-intersection) there was none of the axle-tramp nor the tugging wide I expected from such a powerful FWD car.

It's very fast - off the line Ford is claiming a 6.5 second 0-100km/h dash - but you'll need to put it through its paces at a track day to get anywhere near its performance capabilities.

Overtaking, or powering out of a corner is simply a 'point and shoot' proposition.

With peak torque chiming in at 2000rpm-4500rpm (torque bands don't get much flatter and wider), you can be lazy with the cogs on the highway and still pull strongly out of a corner, or whack it back a cog or two, firewall it and hang on.

It's not quite as stuck as the Megane. It's a gut-feel thing (at this stage - we need to put them nose to tail), but we think the slightly harder-edged Sport Megane can hold a tighter line on exit, the Focus ST wants to run a little wider, and can get the power down a little earlier through the apex.

But, each superb, there's little in it.

The Focus ST's transmission and shift action is better however - much. The ST's six-speed is an absolute delight. The shift falls right to hand, the weighting is right, and the action precise.

Where the Focus ST wins over the Sport Megane though is in civility.

The suspension and chassis tune is just right for an Australian sports hatch. It's absolutely glued to the road - you'll wonder where its outer limits lie.

But, while firm, there is a superbly tuned initial compliance that takes the harshness out of a sports suspension, quells judder over rippled undulations and eliminates crashing over broken tarmac.

The result is a feeling of the wheels always riding the contours of the road, and providing astonishing grip and balance.

It's aided by a steering with a rack that 'quickens' as you wind on lock (the outer teeth on the rack are more widely spaced). It's got just the right weighting, feels super-direct, and is quite simply the best out there at there at the moment for feel and balance.

Where the Focus isn't quite so good is in its aural accompaniment. It's just a bit tame. The throttle-body induction sound is really tasty, but there's not much fizz and crackle at the twin exhaust. Nothing like the 'F1-whump' of the Scirocco on gear changes nor the 'crackle' on the over-run of the Sport Megane.

So, who wins on the road?

It's simply too tight to call. Which means, because it is priced so sharply - it's around $9k less than the entry model Sport Megane, and more than $2k less than the five-door Golf GTi - on a pound-for-performance measure you'd have to give the cigar to the Focus.

FIRST DRIVE VERDICT

The Focus ST is Ford's 'one-Ford' strategy at work; its first global performance car. For what it packages into the purchase, and its superb on-road sports performance, it is brilliant buying.

At the moment, in the hot-hatch category, you can't buy better at a sub-$40k price.

Four doors, lots of space, fat alloys, absolutely loaded with premium features, and 'get-outa-there' stove-hot performance, the Focus ST is such a complete car it simply buys itself.

We expected it might be a very good one from Ford. It's even better than that.

Have a close look for yourself, when word gets out, Ford's new Focus ST is going to bolt out of showrooms.

Filed under: Featured, review, petrol, focus, ford focus, hot hatch, turbocharged, hatch, Manual, fwd, sport, performance, launch, ford, ford focus st, Advice, special-featured, enthusiast, 4cyl, 5door, 6m, tim o'brien, focus st, ford st, 5seat, available, 35-40k, midnight, 2013my, top news october 2012

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  • Bucks says,
    2 years ago
    2 likes
    Great review! Having owned both an XR5 Focus and Mondeo, I'll be very interested to see this in the flesh and drive it... could very well be my next car If I can convince the missus....
  • Mart says,
    2 years ago
    Ford have given us yet another brilliant performance car, great to see. They've always done things the hard way, Ford have fantastic cars but fall short in the marketing stakes and struggle to sell them. Either way, this looks to be a top buy for sub-40k.
    • Balthazaaaaaargh says,
      2 years ago
      Drove one today, bloody hell it's good.

      Can't get over that face though... stupid jellybean lights and gaping fishlike grill. Like a big dopey carp. Who signs off on this rubbish?

      I know taste is subjective and it's important to push for a unique style but far out...

      I guess I'd get one in black.
      • Smart us says,
        2 years ago
        1 like
        get it in different dark color - it absorbs the blemish you mentioning... however its how u feel it drives than the look... maybe not
  • mel says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    can't wait
  • vtdone says,
    2 years ago
    3 likes
    Very good value and great engine. Centre exhaust makes it look too hot IMO.

    Mazda 3MPS would still eat it and the Megane both up on the Targa Tasmania!
    • Horsen says,
      2 years ago
      I test drove the Mazda then the ST later that day both on twisty mountain roads. ST was clear winner for me. Just felt better, more comfortable, better equipment and much more.
    • Horsen says,
      2 years ago
      1 like
      In your review you note the ST has park assist and Fords 'Active City Stop'. As I own the ST, I'm wondering where these functions hide in the many on board systems. I believe park assist is available on other Focus models (where the car parks itself for you because you struggle with it yourself) and I would think 'active city stop' is stop/start technology. I may be wrong but i don't think my car has either of these functions. Other then this it's a well written review.
  • Mike says,
    2 years ago
    Agree 100% the mazda3 MPS would still eat this for breakfast
    • David says,
      2 years ago
      "Agree 100% the mazda3 MPS would still eat this for breakfast"

      But that horrible bonnet scoop would have anyone over 17 embarrassed to have it seen in public. Scrap that and I might agree - though reviews say it is a bit too much of a wild child.
  • Eddie Albert says,
    2 years ago
    The car as a whole seems well thought out and executed but the grille and the tail lights just don't work. Atleast not as bad as the MPS; it is just a mess of curves and straight lines.
  • Conartist says,
    2 years ago
    Drive one yesterday and it was an absolute hoot!!!! Hugs the road beautifully and all I need to do now is convince the boss I must have it as a reps car!!! Only problem is I probably wouldn't stop to see my customers because it drives that well!!
  • Todo says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    Already own one, the car is awesome, I did have a Toyota 86 on order but got fed up with the delivery dates being changed all the time, so glad I brought the ST. Buy one
  • ST says,
    2 years ago
    Great car...seems a much better all rounder than a Mazda MPS and I'm doubfounded as to why the Mazda is rated so highly....I think of the Mazda as being a cheap bag of nails with cheap interior that cant get its power down....but could be wrong on that and would welcome insightful comments.
  • rachel says,
    2 years ago
    Love this car, brought one! amazing power that i really dont need. :P
  • Tbag says,
    1 year ago
    2 likes
    I bought one yesterday. It goes harder than a fat kid on Easter. Recommended!
    • michelle says,
      1 year ago
      1 like
      I took one for a drive and 3 days later got one couldn't help myself also took a wrx for a test drive and still went for the st so far its been the best thing I've ever done I love it
      • Glen says,
        1 year ago
        Michelle - why'd you go the Ford over the WRX? We have a WRX now as our lease car and this thing interests me as a possibility for the next one.
  • green_comet says,
    1 year ago
    2 likes
    Mine went in for it's 15,000km service a few days back. It has been a fantastic car so far, with excellent mannerism on the road and plenty of grunt. It handles very well when pushed hard and all that torque so low in the rev range makes is effortless to drive around town.

    If you're thinking about taking one for a test drive you won't be disappointed.
  • Malcolm says,
    1 year ago
    Test drove all the competition over a three weeke period then went back and drove the ST again...placed my order for the ST yesterday, perfect power, toys price combination.
  • muzi says,
    1 year ago
    I own a 2013 Focus ST,I hav no issues or complaints,superb steering feel,good ride quality and amazing power,its alive n entertaining.simply excellent.
  • Mike says,
    1 year ago
    1 like
    A Jeckyl and Hyde car, placid and docile around town but lights up when pushed . Effortless linear acceleration with the huge torque band and NO turbo lag. Lots of little extras as well, folding illuminating, heated and indicating outside mirrors, LED lighting and ambience everywhere, navigation has a small screen right in front of driver as well as 5 inch centre screen, warnings for everything on the centre screen when needed, auto dimming rear mirror and rain sensitive lights, fog lights, heaps of other nice touches. Makes the GTI golf and WRX Impreza look totally spartan. And the paint has a really strong glow to it through bright irridescence.
  • Nightshader says,
    1 year ago
    Had one since it was release and loving it. No complaints, everything works.

    I find it more enjoyable to drive fast then the 350z I had previously. With the 350z you were always a bit restrained due to not wanting the tail to slide out. In the ST however the tail will only slide out when you ask it to specifically.
  • Glen says,
    1 year ago
    Only problem I have with this review is that they say "you can't buy a better sub $40k hatch". You can't buy this thing for sub-$40k as far as I can tell either. Going by the Ford website,with minimal accessories, this car is just over $43k drive away. Looks like a nice vehicle, but when you get the price it will actually cost you, it's almost exactly $1000 cheaper than a WRX. I'll take the Rex thanks.
    • Nightshader says,
      1 year ago
      Mine, which was ordered before they were in the country was $39,400 drive away. And they threw in another set of mats, a fridge and a rubber boot liner.

      But that was before it came out and when it was scarce.

      Now I would be surprised if you paid more than 38k drive away, probably the same as a 86 GTS if you could get a hold of one.
      • Nightshader says,
        1 year ago
        Just had a quick look at car sales for the cheapest available brand new car (no demos)
        The ST was $36685 drive away
        The WRX was $43890
        $7200 is quite a difference in cost

        I looked at the WRX and it is the quicker car but I hate getting a car with the same interior as the base model (looking at you Mitsubishi). In the case with the WRX it is the old style so the interior is actually a step down from the cheaper models.
        • Glen says,
          1 year ago
          Fair call - numbers were RRP from the Ford website.

          Interior in the WRX isn't what you buy one for - they are put together terribly. We've bought all ours because they're all wheel drive fun machines (we lie in Southern Tas so 2WD & ice combos scare us).
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