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Racy Ford Focus is fuel efficient, not that its buyers will care

2013 Ford Focus ST


Overall Rating
For the price, you will be hard-pressed to find a more entertaining compact hatchback. You’ll like this car if: you want to go fast in an affordable small car.
Looks Rating
This is a great-looking compact hatchback that’s been tarted up with just the right add-ons to suggest speed and fun.
Interior Rating
If you need to diet, the sport seats will feel like a vice, but that’s not Ford’s fault.
Ride Rating
The ST is not designed for ride comfort, but for carving corners, navigating switchbacks and entertaining a racy driver. If you want highway comfort, get something else.
Safety Rating
You cannot find a car better equipped with safety gear for this price.
Green Rating
Who cares about the green agenda in a Focus ST. If you are really worried about the planet, get a Focus EV.

Here are a couple of numbers – 252 horsepower and 0-100 km/h in 6.5 seconds – which are astonishing in light of these other two numbers: 160 hp and highway fuel economy of 5.5 litres/100 km. And let me also throw in a top speed of 146 km/h and a range of 150 km on batteries alone, if you're careful. All those numbers belong to some variation of the Focus, Ford's global compact car and they are part of the story behind these two really big numbers: 1,020,410 and 2.1 billion.

Last year, Ford sold 1,020,410 Focus cars around the world, according to Polk data, and that helps explain why Ford just posted a first-quarter pretax profit of $2.1-billion, or 41 cents a share. For the record, Ford also sold another 723,130 Fiesta subcompacts.

"Focus and Fiesta represent the culmination of our One Ford global product strategy," said Jim Farley, Ford's executive vice president of marketing, sales, service and the Lincoln brand.

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The Focus ST is the super-racy turbocharged model that blasts from 0-100 km/h in 6.5 seconds. Another is the run-of-the-mill Focus hatchback four-door with its tidy little 160-hp motor and that decent highway fuel economy. And then there's the Focus Electric, the all-battery runabout with a top speed of 146 km/h. If you have a 240-volt outlet, recharge it in four hours.

The nifty engineering behind the Focus allows Ford to churn out different cars using most of the same parts and engineering. And that's how the No. 2 auto maker in the United States beat analysts' profit expectations in the most recent quarter, according to Thomson Reuters.

"It costs so much to engineer a vehicle," CEO Alan Mulally said during a conference call with analysts and reporters. "If you can do that and you can then provide that vehicle to all four regions of the world and everyone is sharing in that engineering expense, clearly all parts of the business are benefiting."

The Focus ST (for Sport Technologies) is all about going fast. Still, Ford cannot keep from saying the ST, when equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, also tops the "manual transmission MazdaSpeed3 and Volkswagen GTI in fuel economy ratings." Who cares?

Not me, not with this car. What I do care about is the revival of the sporty side of Ford's world. The last fast Focus we saw came, oh, about a decade ago – the 170-hp Focus SVT, for Special Vehicle Team. When Ford was going broke, the SVT line was kicked to the curb. Today's profit numbers make it possible for Ford to play around with small-volume sporty cars that generally make few bucks, if any at all. The Focus ST lists for $29,999, which isn't much, all things considered.

The considerations include a 2.0-litre four-banger with high-pressure direct fuel injection, something Ford calls Twin-independent Variable Cam Timing and a sensitive turbo. Of course, you need premium fuel, though Ford says the car gets 8.9 litres/100 km in the city, 6.2 on the highway. Good luck with that, with babying the throttle to get the most from a litre of gas.

The gearbox is a six-speed manual and the ratios have been tuned to entertain you, mostly. Personally, the fuel economy focus – excuse the pun – means the sixth gear is long for highway fuel economy. Again, who cares? I guess Ford must pay attention to fuel economy even in the Focus ST, for all it matters.

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Anyway, bury your right foot and the engine howls with joy; you might, too. Once you're moving, the chassis tuning makes for smile-inducing agility on the twisty bits or even darting through traffic on the way to the office.

Ford's engineers are especially happy about something they call the Ford Sport Steering System. It's all about a variable ratio steering rack that feels firm and tight in a straight line, yet sensitive and responsive when you're cornering. In the parking lot, you won't need to load up with the inputs to squeeze into tight spaces. The steering really is good.

The ST has its own steering wheel, pedals and gearshift in the cockpit. You sit in ultra-snug sport seats, designed to hold you in place during hard cornering. They are a tight squeeze if you're even the slightest bit plump. Be forewarned.

Your neighbours might just know you're driving something a little out of the ordinary, too. The 18-inch wheels have a Y-shaped spoke design inside of which are performance brake calipers. The tires are high-performance 235/40R18 Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 tires. Again, with the claim to the car's bona fides, Ford says they were "developed after rigorous testing on all kinds of road surfaces and conditions, including the Nürburgring Nordschleife in Germany."

Alright already. And yes, the side skirts scream "fast," and the rear bumper with the "diffuser-style vents in the lower fascia" quietly suggest the same. For me, I'd get my ST painted in Tangerine Scream. You can't put a number on how wild that colour looks.

Tech specs

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2013 Ford Focus ST

Type: Four-door compact hatchback

Price: $29,999; $1,550 freight and PDI

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged

Horsepower/torque: 252 hp/270 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Drive: Front-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.9 city/6.2 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: Mazdaspeed3, Volkswagen GTI, Honda Civic Si

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About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More


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