The sporty, EcoBoost-powered Ford Focus ST is the spiritual successor to the fine-handling SVT Focus. Tuned and tested by Ford's American SVT and European RS teams, the hot hatch is Ford's first truly global performance car.
For the latest model year, the Focus ST gets a new front fascia with sharp blacked-out headlights, a smaller hexagonal grille with plastic mesh inserts and rectangular fog lights. The rear end gains slimmer tail lamps and a revised bumper, while a new paint color and standard 18-inch alloy wheels round out the exterior updates.
New suspension components, a cleaner-looking center console and additional standard features round out the updates.
Offered only in practical five-door hatchback form, the Focus ST features a turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine that produces 252 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 270 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm when burning 93-octane fuel. The peak torque figure is achieved in overboost mode, which adds 15 extra lb-ft for up to 15 seconds when the skinny pedal is mashed to the floor. The only transmission available is a six-speed manual.
While all that power going to the front wheels would be a recipe for massive torque steer in most cars, that isn't the case in Focus ST thanks to a tuned version of the Torque Vectoring Control found on the base-model Focus. In the standard system, brake torque is applied to the inner wheel when traveling through a corner, reducing understeer and allowing for more traction, much like a traditional limited-slip differential. The Focus ST's enhanced system applies steering pressure more aggressively and also adds cornering control, which applies torque to create a yaw effect based on the car's understeer.
In addition to potent thrust and nimble handling, the Focus ST also serves up respectable mileage: 23 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway, to be exact.
The Focus ST boasts Ford's Sport Steering system, which uses a variable-ratio steering rack intended specifically to increase agility and control for the sporty hatchback. Also improving handling is the new anti-roll bar design along with upgraded shock absorbers and springs that lower the chassis by 10mm for a more aggressive stance and a lower center of gravity.
Looking the Part
Visually differentiating the Focus ST and its heightened performance potential from the standard Focus are a number of unique cues. Aside from the obligatory body kit, the car boasts a unique version of Ford's signature trapezoidal grille that is arguably more elegant than the somewhat fussy unit of the standard Focus. A roof spoiler helps to keep the car planted in high-speed situations, while the piece de resistance is a center-exit exhaust pipe that lends a unique look to the rear fascia.
Inside, the car benefits from special details like aluminum pedals, an ST-specific steering wheel and gearshift, while racy Recaro seats are optional and available in either partial or full leather. Even the rear bench has also been re-sculpted to provide more support during sporty driving.
Sounding the Part
Ford is the latest in a growing number of automakers to electronically manipulate and augment the aural component of its models. To that end, the Focus ST is equipped with a sound symposer box that "enriches the natural sounds of the motor by capturing internal engine oscillations and piping them through the interior under throttle," the company says. In part-throttle driving, the system keeps the mechanical noises to a minimum; under full throttle, engine noise is amplified through the symposer box.
Standard and Optional Features
The ST comes standard with manual climate control, keyless entry with a push-button ignition, power windows with a one-touch up/down function, cruise control, aluminum pedals, a leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel, an AM/FM/CD six-speaker stereo, two USB ports, automatic headlights, ST-specific fog lights, hill start assist and a rear-view camera.
Buyers can choose from two option packages. Called ST2, the first package adds dual-zone automatic A/C, HID headlights, cornering lamps, HD Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, an upgraded 10-speaker Sony sound system, SYNC with MyFord Touch and Recaro bucket seats partially upholstered in leather.
Building on ST2, the ST3 package adds heated mirrors, voice-activated navigation, four-way headrests, an eight-way adjustable driver's seat, ambient lighting, a heated steering wheel, a rear armrest, a keyless entry keypad, full leather upholstery and an overhead console.
The list of standalone options includes racing stripes on the hood, a power moonroof, a number of alloy wheel designs and ZR-rated tires.
Every Focus ST leaving the factory comes standard with dual front, side and side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
It's a good time to be in the market for an affordable, compact-sized performance machine - If the Focus ST isn't for you, strong alternatives include the high-revving Honda Civic Si, the all-wheel-drive Subaru WRX, the slightly less powerful MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop and the refined Volkswagen GTI.