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.
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 all-wheel-drive Subaru WRX, the slightly less powerful MINI John Cooper Works Hardtop and the refined Volkswagen GTI.