Ford Focus ST

Ford is putting a lot of faith in the new Focus ST. It’s the company’s first true global performance car, meaning the vehicle you get here in Canada is the same as you’ll get in any other country; save, of course, for steering wheel placement. That’s confidence. For us North Americans, it’s also a win. Because this hot hatchback melds power and Euroesque handling, striking the right balance for enthusiasts and pragmatics alike.

The 2013 Focus ST takes the practicality of the already highly successful Focus and gives it the edge drivers crave. Its appearance is clean and handsome, with aggressive accents. Bold headlights are complemented by the blacked-out, Aston-like grille; its body kit is seamless; 18-inch tires are the perfect fit; a subtle spoiler brings a note of dynamism; and the centre exhaust at the rear is also a smart detail. This modern edginess continues inside with an angular dash and centre console that, while cohesive and intuitive, has distinct personality. ST badges are also stamped on the steering wheel and the shifter of the standard 6-speed manual, but the highlight inside is the leather Recaro racing seats. They hold your body firmly, connecting driver and car beautifully.

That union will be appreciated when the Focus ST takes to the street. The Focus ST’s main competitors are the Volkswagen GTI and the Mazdaspeed3. Criticisms weighed against them are the lack of power in the 200-horsepower GTI and the unruly character of the 263-hp Speed3. The Focus ST finds a balance between the two. The turbocharged 2.0-Litre, direct-injected EcoBoost engine delivers a welcomed 252-hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. Because the ST is also front-wheel drive, the obvious result of all that brawn surging to the front wheels is some theatrical steering. But that wildness is reined in by what Ford calls “torque vectoring control.” Many will appreciate not having to wrestle with an abundance of torque steer, but the system’s problem is that it’s constantly correcting itself. Off the line, when the clutch is popped and your foot is down, torque steer is still present, but the car takes over to rectify and sort out how best to deliver power. It makes certain moments feel as if you’re just part of the experience and not in control. Once you’re away, however, the ride is very enjoyable and peaks at exhilarating. The Focus ST corners with precision, feeling tight and poised. That European influence is apparent and appreciated. You’ll overtake with confidence and maybe even forget the Focus ST is front-wheel drive. Maybe.

The Focus ST is a car that really makes you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. There’s plenty of power and the European handling works beautifully. This five-door hot hatch hits the balance between power and control — it’s no surprise that it won AJAC’s Best New Sports/Performance Car under $50,000. If you’re looking for a sporty yet usable car for everyday life, the Focus ST should be one to zero in on.

GENERAL SPECS

Engine: Direct-injected, turbocharged
2.0-L EcoBoost 4-cylinder
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Horsepower: 252-hp
Torque: 270 lb-ft
Fuel Economy L/100 km: City/Hwy 8.9/6.2
MSRP: $27,519
www.ford.ca

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Michael Hill

Michael Hill