2013 Ford Focus ST Review

The hottest hot-hatch in town is a performance bargain

By Shahzad Sheikh

2013 Ford Focus ST

Here’s what you need to know straight off the bat – we’re finally fortunate enough to officially get a hot variant of the Focus here in the Middle East. It’s been fully tested (read my earlier story here) and homologated for the region and it’s ready to rock and roll.

Further – what you get is an immensely practical five-door hatchback with great interior space and comfort, good levels of spec, surprisingly decent quality, compact city-runabout dimensions and a useful-sized boot.
It has bigger brakes than a regular Focus, the suspension is 10mm lower and it has an aggressive and eye-catching body kit that really turns heads.

2013 Ford Focus ST

And here’s the meat – a 2.0-litre turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine producing 252bhp at 5500rpm and 270lb ft or torque at 2500rpm giving it a 0-100kph acceleration time of 6.5seconds and a top speed of 250kph.

The issue for some, but not for me and hopefully not most of you either, is that it only comes with a six-speed manual transmission, there’s no automatic. But here’s the winning detail – the price. All of that can be yours for AED99,000 ($26,975) – what else delivers that much bhp/AED?

Too good to be true? Surely! Must be some compromises, right? Well there are, question is whether they’re enough to actually matter.

2013 Ford Focus ST

The downsides

Let’s start with the electronic steering which feels sticky on-centre and causes things to get quite fidgety on long highway jaunts because it’s quite hard to keep tiny inputs smooth. Overall it can be a bit twitchy.

The gear change is a bit too long-throw for my liking for a sports-oriented car, it’s quite woolly too, and indistinct – takes a little getting used to. The position of the pedals also makes heel-and-toe gear-changes a real ankle-twisting affair.

2013 Ford Focus ST

The ride is a bit knobbly, but that’s because the low-profile rubber is picking up everything and transmitting it back to you. Again, that’s more of an issue on long-haul cruises on the motorways rather than around town.

The tight Recaro bucket seats are a little too figure-hugging making your kidneys ache after a while at the wheel. And finally there’s quite a bit of torque steer, something that’s generally dialled out of modern cars, as the steering bucks and writhes in your hand under full-bore acceleration even in a straight line.

2013 Ford Focus ST

The upsides

However each of the above points can be countered with a plus or two or more.

The steering is fast and accurate with a variable ratio rack that makes it shorter lock-to-lock and offers a very quick response – sometimes too quick! Plus there’s a meaty feel as the electronics tighten it up when you’re at speed.

The gear ratios are spot on, the light clutch makes the car easy to live with in traffic, and the whole transmission feels tough enough to take the grab-and-snatch ram-through changes which the ‘yoof’ are often wont to indulge in.

2013 Ford Focus ST

Body control is very good during cornering and the ST is rigid and firm without being harsh and there’s truly excellent composure no matter how hard you chuck it about thanks to suspension movement that is economical and efficient.

The seats you’ll just have to get used to – though you should be able to order it without them.

And as for that torque steer, well, I’m old skool, and I remember when it used to be said that it was impossible to put more than 200bhp through the front wheels without severe torque steer. Of course with electronics and clever differentials, it’s uncanny what manufacturers can achieve now.

2013 Ford Focus ST

However those solutions always feel a little unnatural to me. The ST doesn’t have a smart diff, instead it gets a clever torque-vectoring system (like some Porsches have) that works with the traction control to brake a spinning wheel.

The result of this is extraordinary. Whilst in a straight line you have to man-handle it, turn in to a corner and there is zero understeer – it positively dives into a direction change, to the point that it can take you by surprise.

Part of what the system does is on sensing torque steer is automatically compensate, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll be doing the same, so you find you’ve over-corrected – again it’s something you learn to work with.

2013 Ford Focus ST

What it does mean is that this car is extremely satisfying and reassuring to throw hard into tight corners and playing with the throttle mid-bend can induce attitude changes verging on oversteer – it’s grin-garnering fun!

And then of course there is that performance – a pulverising punch that;s shocking the first time you unleash 270lb ft of torque from just 2500rpm with the tiniest delay whilst the Turbo hooks up and the grippy tyres dig in.

You may also not be expecting much in the way of aural delights, but here too Ford have had a think and an ‘active sound symposer’ tube pipes intake noise straight into the cabin at the back of the dashboard tuned to serve up a deep bassy woffle.

2013 Ford Focus ST


It’s a very clever trick that Ford has pulled off with this car. Where other hatches, chiefly the de facto segment leader, the VW Golf GTI, has matured to the point that the thrill-factor which used to be a core element of hot-hatches has been numbed by over-refinement, the Focus ST brings back some of the sheer raucousness – although in tempered and somewhat contrived form.

So this is a thoroughly modern and practical car that won’t be snapping its drive shafts or hurling you off the road, but it will make you feel 18 again. It’s a car you want to drive hard and fast all the time because it seems to relish it as much as you do. And the chassis works some brilliant voodoo to manage just about one of the highest power outputs you can get for the money.

2013 Ford Focus ST

And there’s the deal-clincher right there. Because the 2014 Golf GTI better be utterly amazing and boost a mouth-watering price if stands any chance of retaining its spot as top dog, because at this price, the Focus ST is a belter of a car and any and all foibles it might have are instantly forgivable.

If you’re looking for a fun, fast driver’s car in a sensible package. Look no further. Your chariot awaits at the nearest Ford dealer.

2013 Ford Focus ST

2013 Ford Focus ST
Price: AED99,000 ($26,975)
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder Turbo, 252bhp @ 5500rpm, 270lb ft @ 2500rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 6.5seconds, 250kph, 10.9L/100km
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Weight: 1462kg

Let us know what you think of the Focus ST below


7 responses to “2013 Ford Focus ST Review”

  1. Permadi says:

    Price is sweet.
    Too bad GTI is a bit overpriced in UAE.
    If only they are bringing the manual version with reduced price.

  2. Amer Nabulsi says:

    The price is high comparing with the options that the ST have.
    In the Gulf region it comes without touch screen, without folded mirrors, without park asst., without front sensors, actually no options but the Dual climate control, and the cruise control.
    I wonder why the price is high where I bought the Titanium one which have all options in it with a much lower price.
    this St should not exceed 23,000$.

  3. admin says:

    [Fraser] I have just had my first proper squirt in the Ford Focus ST, despite almost everyone and their brothers having beaten me to the throttle pedal over the past months. What a hoot!

    The ST is, I think, the spiritual successor to the original concept of the Hot Hatch: it is lairy, rude, noisy, has bags of poke, torque-steers like buggery and is all the things a proper Hot Hatch should be.

    It encourages Bad Boy behaviour – like out accelerating the light-flashing Land Cruiser on your back bumper and leaving it for dead in 100 metres! It has induction roar that makes it sound like a proper engine – and with 250hp, what more could you possibly use going through the front wheels? The car is nuts and it is so ridiculously cheap, it has got to be the best Q-car on the market.

    I’m not saying it is a better all-rounder than the Golf GTi, but it is probably what the new Golf GTi thinks about in dirty dreams! The only drawback on this one was that the colour was a bit mundane. But then, is that not what a proper Q-car is supposed to be about? The Ford Focus ST is an absolute cracker and anyone in the market for this sort of car, who does not at least test drive it for themselves, needs their head examining!

  4. John Q. says:

    Your 0-100 time is off there, you can do it in around 5.9 to 6.2 seconds.

  5. Ashley Cockerill says:

    Love mine to bits, great fun and handles so well for a FWD. Currently have a analogue speedo issue and Ford have been terrible in Dubai. Its way out and i can’t tell how fast im going unless i switch into cruise control. Other than that 4.5/5.

  6. CHRIS TSOURIS says:

    This ”DREAM CAR” is my FANTASY from the moment it was in the production.I own the FORD FOCUS 1.0L ECOBOOST 5DR 125HP(2013) and i enjoy everyday with my car.I wish that someday maybe i will get lucky and buy it.Till then i only can dream it.

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