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Aaron Gold

Ford Focus ST: One of the greats?

By January 4, 2013

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2013 Ford Focus STWhen I presented this year's Best New Cars list, I lamented the fact that the list was... well, a bit light. But I also recognized that we were witnessing the birth of a truly great cars: The Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ. (Okay, two of history's great cars.)

This week, I'm driving the second... third? Well, whatever -- I'm driving a Ford Focus ST, and I think it, too, will go down as one of history's greats.

You'll remember that I took a quick drive in a Focus ST at the annual Motor Press Guild Track Day event, and was blown away. Now I have one all to myself, and while my first day with the car was rather mundane -- shuttling kids, sitting in traffic on the way to a meeting -- I am beyond impressed.

I'm trying to work out the opening for my Focus ST review, and I think it's going to go like this: The mark of a great hot hatchback is that it feels nothing like the car on which it is based. And that holds true for the Focus ST. The regular Focus is a great car to drive, but the ST is completely transformed: Different sound, different demeanor, different feel. It reminds me of the Mitsubishi Evo -- the fact that it's based on a Lancer is purely a formality.

I have many more miles to put on the Focus ST, plus a run (or six) on the About.com Top Secret Curvy Test Road, but I don't see how the Focus will disappoint me. I have a hard-and-fast rule that I must drive a car before December 31st in order for it to qualify for a Best New Cars spot. Technically, I did drive the Focus ST in November, but that was only on a track -- and I've found cars (coughCaliberSRT4cough) that were fine on the track but miserable on the road. So far, the Focus ST is shaping up to be a great all-rounder, and I'm thinking I might have to bend that rule and add it to The List. I can tell you one thing: In twenty years, we'll look back on the Focus ST and hold it in the same regard as the Subaru WRX and the first-gen GTI. In my opinion, this car truly is one of the greats.

Photo Ford

January 4, 2013 at 3:11 pm
(1) Ross says:

Everyone seems to be comparing this to the GTI more so than the Mazdaspeed3. I’d be curious as to its strength and weaknesses compared to the ST.

Generally it seems the GTI is the most refined/slowest, the MS3 more uncouth and faster, and perhaps the ST somewhere in between?

January 4, 2013 at 3:45 pm
(2) Eric says:

While these “hot hatchbacks” may be cars that the automotive community may look back on 30 years from now as some of the greats of this era, I won’t be among them. Not that they probably aren’t really nice cars, but, hatchbacks just aren’t my style. I’ll certainly look at them 20 years from now the way I look at cars like the Dodge Omni GLH; little cars that performed pretty decently, but, I will be looking much more favorably at the Mustangs, Challengers, Camaros, and other cars like the BMW M2/3/4/6 coupes, the hot MB’s, and even cars like the Genesis Coupe. Hatchbacks say “ricer” to me, and although I can appreciate the work that goes into these cars, they just aren’t where my interest lays. Guess I’m just too Old School.

January 4, 2013 at 7:10 pm
(3) Haqaiian Don says:

You aren’t “old school” at all Eric. There are the two segments. The hatch crowd and the anti-hatch. Right now the hatch crowd is winning as people are searching for more efficient versions of SUV’s. A CUV or Hatch is a natch! (Couldn’t resist)
I’m one of the hatch crowd because I value utility over aesthetics. Even a pug looks cute after it’s yours!
I expect the pendulum to swing back your way in just a few more years.

January 4, 2013 at 7:43 pm
(4) Lwatcdr says:

I really do not like the term “ricer”. Really people sure people buy Civics and put massive tailpipes on them that sound like flatulence and then put fake Carbon Fiber on the hoods. But how many Mustangs, Novas, and Camaros have we all seen with way too big back tires and cherry bombs? I like cars. I like cars that are fast, get good gas milage, and that normal people can afford. I like Mustangs and Camaros. I like 911s and ZR-1s. I even like Omni GLHs, VW GTIs, and MS3s. I will probably like the Focus ST when I get to drive one. Oh and I really liked my Dodge Intrepid ,Saab 9000 turbo, VW GTI, and my Fiat Spyder 2000.
So lets drop the childish labels okay. A good car is a good car. A good, fast, cheap car is a great car.

January 4, 2013 at 10:02 pm
(5) Dale says:

Those of us who might be in the market would appreciate you including all possible cars in your list. Leaving out the Focus ST because of a date technicality would leave a big hole in the results.

January 4, 2013 at 10:21 pm
(6) James says:

I’m more of a hatch enthusiast by default, because (1) they are so much more efficient for carrying cargo, and (2) the auto manufacturers claim that there are not enough consumers in the U.S. like me to justify building what I would really rather have-a small sporty wagon. Oh well, I guess I can view the photos and videos from Europe and dream; plenty of cool models there from which to choose (with more powertrain options as well), including the beautiful Focus WAGON!

January 5, 2013 at 7:48 am
(7) Ken Mann says:


Good article and I agree.

I spent 10 minutes test driving an ST in October and I ordered one. I’ve driven just about everything in the class (GTI, Golf R, MS3) and many in another class like the (335i, ATS, S4). I’ve owned a Corvette, an M3 and a 540i; I’m currently currently driving an ECU modified Audi TT.

The ST ignited some long dormant excitement that I’ve been missing. It feels like a european sports car. It’s got the right amount of wild to keep a smile on your face the whole time. And the sound is just wonderful.

All the manufacturers of performance cars have been able to offer ever more competent cars through tuning and electronics to the point that they’ve numbed the driving experience. Yes, all the numbers keep getting better but…..they’ve dialed out a lot of the fun.

Hatch or no hatch, this is a truly amazing car. It’s incredibly competent, feels like it was tuned by folks who love driving, it’s just plain FUN to drive and on top of that – practical. For those who have not driven it, take it for a spin, you will be amazed.

January 6, 2013 at 11:45 pm
(8) Matt says:

Have we forgotten about the Volvo C30 in terms of a hot hatch? With an ecu flash, I smoke GTI’s and speed3′s on a regular basis.

I’ve ridden in the ST and I’ve found that it’s quite cramped, not to mention that little turbo is boosted to the maximum. It is a breath of fresh air from ford though, emphasizing performance in something other than the mustang.

January 10, 2013 at 9:27 am
(9) J Kyle says:

What bothers me is that in this “hot hatch” segment, we have few (if any) of the ’80s-style 2-door fastback-hatchbacks. I really liked both the style and functionality of these cars. From the Dodge Charger (FWD version) and Daytona to the Nissan 240SX to the Chrysler Conquest/Mitsubishi Starion to the original Audi Quattro to the Saab 900… we just don’t see those cars any longer. Nowadays, all the 2-doors either have a traditional trunk or a station-wagon-style hatchback.

Yes, a big glass panel on the back is heavy and limits styling, but I don’t care, dammit! If somebody made a modern car that with exactly the same body as the Conquest/Starion, I probably would not be able to resist buying it.

January 19, 2013 at 10:33 am
(10) israel says:

Im thinking about checking one out…its got everything…speed…practicality…respectable gas milage…the only thing I dont like is the front wheel drive….well I guess you cant have everything.

January 23, 2013 at 4:33 pm
(11) chinolatino1039 says:

I currently have a BRZ limited and love it. If I was to buy a car though I don’t think I’d go FWD I would have to go AWD. Nice car though and it did the the Subaru BRZ around a lot which is nice

February 6, 2013 at 6:14 pm
(12) reddogrng98 says:

Look, everyone has a choice in the car they drive. I drive Trucks for a living and I have seen an driven a lot of different cars. And the Ford Focus ST 2013 is awesome. So….. I bought one. I had a choice….I was looking and thinking long and hard about the Mustang GT 2013. Then I remembered just a few short months ago THE GAS LINES AT THE PUMP!!! REMEMBER THAT ANYONE??? Well with that said. I just thought to myself, I want the wow factor and the practical everyday use of the vehicle. And that for me was this car. Way to go Ford. You guys are really doing your part to put AMERICAN CARS back on the global stage. TY, from a proud American.

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