Review and photos by Justin Pritchard

The Ford Focus ST could be a bad influence.

Test Drive: 2013 Ford Focus ST videos car test drives ford
2013 Ford Focus ST. Click image to enlarge

It has only now joined the hot-hatch scene in Canada some years (decades, even) behind established competitors from Veedub, Subie, Mazda, Mini and the like. Brake system tomfoolery makes handling the dynamic centerpiece of this fired-up Focus, but beyond that, it hits the road in much the same way as everyone else in the segment – with higher output, lowered suspension, bigger brakes, a body kit, a big exhaust and a whole lot of naughty.

The special ‘ST’ badge got plenty of attention in my Northern Ontario locale, too. That’s thanks to its similarity to a French swear word. My French pals often say ‘ST’ when they’re angry, usually followed by some stuff about the tabernacle they have in church.

Anyways.

Hammer a corner in the new Ford Focus ST with your boot into the sauce, and something interesting happens. The front end bites tight into the bend, and the rear end steps out the other way. It happens with this delightful squirm that tells the driver the car’s position on its axis is highly subject to their throttle inputs.

Translation? The rear of the ST gets highly involved in the handling, rather than simply dragging along like a comically obese Dachshund.

It’s a front-wheel-drive car that can drift, sorta’. Which, of course, is freaking sweet.

It’s all thanks to some electronic witchcraft called torque vectoring taking place in the braking system. Simply put, by braking the inside wheels slightly in a corner, the outside wheels are ‘pushed’ through it more quickly. The car pivots instead of plowing, and clamps down instead of going wide.

Test Drive: 2013 Ford Focus ST videos car test drives ford
2013 Ford Focus ST. Click image to enlarge

Usually, torque vectoring only acts on steerable wheels: the front ones in most hot hatches. But Ford engineers have fiddled around with torque vectoring at both ends of the car, and the results speak for themselves.

Since the ST rocks a set of superhero tires from the factory, there’s plenty of grip for the system to work with, too. That’s backed up by a fast steering box, which is backed up by very flat and extremely tidy handling.

Driven hard through a winding backroad, the ST feels tuned, calibrated and dialed-in. That argument between steering and acceleration typical in a fast and grippy front-drive car simply doesn’t show itself here. All said, this torque vectoring business takes the usual handling compromise you’ll find in a front-drive performance car, and punches it in the throat.

There’s even a sport mode that tells the stability control system to lighten up a little when you’re misbehaving.

Visually, the ST packs enough flare to get recognition and nods from fellow tuner-types, most of which on my test week wanted to get a closer look at this new ‘Turbo Focus’ they’d heard about. The low ride height, slick-looking wheels and centre-mounted exhaust tip were big hits at the Sunday-night car show, too.

Test Drive: 2013 Ford Focus ST videos car test drives ford Test Drive: 2013 Ford Focus ST videos car test drives ford Test Drive: 2013 Ford Focus ST videos car test drives ford Test Drive: 2013 Ford Focus ST videos car test drives ford
2013 Ford Focus ST. Click image to enlarge

Inside, the deeply bolstered, race-ready Recaro seats were the stars of the show. They look as serious as they feel, but otherwise, upgrades for the ST are limited mainly to metal pedal covers, and a thin, low-profile instrument cluster with boost gauge mounted to the top of the dash. When you’re sitting on the Recaros with your feet covering the metal pedals, there’s little to confirm, visually, that you aren’t in a regular Focus.

All of the regular Focus amenities are here too – and that’s a good thing. Mainly, you get a modern, high-tech, very three-dimensional layout with generous at-hand storage for your stuff. Ford Sync with touchscreen and voice command keep all media, contacts and navigational information a button press away, and the punchy Sony stereo system upgrade features a hot-hatch must-have: a sub in the trunk that’ll rattle the rearview.

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