When you think about a Ford Focus, you typically think “safe.” You think, “boring.” You may even think “cheap-ass-car-that-I’ll-drive-until-it-falls-apart.” You probably don’t think “tight cornering,” or “aggressive styling,” or “chest-crushing acceleration.”
But then there’s the Focus ST, Ford’s amped up version of the reliable commuter. Under the hood lives a 252 horsepower turbocharged power plant Ford claims can rocket the vehicle from 0 to 60 in six seconds. It is a car designed to bitch-slap other super-quick five-door hatchbacks like the Volkswagen GTI and the Subaru WRX. And it almost succeeds.
Let’s get this out of the way first: The car is a blast to drive. The slick-shifting 6-speed manual is smooth with throws that can be achieved with literally a flick of the wrist. Acceleration is spirited (Ford is not bullshitting about that six-second 0-60 time) and maneuvering is taut, with just a smidge of oversteer. The exhaust note has a lovely deep grumble due to what Ford calls an “active sound symposer.” Think: a tube outfitted with a body throttle that channels intake din straight into the ST’s cabin.
The ST doesn’t function perfectly as a true city car. It’s nimble, quick from a standstill thanks to the 270 pound-feet of torque at 2,700 rpm, and fairly easy to park. However, it loses points for the laughably huge 39.4-foot turning radius, and the sport-tuned suspension, like most cars of this ilk, is not entirely forgiving — even hitting a shallow pothole at moderate speed feels like 3.4 on the Richter scale. Also, the rear window lacks visibility. When backing up, it’s sometimes difficult to see objects behind you — even with your head turned over your right shoulder.
My test car came with the optional RECARO seats. These over-designed racing-style buckets come punctuated with yellow flourishes and red emblems that are about as subtle as a kick in the teeth. I understand the need to create an aggressively designed interior, but it looks like Megatron ate a box of yellow crayons and threw up in the cabin.