2013 Ford Focus Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
July 30, 2013

Whether or not you consider the exciting new ST performance model, the 2013 Ford Focus lineup is evidence that small cars don't have to feel so appliance-like.

The Ford Focus changed the nameplate's image when it was new in 2012, taking it from lackluster to lap-worthy. Attractive, affordable, and fun, the Focus has won our Best Car To Buy award, as much for its trend-leading features as for its excellent front-drive handling.

This year, the heat's being turned up with a seriously enthusiastic Focus ST. While most of the lineup gets a 2.0-liter direct-injected four-cylinder with 160 horsepower, and either a five-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automatic, the new high-performance Focus ST packs a 240-hp turbocharged EcoBoost four and a six-speed manual—no automatic allowed. It'll get to 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds and to a top speed of 155 mph, numbers that call out to serious driving enthusiasts.

Performance from the Focus ST is a rush, as you might guess; but it's surprisingly well-engineered, with none of the coarse or twitchy tuner-car feel that affects the likes of the Mazdaspeed3 and Mitsubishi Ralliart. As for the rest of the Focus lineup, choose the manual gearbox and you'll have one of the best-driving small cars in the segment. You have to rev the engine to get to its perky side, but it's smooth, with a nice linkage.

Review continues below

The PowerShift dual-clutch automatic transmission in general does a good job keeping the revs up when you need it—but it can be rough at times at low speeds—and there's a Sport mode or you can control shifts on your own with a little +/- button on the side of the shift knob. The Focus handles as well as—or better than—the most deft handler in the class, the Mazda 3, with a suspension that doesn't crash and bang over rough transitions. Ford's electric power steering system provides nice weighting and it performs well, providing precise control but not transmitting much feel of the road.

(There's also a low-volume Ford Focus Electric model offered in more than a dozen U.S. markets. It's built on the same production line as other Focus variants, but dispenses with the gasoline engine and transmission, replacing them with a lithium-ion battery pack that runs an electric motor. The EPA rates the Focus Electric at 76 miles of range, and its price including delivery starts at $39,995. Ford appears to be only lukewarm on its most advanced Focus; throughout 2012, it sold just 685 of them nationwide. The 2013 Ford Focus Electric continues unchanged from the 2012 model.)

The Focus blends creases and curves with an overpowering front-end design and thin front grille, a new Ford design cue shared with the Escape. We prefer the hatchback by far to the stubby-tailed sedan. The instrument-panel design doesn't at all hold back inside, and while some may find it overly swoopy and almost too stylized, its vertically-oriented vents and pleasant surface sculpting look and feel original in a crowded class of look-alike small cars. Ford offers several trims to cover a wide range of expectations, but we find the Focus tends to look best in the top Titanium trim, where all the details are well coordinated.

Inside, the Focus can feel more like a European sport sedan than a budget-priced hatchback. Add the upgraded sport seats of the Titanium model and you'll find even better support than the already impressive base front seats. Whether you choose the sedan or hatchback, you get back seat accommodations that are virtually the same, with just enough legroom and headroom to fit even those over six feet. With the leather upholstery, there's no skimping on look and feel in back; you won't get mid-size comfort, but there's enough comfort back there for most six-footers. Our most significant complaint concerns the instrument panel design, which cuts into front passenger knee space.

Safety-wise, the Focus holds strong; it's one of the few compact sedans to have earned both a five-star NCAP Overall Score and IIHS Top Safety Pick status.

The Focus still is offered in a cost-conscious Focus S base model, but the true focus is toward those well-equipped, tech-loaded upper trims like the SEL and Titanium. A loaded Titanium can hit $28k, but these models include MyFord Touch, an upgraded ten-speaker Sony sound system, HD Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio, sport seats, a sport suspension, and sport wheels with summer performance tires.

Active Park Assist, which helps you steer into a parallel-parking space, is optional in upper-level Focus models and is one of several segment-exclusive tech features. MyFord Touch, with text-to-voice capability and WiFi capability, is also available.

9

2013 Ford Focus

Styling

With sweeping curves and crisp detailing, the 2013 Ford Focus is an extrovert inside and out.

There are two body styles—a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback—as well as several trims to cover a wide range of expectations, but the Focus tends to look at its best in top Titanium trim, where all the details are well coordinated.

From the outside, the sheetmetal contains a mix of creases and curves, while the rather aggressive front-end design and thin front grille are a new Ford design trait shared with the 2013 Escape. The rising beltline is to be expected in this class, but the bulging fenders in front and in back echo the arching roofline and create a very dynamic look from the outside. There's even a subtle curve that runs from the headlights all the way to the taillights, just below the beltline, and a sharper crease that starts after the front wheelwell and runs through the door handles. Taillamps are huge and form much of the rear corners on both vehicles.

The instrument-panel design doesn't at all hold back inside. Some might find it a bit too swoopy and overstyled (and it does impinge on space a bit more than it should), but the vertically-oriented vents and pleasant surface scrulpting give it a look and feel that's original and complex--a definite plus in a crowded class of look-alike small cars.

Trims and finishes look classy and inviting, and there's a nicely tailored look to the entire interior that extends to door trim and even seats; tturquoise-colored gauge pointers are another nice touch.

8

2013 Ford Focus

Performance

A new Focus ST spices up the performance potential; otherwise, the Focus lineup feels athletic and nimble.

The 2.0-liter direct-injected four-cylinder engine that powers most of the 2013 Focus lineup produces 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque; it's paired with either a five-speed manual gearbox or six-speed PowerShift dual-clutch automatic. That's pretty much the same, but what's new for 2013 is a high-performance Focus ST variant that can get to 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds and to a top speed of 155 mph. Packing a 240-hp turbocharged EcoBoost four and a six-speed manual—no automatic—it calls out to serious driving enthusiasts.

Performance from the Focus ST is a rush, as you might guess; but it's surprisingly well-engineered, with none of the coarse or twitchy tuner-car feel that affects the likes of the Mazdaspeed3 and Mitsubishi Ralliart. Thanks to a completely different steering and suspension setup--with a quick, variable-ratio steering rack, a suspension lowered by 10 mm, and a rear suspension that moves its mounting points outward--the Focus ST also feels much more like a performance car in ways other than acceleration sprints.

As for the rest of the Focus lineup, choose the manual gearbox and you'll have one of the best-driving small cars in the segment. You have to rev the engine to get to its perky side, but it's smooth, with a nice linkage. The PowerShift dual-clutch automatic transmission in general does a good job keeping the revs up when you need it—but it can be rough at times at low speeds—and there's a Sport mode or you can control shifts on your own with a little +/- button on the side of the shift knob.

The Focus handles as well as—or better than—the most deft handler in the class, the Mazda3, with a suspension that doesn't crash and bang over rough transitions. Ford's electric power steering system provides nice weighting and it performs well, providing precise control but not transmitting much feel of the road. And for those who want performance on a budget, the SE with the Sport Package is still about the best deal in the lineup.

In the interest of keeping costs down, base S and SE models come with rear-drums instead of discs, but pedal feel and stopping power felt about the same at legal speeds.

8

2013 Ford Focus

Comfort & Quality

Sporty doesn't mean uncomfortable here; the Focus has a spacious interior, and the refinement of a more expensive vehicle.

Inside, the Focus can feel more like a European sport sedan than a budget-priced hatchback. Add the upgraded sport seats of the Titanium model and you'll find even better support than the already impressive base front seats.

Whether you choose the sedan or hatchback, you get back seat accommodations that are virtually the same, with just enough legroom and headroom to fit even those over six feet. With the leather upholstery, there's no skimping on look and feel in back; you won't get mid-size comfort, but there's enough comfort back there for most six-footers.

Cargo holds in the hatch and sedan are both ample with large openings, but seat-folding is a little involved. For one, you can't release the back seats remotely, as you can in some other vehicles; the other thing is that the back seats don't fold completely flat unless you slide the front seats far forward and flip the lower cushions down--and even then the headrests get in the way. The reward, perhaps, is a more comfortable contouring for the back seat than in most small cars.

Our most significant complaint concerns the instrument panel design, which seemingly cuts into front passenger knee space especially.

Road noise is typical for the compact class, although the Focus does well in sealing engine noise out. Ride comfort is impressive, even though the Focus is one of the firmer-riding small cars, its more sophisticated suspension tuning filters out the most jarring bumps.

9

2013 Ford Focus

Safety

The Focus offers impressive occupant protection and can be equipped with a few standout safety-tech features.

The 2013 Ford Focus models offer some advanced safety features and safety-tech options that are unusual in mass-market small cars. But in addition to that, they're built on a solid structure that does well in crash tests.

Front, side, and Safety Canopy curtain bags are included, as well as standard electronic stability control and anti-lock braking. And a torque vectoring control system helps keep power delivery stable when accelerating out of corners.

Outward visibility is quite good compared to in some other small cars, although rearward vision can be tough in some instances. A rear-view camera is available on upper trims. Furthermore, an active park assist feature helps by actually steering the car into a parking space--freeing you up to keep an eye out for obstacles.

The Ford Focus was developed as a world car, which means that its structure wasn't merely engineered to do well on one particular safety test. Last year it missed the top five-star rating in federal NCAP tests (it gets a mix of four- and five-star ratings), but for 2013 it's earned a top five-star NCAP (new-car assessment program) Overall Score it earns, it's worth pointing out that the model doesn't receive top scores in all subcategories—something the Cruze does achieve.

Among compact sedans—other than the Focus and the Chevrolet Cruze—the 2013 Dodge Dart and the 2012 Honda Civic also earn the top-tier combination of five-star Overall NCAP results and IIHS Top Safety Pick status.

The Focus does also did manage to earn top scores in every category from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), as well as the IIHS Top Safety Pick designation.

10

2013 Ford Focus

Features

The 2013 Focus feels more upmarket compared to some other compact models, and the tech-savvy Titanium has premium-brand appeal.

The 2013 Ford Focus really stands out in top-of-the-line Titanium form--where it includes many tech features that, together, aren't common in this class--but even in base S or SE form the Focus offers a reasonably good feature set. This year, the upper SEL trim, which last year slotted just below the Titanium, has been discontinued.

Prices on the Focus range from $16,995, including destination, for the base Focus S, up to about $28k for a loaded Titanium. S models are quite basic, but they do include air conditioning, CD sound, and a tilt/telescopic steering wheel. SE models add cruise control, larger wheels, fog lamps, and Ford's MyKey system. At the top of the line, the Titanium earns you dual-zone climate control, MyFord Touch, an upgraded ten-speaker Sony sound system, HD Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio, sport seats, a sport suspension, and sport wheels with summer performance tires. A number of the Titanium's features—including the Sport package—are optional on the SEL (the Sport package is no longer offered for the SE).

What you get inside the Focus is quite different between the S and SE versus the Titanium. MyFord Touch—the touch-screen system combining audio, connectivity, and navigation features—is standard on the Focus Titanium and optional on the SEL, giving the Focus a high-end, feature-rich feel. Other models get a modestly retouched version of the Fiesta's control layout—including the oddly angled, V-shaped arrangement. Top and center on those models, instead, is a colorful, high-contrast info screen.

One segment-exclusive feature that will be available in the Titanium is Active Park Assist, which helps you steer into a parallel-parking space, is optional in upper-level Focus models and is one of several segment-exclusive tech features.

8

2013 Ford Focus

Fuel Economy

The 2013 Ford Focus lineup is no standout, but the Focus Electric sure is, and the sporty ST is better on gas than other performance hatches.

With its redesign last year, the Ford Focus earned a new direct-injection engine and an available six-speed PowerShift automatic transmission, plus improved aerodynamics, and a host of other advancements that altogether provided a big boost to fuel economy figures.

Get the manual gearbox and you'll see gas mileage that's a little lower, if you go by the estimate, at 26 mpg city, 36 highway. With the PowerShift automatic, the Focus returns 28/38, and when optioned with the Super Fuel Economy (SFE) package (only offered with the automatic), the ratings go up to 28 mpg city, 40 highway.

That's close to the best in this class, but not quite; the Chevrolet Cruze Eco manages 42 mpg highway, for example.

Take the performance route with the Ford Focus ST, and it's not as bad as you might think. The 240-hp EcoBoost turbocharged engine still gets 23/32 mpg--and regular gasoline is fine.

It's also worth pointing out that the Ford Focus Electric--an all-electric version--is now widely available and has been certified at 105 MPGe, a measure of the distance it can travel electrically on the energy content of 1 gallon of gasoline. Ford's greenest model is only available in a handful of U.S. markets, however, and Ford appears to be lukewarm on the $39,995 battery-electric car. Just 685 of them were sold throughout 2012.

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August 22, 2016
2013 Ford Focus 4-Door Sedan SE

2013 Ford Focus SE

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Great car so far with excellent MPG. DId a long trip across the country without a problem.
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February 4, 2016
2013 Ford Focus 4-Door Sedan SE

Needs a lot of work as it went back into the past for some of the interior features

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The interior is outdated, the button for the trunk next to the light switch always causes you to accidentally open the trunk, The cup holders don't hold the cups upright if there is only one as they tip over... + More »
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November 4, 2015
2013 Ford Focus 4-Door Sedan S

Great inexpensive car. Drive great but a lot of electrical issues harness

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Overall a great ride for the money but way too many harness issues. My 2005 didn't have the quality interior but was unbelievably reliable. Not sure I'd I would by another. 2016 styling is boring. I have the 5... + More »
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June 21, 2015
2013 Ford Focus 5-Door HB SE

Better than advertized mpg

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This car is great , with a real world mpg +35 and power to pass I'll have no problem keeping this car for yrs. to come .
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April 28, 2015
2013 Ford Focus 5-Door HB SE

Must Be One of the Best Values on the Road

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I bought this car for little over $16,000. It looks and drives as if it should be at least $10,000 more in initial cost. The handling on curves is great. You won't win many drag races, but with something... + More »
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April 20, 2015
For 2013 Ford Focus

commuter's car

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good fuel economy and connectivity,handy car for middle and long range commuters.
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April 17, 2015
For 2013 Ford Focus

Focus ST: Great example of the benefits of the Ford One program

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5 Years ago, if someone asked me what new cars I'd like to buy, the Ford Focus would have been pretty low on my list. However, once I saw the upcoming Focus ST and heard its performance figures, my opinion... + More »
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Styling 9.0
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