Ford Focus ST: 252 horsepower for $24,495

Ford Focus ST sideFord’s compact Focus is good for one thing: variety. From the staid base sedan to the all-electric hatchback, there seems to be a Focus for everyone. Everyone, that is, except the performance enthusiast. The 2012 Focus debuted with a brace of green powertrains, but nothing that could be described as “sporty.” That will change soon, because Ford is rolling out another Focus: the ST.

Ford announced this sporty Focus last year, and is just about ready to start selling it. It’s no secret that the ST will be powered by an EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, with turbocharging and direct injection to get as much power from those two liters as possible. Now we know exactly how much power that will be. The ST will produce 252 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque.

That power will be sent to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission. Since this is supposed to be a performance car, there is no automatic transmission option. The ST will only be available as a five-door hatchback, which is fine because the hatch is much better looking than the sedan. Buyers can choose from one of six exterior colors: Tuxedo Black, Oxford White, Race Red, Performance Blue, Ingot Silver and, for an extra $495, Tangerine Scream Orange.

Other performance upgrades include bigger wheels and tires. In addition, the ST gets a body kit with a blacked-out grille to give it a sportier look than lesser Focuses. The interior also gets some upgrades, including a leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminum pedals, and Ford’s SYNC connectivity system as standard (the latter will not help you drive faster). All of that can be had for $24,495, plus a $750 destination charge.

There are also two options packages. ST2 adds adds a Sony audio system, eight-inch touchscreen, dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite/HD radio, and upgraded seats for $2,385. For $4,435, ST3 adds LED running and cornering lights, interior ambient lighting, heated mirrors, a navigation system, rear armrest, and front overhead console to the ST2 package. With both packages, a fully-optioned Focus ST could cost almost $30,000.

Will it be worth it? The ST’s biggest rival will probably be the Volkswagen GTI. Both cars are front-drive “hot hatchbacks” based on regular compacts. The GTI brandishes 200 hp and 207 lb-ft. It starts at $23,995, but prices can quickly climb with options; a three-door GTI with navigation costs $27,845. On paper, the GTI has a slight advantage in price, while the ST has a major advantage in power. Of course, the real deciding factor will be how well each car drives.

When Ford introduced the original performance Focus, the SVT, in 2002, it was a hit. Having a sporty model at the top of the range reflecting well on everything else; it’s what marketers call the “halo effect.” The other Focuses (Focii?) are good cars, but they don’t stir emotions the way pure speed does. Hopefully, the ST will make the Ford’s Focus lineup complete.