ATLANTA, Ga. -- Pointing north on Peachtree Road through Atlanta's tony Buckhead neighborhood, we're strapped in the sporty Recaro driver's bucket of Ford's souped-up Focus ST, a 5-door hatchback for the compact class with a sleek body kit painted in Tangerine Scream and the seemingly conflictive traits of spirited performance and fuel efficiency.
The 2013 Focus ST incorporates a unique direct-injection and turbocharged 4-pack engine with quick-shifting 6-speed manual transmission plus tightly-tuned suspension and steering systems in a look-at-me package.
With a roof rising less than five feet high and the body stretching only 14 feet long, the ST looks seriously sporty in an aero-sleek shell with ultra-fast windshield rake, curt and sporty overhangs front and rear, minimal gaps between tires and fenders, and the trailing ripple of a roof spoiler.
It rides on a front-wheel-drive unibody platform that also supports Ford's Generation-3 Focus series of compact-class 4-door sedans and 5-door hatchbacks and shares suspension elements although with sport tuning.
Yet the powertrain is unique to this new car, and so too is the sheetmetal styling and cabin content.
Focus ST resembles a streamlined egg up front with a smoothly rounded prow projecting a gaping-wide trapezoidal grille and front corners housing elongated headlamp clusters that sweep back to muscular bulges of the forward fenders.
The body kit adds sculpted side skirts and a dynamic rear bumper with prominent diffuser-style vents evident in the lower fascia.
Ford labels the Focus sporty hatch with the ST badge, signifying "Sports Technologies" to distinguish a group of special performance models.
Then there's that lead-foot power surge of a muscle car that comes with the ST's new 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine.
The aluminum 2.0-liter in-line-4 plant with dual overhead cams (DOHC) and twin-independent variable cam timing (Ti-VCT) features high-pressure direct injection and low-inertia turbocharging with special tuning to decrease the response time and increase power through the rev range.
Ford's 2.0 EcoBoost engine produce 252 hp at 5500 rpm plus torque of 270 lb-ft at 2500 rpm.
And acceleration increases through the factory turbo overboost feature which extends the torque curve from 3000 rpm to 4500 rpm for up to 15 seconds.
Sole transmission for Focus ST is a close-ratio 6-speed manual stick featuring revised gearing to guarantee maximum thrust from every shift.
The highly efficient EcoBoost plant not only delivers fast off-the-line thrust but also class-topping fuel economy figures of 26 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.
The suspension design produces responsive handling and a firm ride quality. Ford installs independent MacPherson struts in front with reverse-L lower control arms and tuned front shock absorbers. Then there's an independent short- and long-arm (SLA) system in back with one upper and two lower control arms.
The rack and pinion steering system gets electric power assistance, which eliminates a load of hydraulic equipment and contributes to the efficiency of the 2.0-liter engine.
Ford adds an electronically controlled limited-slip front differential for direct tread-patch tire control. The 3-mode AdvanceTrac device has settings of Standard (useful for all road surfaces, wet or dry), Sport (with tire traction controlled by the driver and anti-slip action activating only when tire slip initiates), and Off (for use on a performance track with no AdvanceTrac assistance).
Brakes utilize front ventilated discs with standard anti-lock brake system (ABS) plus an electronic stability control (ESC) device.
Alloy wheels carry high-performance 235/40R18 Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 tires.
The expansive cabin with seats for five riders features high-quality materials and heaps of electronic technology.
Focus ST provides dazzling electronic instruments with analog gauges plus a binnacle on the center dash with three supplementary gauges.
Ford also installs a load of passive safety systems. Front riders have dual two-stage frontal air bags plus side-impact air bags mounted on outboard seats front and rear and Ford's Safety Canopy consisting of curtain-style air bags concealed in headliners above side windows on two rows.
The ST provides ample standard equipment like air conditioning, keyless ignition/entry, power controls for windows and door locks and exterior mirrors, cruise control, a tilting/telescoping steering wheel bound in leather, split-folding rear seatback, the Microsoft-powered Sync system for voice-activated phone and audio player interface, and a 6-speaker audio system with AM/FM/CD/USB.
The optional ST2 package brings the Recaro front sport seats, twin-zone automatic climate controls, the MyFord Touch electronics interface with 8-inch touchscreen display plus a 10-speaker Sony sound system.
The ST3 package goes even further by adding xenon headlamps, leather upholstery, Recaro-designed rear seats and a navigation system.
Also optional is a sunroof and the Performance Pack, which installs wheels in black with high-contrast red paint on performance brake calipers.
MSRP for Ford's 2013 Focus ST begins at $23,700.