Enthusiasts can’t wait to drive Ford’s 2013 Focus ST

Ford is in the midst of launching its first global performance car, the 2013 Focus ST. This sporty compact comes packed with Recaro seats to hug your butt, custom stitching and fabric insets to match the Tangerine Scream exterior, and a short gearbox to keep that smile on your face while weaving through traffic.

I got my hands on this zesty hatch for a spin in and around D.C. yesterday, and let me tell you, it was fun. Ford gave me an hour to drive the car wherever I wanted, so I headed straight to the George Washington Parkway – one of the few places you can get up to speed around this town and actually remember what it’s like to enjoy driving.

My copilot was a driving instructor who tried to hide the look of disappointment on his face when he saw a girl walking up to the car. (Hopefully I didn’t disappoint too much once we ran through the gears.) But he was a nice gent and we had a great time cruising. I gave him a tour of the monuments on our way out and back into the city, and he gave me some great stories about teaching people how to drive.

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The Focus ST shares the same bones and exterior with its newly-introduced electric sibling, the Focus Electric, which I took out a few weeks ago. I must say that the ST and EV could not be farther apart from an enthusiast’s perspective. But surprisingly, the Focus ST gets a respectable 32 mpg on the highway. Not bad for a fun car – and on par with others in its class. (Not to say that the Focus EV isn’t fun – it’s just a different kind of fun. Like ‘Hey, I’m-saving-a-lot-of-money-on-gas-and-I-can-plug-this-bad-boy-into-the-wall fun.’)

While the GW Parkway is mainly a straightaway, we exited at the spot where there are a few tight turns to enjoy. The handling was great and the steering responsive. The steering rack has been designed to adjust agility with the driver’s style of spinning the wheel, allowing the driver to take hairpin turns like a pro.

All in all, this car left me nostalgic for Spike,  my 2007 Honda Civic Si. I must say, however, had the ST been available at the time when I bought the Si, Ford would have forced me to make a difficult decision.

Consumers to get their hands on the Focus ST this weekend

In a five-city tour, Ford will be giving consumers the opportunity to drive their beloved performance hatch. The events around the country are so popular that they’ve had to extend the number of people they allow in.

Ford’s hitting New York, Boston, San Francisco, L.A. and the nation’s capital. The event in D.C. filled up so quickly, they actually had to allow an additional 100 people in. If that’s not an indication that Ford has a cult car following on their hands, I don’t know what is.

Potential customers will start the Focus ST Performance Academy with a training session and then try for a low time in an autocross challenge (think lots of turns and orange cones you can’t hit).

The D.C. event is this Saturday, July 14 at FedEx Field. The tour will move on to Boston on July 21, San Francisco on August 4, and Los Angeles on August 11. Go to drivefocusst.com to see if there are any spots left in your city.

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Melanie Batenchuk founded Be Car Chic in 2009 as a way to help consumers make smart decisions when buying and selling their cars. Her prior work at the dealership, trade association and manufacturer levels has provided her a deep understanding of the complex facets within the auto industry, making her a leading woman in her field.