Ford has announced specs and started taking orders for the 2013 Ford Focus ST, which will go on sale later this month for $24,495 (including a $795 destination fee). That’s a significant price hike compared with the base 2012 Focus, which starts at $16,500, but the ST offers a lot more performance than the base affordable small car.

“Some cars in this category are entertaining on the track, but much less practical for daily driving,” says Lisa Schoder, Ford Focus ST marketing manager, in a press release. “We think we’ve hit the perfect balance between pure driving exhilaration and everyday livability with this car.”

Under the hood, the Focus ST has an EcoBoost 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 252 horsepower, which is paired to a six-speed manual transmission. That’s 112 more horsepower than the base Focus. Performance tweaks to the suspension should also make the Focus ST more entertaining when the road gets twisty. “The engineers have lowered ride height and upgraded shocks, springs and stabilizer bars, while fitting a variable-ratio electric power steering unit,” says Edmunds. Additionally, the Focus ST gains performance tires mounted on 18-inch wheels.

Two equipment packages are available to enhance the 2013 Focus ST. For $2,385, Ford will add a Sony audio system with HD radio and partial-leather Recaro seats. The second package adds $4,435 to the base price, and includes HID headlights, navigation, ambient lighting and a full-leather interior. One of the only standalone options is an $895 moonroof. A fully-loaded Focus ST will ring in close to $30,000.

When the Focus ST hits dealer lots later this month, it will compete with sporty hatchbacks like the Mazdaspeed3, Volkswagen GTI and Subaru WRX. However, early test drives indicate that the Focus ST may be one of the more refined choices in the segment. “Although the Mazda has the Focus ST and GTI beat in terms of power, it isn’t as refined as the GTI and has a penchant for wicked torque steer,” writes Car and Driver. “We’ve already taken a ride in a Focus ST development car and came away impressed by its performance chops and near-GTI levels of maturity.”

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