It's powerful, stylish, and manual.
For decades, Ford's high-performance ST and RS-branded hot hatchbacks were considered either too niche or too extreme for a US audience. Then, for a brief period of just six years, the Blue Oval finally decided to grace America's enthusiasts with two wonderful hot hatchbacks, the Ford Focus ST and Fiesta ST. We've waxed lyrical about why you should buy a Fiesta ST in the past but we also feel that the Focus ST deserves some love.
The Focus ST was, after all, the more stout performer of the two, and its larger footprint facilitated a more practical car that you could use every day. When it was new, the Focus ST was a reasonably priced alternative to a Volkswagen Golf GTI but now, on the used market, it is an even greater bargain.
Though it was not the highest-performing version of the Focus, the ST was considered a top performer when it arrived in the US in 2012, offering more power than contemporaries like the Golf GTI and Subaru WRX. This was the first hot Ford hatchback the US received since the ill-fated SVT model, and it marked the first time a fast Focus matched the performance of its European counterpart. The Focus ST offered significant performance and appearance enhancements over a standard model but unlike the hardcore, Focus RS, it was still comfortable and compliant enough to be used as a daily driver.
When it was new, the Focus sold for around $25,000 but could reach over $30,000 with options. Today, used examples with high mileage can be found starting at under $10,000 with the lowest-mileage examples still commanding over $20,000. If you budget around $15,000, you should be able to find a reasonably low mileage car in decent condition. It's worth noting that while these cars are now aged beyond their original three-year/36,000-mile warranty, the ST didn't suffer from any of the major reliability issues that plagued the standard Focus with its PowerShift transmission.
All versions of the Focus ST use a 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine producing 252 horsepower with a 270 lb-ft of torque. With just 3,223 pounds to haul around, the EcoBoost propels the Focus ST to 60 mph in about 6.3 seconds. A six-speed manual transmission is the sole gearbox offering, sending power out to the front wheels. This level of power was considered stout compared to other hot compacts of the time, and is still considered quick by today's standards.
Ford differentiated the cabin of the Focus ST, but not all models were equally equipped. Options like a touchscreen infotainment system and the Recaro buckets seats were optional extras, so a base Focus ST's cabin was pretty sparse. Even so, the ST did get a unique leather-wrapped steering wheel, metal shifter, and dash-mounted gauges. Speaking of those seats, they are much wider than the ones found in the smaller Fiesta ST and are therefore more comfortable to sit in on a daily bases.
Ford bundled the Recaro chairs in a hefty 401A package, which also rolled in the Sync3 infotainment, a sunroof, and Sony premium stereo system. Sync3 included Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, keeping the Focus ST feeling modern. However, early examples used a MyFord Touch system that did not have these features.
Ford only offered the Focus ST as a hatchback, meaning it is highly practical. The rear seats offer an accommodating 33.2 inches of legroom. Behind those seats, the cargo area can hold 23.8 cubic feet and with the seats folded, space opens to 44.8 cubic feet. The powerful hot hatch is even fairly frugal with fuel economy figures of 22/30 mpg city/highway.
American enthusiasts were only fortunate enough to sample the Focus ST for one generation before Ford pulled the plug. A replacement is currently available in Europe, but we do not get it here in the US. This means the only way to enjoy one is to buy it used, which is no hardship with prices now reaching affordable levels. With a budget of $10,000 to $20,000, young enthusiasts can now purchase a fast, practical, and highly tunable hot hatchback that looks great, handles well, and works as an everyday vehicle.