The big brother to the Ford Fiesta unfortunately faded into oblivion once that smaller party wagon came about. We’re happy to report the 2017 Focus ST makes a sporty return to Ford’s compact lineup. It offers plenty of zing, style, and enough gumption to compete with the Civic Sis, GTIs and WRXs of the world.
Those other hot hatches are often found being commanded by teens who’ve strapped with fart cannons under the rear bumper but, the Focus ST speaks to a different crowd. The young-ish parent who still wants to keep that illusion of freedom and spirited driving now has a way to enjoy a sporty hatch without all the stigma.
But why all the hype about a years-old car? Perhaps it’s because Ford has a poor track record in this category (looking at you, Escort). Perhaps it’s because our friends across the pond got to enjoy the Focus RS – a turbo’d, rally racer-inspired hatch – long before we did. Maybe it’s because we’re all tired of seeing those Golfs and Subarus spitting around. Either way, the Focus ST makes a great entrance with the right hot hatch formula, and the numbers to boot:
252 horses and 270 torques to the front wheels, to be exact. That’s all thanks to Ford sticking with its flagship powerplant, the EcoBoost 2.0, and a proper manual transmission. These numbers put the GTI on notice, while numerous suspension and frame upgrades makes the whole thing feel tighter and more responsive. The ST’s multi-link setup is certainly an upgrade over the Fiesta, which sports a torsion beam-equipped rear, though most agree it doesn’t quite compare to the GTI’s go kart-like handling.
We’re sad to say the interior of the new Focus ST suffers a bit in the looks and functions departments: Everything feels needlessly bulky, plastic, and almost childish or toy-like. Compared to the flat, sleek, subtly textured appointments we see popping up in even economy cars, the Focus ST seems to lack some maturity. This may have worked 10 years ago but the idea of 30-going-on-13 is out, and accepting a little age and refinement, like fine wine, is in.
That’s okay though, because the optional Recaro race seats that can bless one’s bottom in this hot hatch are gorgeous. They blow the seating arrangement in any other hatch out of the water. They look like they belong in a proper track car or exotic mobile, and they are downright beautiful yet functional. We also like how Ford approached the ST’s shifter. It’s angled just slightly up and forward, toward the driver’s position. While subtle, it affords a little more confidence and speed when slamming through the gears.
That same utility applies to the rear bench where actual, full-sized, living and breathing adults can comfortably sit for a long haul. Where the other hot hatches of the category seem to think a typical passenger is about the size of a toddler, Ford did approach cabin size with some maturity.
The best part about this whole ensemble is the price: You can expect to pay out just around $25,000 for a base model ST, while a fully loaded production will run around $29,000. That’s a few dollars less and a few power figures more than the ST’s arch nemesis, the GTI. In the end, the Focus ST makes a wonderful refresh on an aging brand, providing plenty of sport and comfort with just a tad of silliness. At worst, the Focus ST is a great way for prospective hot hatch owners to get into a proper five-door compact without suffering any jokes about gold wheels, European plates, slammed stances, and big mufflers.