The Focus ST is a real sports car with a six-speed manual and 154 mph top speed honed on German autobahns. It also has a fluid and capable handling balance, thanks to intensive tuning on the moonscape that is U.K. roads. As the Fiesta ST fails to generate meaningful excitement and buzz, can the 270 pound-feet of torque in the hottest Focus ST tempt a new generation of power-hungry drivers?
The delayed U.S. launch of many European performance models can be infuriating at times, especially for readers of international car magazines. One such case is the latest Ford Focus ST that’s been on sale in the U.K. since early 2012 and laps up praise from all who drive it.
Arriving in the United States as a late 2013 model year, it has been a long roll out that is just starting to see Focus ST’s appear in volume across U.S. showrooms. Better late than never.
The 2014 ST now has two cool go-faster mods for less than $500 extra: titanium-grey wheels with red calipers or twin matte black racing stripe graphics.
The car’s speedy performance and exterior design solidify the Focus ST as a contender versus the VW GTI, Subaru WRX and the outgoing MazdaSpeed 3.
Click past the jump for the full review of the Ford Focus ST with highlights on U.S.-market changes to the global specs and info on the cool new options.
The Focus ST is by far the best-looking Focus available, thanks to the deep body kit, redesigned bumpers and fascias, a big wheel package, a vented rear spoiler and the Star Wars-inspired rear exhaust pipe. A few unique colors are available including the bright yellow in these images.
Overall, it is the ST-exclusive nose design that most sets the performance model apart from base five-door and sedan Focus models. The non-ST 2014 Focuses continue with the slim top grille and a lower trapezoidal grille below with painted structure lines. It is a relief that the look did not migrate to the rest of the Focus range and helps the ST be exclusive on the road.
The only critical exterior option is the headlight upgrade. It replaces the halogen bulbs for HID xenon’s with an LED running light bar at the top of the lamp designs. This option was a very late addition to the 2013 model so will usually mark out the 2014 versus the earliest U.S. Focus ST’s.
The new 2014 options are a great addition: these snowflake rims look incredible painted dark grey and the option comes with red-painted brake calipers for just $375. The racing stripes are not as successful on this yellow color but will likely look sharp on some of the other colors at the tune of $475.
In profile, the ST looks incredible, thanks to deep, sculpted rocker panel extensions that flow smoothly into the rear bumper. This helps increase the masculinity of the glasshouse significantly. The overall design of the new Focus hatchback has a dramatic roofline taper toward the back. The roof pinches down pretty aggressively behind the back seat and the huge spoiler helps make the car look great from the rear three-quarter angle.
The rear bumper is another ST-exclusive item and comes with some racy vents and, of course, that center-mounted exhaust tip. The shape is gorgeous and the satin brightwork looks fresh and expensive versus a normal chrome tip.
2014 Ford Focus ST – Exterior Dimensions:
2014 Ford Focus ST – Standard Exterior Features:
ST-exclusive 18" alloy wheels
ST-exclusive front grille
ST-exclusive black headlamp surrounds
ST-exclusive fog lamps
Full-size spare tire (included in Titanium Handling Package)
Door handles, body-color
Rocker moldings, body color
Power mirrors, body-color, manual fold with integrated side marker lamps
Exclusive Integrated blind spot mirrors
Automatic quad-beam halogen headlamps
Rear windshield wiper
Rear window defroster
2014 Ford Focus ST – Optional Exterior Features:
HID automatic headlamps with LED accents
ST-exclusive grey painted wheels with red calipers ($375)
The ST is as successful at revamping the interior as it is on the exterior. The most noteworthy changes are the much higher equipment levels, standard leather-wrapped wheel and gearstick, and an extra gauge cluster on the dash that includes a boost gauge.
The red needles and the white gauge lighting looks really fresh versus the base Focus, as does the extensive piano black trim throughout the cabin. Other ST-branded elements appear on the steering wheel, screen graphics and the nice-looking gearstick.
Overall, the interior design of the Focus is a little messy with many contrasting shapes that do not gel together as well as some other recent Fords. Functionally, the ST comes loaded with MyFord Touch by Sony and Sync controls. The major tech options include the nav system upgrade into MyFord Touch and a better 10-speaker stereo with a subwoofer. Both good to buy upfront versus installing them as aftermarket options.
Besides those individual options, the most relevant performance enhancements are the ST2 and ST3 packages. These are pricey at $2,400 and $4,800, respectively, but are a comprehensive upgrade that offers equipment levels that are mostly unavailable in the GTI and the WRX.
All ST models get standard Recaro seats with deep and supportive bolsters to keep drivers planted during fast driving. The standard buckets are cloth but upgradable to half-leather on the ST2 and full leather on the ST3. The black/yellow color option is luckily not mandatory. A solid charcoal, tan, black/grey or black with blue trims are offered.
Lastly, the trunk of the Focus ST is awesome and will come in handy very often. It packs Audi Q5-level space with 24 cubic-feet behind the seats and nearly 45 cubic feet with them folded.
2014 Ford Focus ST – Interior Dimensions:
Shoulder Room (Front/Rear)
EPA Cargo Volume
EPA Cargo Volume (Rear Seats Folded)
2014 Ford Focus ST – Standard Interior Features:
Cloth front bucket seats with 4-way manual driver’s seat, 2-way manual passenger seat and 4-way adjustable head restraints
60/40 split folding rear bench seat with 3 removable head restraints
Manual climate control with air filtration system
AM/FM single-disc CD player, MP3 capable with 6 speakers, audio input jack and speed-sensitive volume control
SYNC voice-activated communications and entertainment system
Full-floor center console with storage
Power door locks
Intelligent Access with Push-Button Start
Dome lamps, front, rear and cargo compartment
Tilt and telescoping steering wheel
Leather-wrapped steering wheel
Sun visors, driver and front passenger, with vanity mirrors
Power front and rear windows with all windows one-touch up and down
Map pockets behind driver and front-passenger seats; 1st-row map/reading lamps
Removable rear package tray
2014 Ford Focus ST – Optional Interior Features:
ST2 Equipment Group: Sony Audio System with 10 speakers (including subwoofer), 8” display screen, Dual zone electronic automatic temperature control; HD Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio with 6 month subscription (not available in AL or HI), Recaro leather-trimmed seats ($2,405)
Partial-leather RECARO front bucket seats with ST logo, Tangerine Scream, Smoke Storm or Performance Blue accent color and 2-way adjustable head restraints
Full-leather RECARO heated front bucket seats with ST logo and 2-way adjustable head restraints
Ambient interior lighting
Rear armrest with storage (included with available leather-trimmed seats)
Sony Audio system with 10 speakers including subwoofer
SYNC with MyFord Touch by Sony
Navigation with SiriusXM Traffic and SiriusXM Travel Link
Heated front seats
Drivetrain, Suspension and Brakes
The Focus ST is both fast and entertaining to drive hard. Its sharp turn-in makes it a threat on the track and the sprint performance is very good too. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is now called “GTDI” (gasoline turbo direct injection) in a jab at Volkswagen’s efforts to make TDI into a known engine brand.
Producing 252 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, the Focus ST’s official 0-to-60 mph time is 5.9 seconds. The power numbers are both up by about 20 from the pre-release estimates of 246 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque.
The Focus ST includes a 15-second over-boost in higher gears (like the Fiesta ST) that increases the max turbo pressure from about 13 psi up to 15.9 psi. This is right at the top of the ST’s boost gauge range, which is labeled in Bar measurements with a 1.2 max.
Various Focus ST forums have researched the maximum sustained boost pressure that this engine can handle. They note 70-plus horsepower increases up to 19 psi with a better intake and exhaust, but serious diminishing returns after 20 psi.
The Focus ST is able to manage the extra turbo heat that comes from increasing boost. This is because the front-mounted intercooler is able to cool the charged air better than a top-mounted intercooler, such as on the Subaru WRX. As with all tuned cars, expect the clutch to need upgrading very soon after increasing the boost.
The Ford has deep levels of technical knowledge in its front suspension and electric power steering to both limit torque steer and also give the ST great abilities on fast laps. Even so, the boost is limited to about 9 psi in the first three gears.
Brake-based electronic torque vectoring leaves the ST less composed than some of the best hot hatchbacks when trying to power out of slippery corners. Limited-slip diffs are not a catch-all fix for powerful front-drive cars like this. They bring their own brand of weaving under braking and some grittiness on hard lock. It is unlikely that the new GTI will offer an LSD in the U.S. either.
The brakes are big and firm-feeling under pedal pressure. A six-speed manual is the only available transmission and will delight the legions of sports-car fans.
2014 Ford Focus ST – Mechanical Details:
Engine Size and Type
2.0-liter Turbocharged 16-valve I-4 With Chain-Driven DOHC and IVCT
EPA Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)
The ST has not gone through the full crash test regimen because it shares all structural designs with standard Focus hatchbacks.
The Focus benefits from being a global car that can ace all the various global crash testing standards. It is a five-start car from the NHTSA and is a 2013 Top Safety Pick from IIHS. The very similar European 2011 Ford Focus also scored five stars in the EuroNCAP program.
The stability control of the ST is unique in a mainstream Ford model by offering three levels of assistance: normal, track and fully off. The sport setting is designed to allow generous slip angles and will not electronically cut engine power to a spinning wheel like the standard mode. Full off is exactly what it sounds like.
2014 Ford Focus ST – Standard Safety Features:
Class-Exclusive Easy Fuel Capless Fuel Filler
Dual-stage front airbags, Front-seat side-impact airbags, Safety Canopy side-curtain airbags (first and second row)
Belt-Minder front safety belt reminder; 3-point safety belts at all seating positions, Height-adjustable front safety belts; Safety belt pretensioners
Child safety door locks, rear; LATCH anchors for child safety seats
The U.S. Focus ST is priced from $24,115 and barely cracks $29,000 with the desirable ST3 package that includes all the major options.
The ST is so much more powerful than the Civic Si that the Honda is no longer a competitor.
It also offers performance and tech that leave the current WRX and GTI in the dust. The next generation of both the Subaru and the VW are almost ready and tipped to arrive this fall and next spring, respectively.
The WRX concept from New York 2013 at least proved that the car would now be a four-door and didn’t include any previous styling mistakes like the B9 Tribeca grille or the “blob” headlights on the first-gen U.S. WRX.
The WRX is now a unique model line apart from the Impreza and expected to have 270-plus horsepower from its boxer four. The spy shots reveal a much more conservative roofline than the concept and a body shape that somehow seems too big for the car, wheels and wheel tracks underneath. Here’s hoping it looks better in production form than in these spyshot-based renderings.
The new GTI is almost old news despite not going on sale in the United States for nearly another year. For the seventh-gen GTI, the car has switched to the new MQB modular platform and added about 20 horsepower for a 220 total. The car still is under-labelled and makes big torque from very low in the rev range.
The GTI has never been very quick despite its reputation and a projected 6.4 second 0-to-60 will leave it behind the ST.
The Focus ST is a cult car and a hero among car enthusiasts across the globe. By packaging such a satisfying drive and great acceleration into an already-practical car, Ford has answered the wishes of U.S. car fans by bringing the car over.
It is a nice counterpoint to the Focus Electric and also broadens the company’s performance offerings beyond the Mustang that is not affordable to buy, drive or insure for many young people.
The ST-exclusive upgrade list is deep enough that the car will remain unique on the road and also from other modified base Focus models. More than just the body kit, the interior mods like Recaro buckets and the extra gauges really help this car stand out from the competition.
Will the next WRX be faster in sprints? Will the next GTI have a better-quality cabin than the Ford?
The answer is yes. Where the Focus really makes sense is a nimble, track-friendly car that is fast and has great dynamic balance. As fast as the sedan-only WRX will be, Subaru drivers know that AWD does not mean no under-steer. If anything, the WRX’s extra power will make it sloppier on a track.
The GTI is great but in order to sell it in the U.S. profitably, VW will likely strip out all the latest euro tech and performance options. The power pack and limited slip are virtually guaranteed to not cross the pond.
The Focus ST delivers the best of both worlds, while also packing a sharp and unique style all its own. It’s a great performance car that also happens to be an easy daily driver with a huge trunk. Game on, WRX.
Grippy Tires And Thick Stabilizer Bars Mean Tight Handling
The Quickest And Fastest U.S. Hot Hatch
Substantial Improvements In Focus Style; 2014 Grey Wheels Look Sharp
Great Base Price Car Comes Well-Equipped; Not Much More Than Loaded Focus At About $24,000
Full-Throttle Fun On A Budget
Convincing and cool style upgrade over normal Focus; honeycomb grille insert
Good sprint performance from that torquey turbo
Roadholding and skidpad stats embarass most Mustangs
Something is fishy about that grille shape
LED and HID lights an optional extra but included in some packages
Limited OEM personalization options; Matte black racing stripes will not age well
The Ford Focus ST was first to bring the Sport Technologies badge worldwide, offering a blend of refinement and performance for which ST is renowned
Highly efficient 2.0-liter EcoBoost® engine helps 154-mph Ford Focus ST deliver EPA-estimated 23 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, 252 horsepower and 270 lb.-ft. of torque
The 2014 Ford Focus ST hatchback delivers the same driving attributes that make all Ford Sport Technologies models stand out. The chassis, engine, sound and comfort of the car are tuned to deliver a truly sporty experience combined with a high level of refinement. These same attributes will form the genetic code for future Ford models that wear the ST badge.
Performance meets efficiency under the hood
Focus ST is powered by a 2.0-liter EcoBoost® engine, which offers an uncompromising mix of performance and efficiency. The 154-mph performance car achieves an outstanding EPA-estimated rating of 23 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, with 252 horsepower and 270 lb.-ft. of torque.
Focus ST’s lightweight, all-aluminum EcoBoost engine provides the power of a larger engine in a fuel-efficient smaller displacement, leveraging three key technologies.
High-pressure direct injection, low-inertia turbocharging and twin independent variable camshaft timing create an advanced combustion system that brings high levels of performance and fuel efficiency.
Mated to the 2.0-liter EcoBoost is a six-speed manual transmission, which has specially revised gearing to produce the maximum punch from each throw of the gearshift. The Global Performance Vehicles group paid significant attention to detail in ensuring the ratio of sixth gear was perfectly in tune with Focus ST, giving the driver optimum performance while remaining long enough to help maintain excellent fuel economy.
Sound and driving dynamics
Sound engineers ensured Focus ST’s four-cylinder EcoBoost engine delights drivers with a robust tone. A significant part of this process is the famed sound symposer, first found on the previous Focus ST and subsequently employed on the European Focus RS and RS500 models.
Driving dynamics are at the heart of Focus ST. Innovation and technology combine to create a chassis capable of exceeding the expectations of the most demanding driving enthusiast, while giving even novice motorists an unforgettable drive.
From the driver’s seat, customers will experience the Ford sport steering system. This variable-ratio steering rack is designed to increase the agility of Focus ST on winding roads, yet still inspire the same high-speed confidence.
The interior of the core Focus model is designed with a cockpit feel. In the ST, that sporty feeling is heightened with everything the driver touches and feels, reinforcing that it is unmistakably an ST model.
Details range from specially designed pedals, steering wheel and gearshift. The darker headline and trim on the pillars, an integral part of ST design DNA, adds to the performance driving feel.
With its striking one-piece interpretation of Ford’s signature trapezoidal grille, its sculpted side skirts and dynamic rear bumper with prominent diffuser-style vents in the lower fascia, Focus ST’s design adds aggression and aerodynamic stability compared to the base models.
Focus ST’s signature production color, Tangerine Scream, reflects its exciting and energetic character, while other available colors – Performance Blue, Race Red and White – also indicate that this is a car built for performance and meant to be seen.