The Ford Focus ST: A Used Hot Hatch That Shouldn’t Be Overlooked

While the Mustang is now Ford’s only performance passenger car, until recently it offered several more. The AWD Focus RS tends to be easily remembered, but it isn’t the only hot hatch Ford once offered in the US. It’s not even the only Focus-based one. The FWD Ford Focus ST may have been overshadowed by the RS, but it has its own enthusiast appeal.

The Ford Focus ST mixed affordable performance with daily-driving capability

A red 2013 Ford Focus ST drives around a curving road
2013 Ford Focus ST | Ford

Introduced in the US in 2013, the Ford Focus ST was one of the first hot hatches we’d seen from the Blue Oval in roughly a decade, Jalopnik reports. But it came well-prepared to take on the competition from the likes of Volkswagen.

The Ford Focus ST has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 252 hp and 270 lb-ft linked exclusively to a 6-speed manual. With that, the Focus ST goes 0-60 mph in 6.1 seconds, Car and Driver reports. And for a little extra, Mountune’s factory-warranty-backed tuning kit can bump the output to 275 hp and 296 lb-ft on 93-octane, Automobile reports. The extra power dropped Motor Trend’s record 0-60 mph time by 0.3 seconds.

Although Mountune offers a limited-slip differential for the Focus ST, Ford never offered it with one from the factory. However, the hot hatch does have a brake-based torque-vectoring system that mimics one, MT reports. But that isn’t the Focus ST’s only performance party trick.

The Ford Focus ST comes with high-performance tires, upgraded suspension components, stiffer anti-roll bars, and a roof-mounted rear wing. It also rides lower than the standard Focus and has larger brakes, Car and Driver reports. And if you selected one of the two higher trim levels, you got Recaro sport seats. Which, on the highest trim level, were heated and full leather.

A yellow 2015 Ford Focus ST
2015 Ford Focus ST | Ford

Ford updated the Focus ST in 2015, along with the rest of the Focus lineup, Automobile reports. Besides new interior and exterior styling, the hot hatch received more sound deadening, a retuned steering rack, and upgraded infotainment. Plus, Ford swapped out the dampers and fitted new springs and suspension bushings.

The Ford Focus ST isn’t a hot hatch also-ran

Although the rally-inspired RS had more power and AWD, the Ford Focus ST isn’t a slouch in the performance department. And not just in straight-line speed, either.

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When it debuted in 2013, the Focus ST beat the outgoing-gen Volkswagen GTI in a Car and Driver comparison. Although the GTI was a bit more refined, the ST was simply the faster and “more focused performance car.” It later became a Car and Driver 10Best and Automobile All-Star winner.

The Recaro front seats and dashboard of a 2015 Ford Focus ST
2015 Ford Focus ST front interior | Ford

That’s not to say the Focus ST is without its flaws, especially the earlier models. While Ford tweaked the front suspension to eliminate torque steer, it’s not quite as successful at it as the Honda Civic Type R. The earlier models also ride more harshly, and don’t have the same satisfying steering feel as the 2015-and-later ones, Automobile reports. Plus, while grippy and well-bolstered, the Recaro seats’ seat cushion angle can be uncomfortable for some, Jalopnik reports. However, the 2015 update added a flat-bottomed steering wheel for easier entry and exit.

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Still, despite these issues, the Ford Focus ST is a genuinely fun car to drive. The shifter and clutch are easy to work, and the brakes resist fade well, Jalopnik reports. “It’s supremely balanced for a front driver,” Autoweek reports, and grips well in the corners. And you can even coax some easy-to-control lift-off oversteer.

Also, as a hot hatch, the Focus ST comes with daily-driving practicality. The rear seats fold flat, and in 2016, Ford upgraded the car’s infotainment system, CJ Pony Parts reports. And today, you can upgrade it further to accept Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Plus, despite being a performance car, it’s a fairly quiet one, Automobile reports.

Issues, recommended model years, and pricing guide

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Although the post-2012 Focuses have a reputation for unreliability, the Focus ST avoids most of the standard model’s problems. As a manual-equipped car, it doesn’t suffer the PowerShift transmission issues. As such, if you want to buy a Ford Focus, the ST is in many ways the best choice.

2013 and 2014 models were recalled as part of the Focus-wide engine-valve problem, but the redesigned 2015 and later ones don’t suffer this issue. They also don’t have the wiring problems which can plague early Focus STs, PistonHeads and r/FocusST sub-Reddit users report.

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The only real trouble spots are premature transmission synchro wear and engine-roll restrictor (rear engine mount) failure, TrueCar reports. The former can be avoided by careful shifting and regularly changing the transmission fluid. And as for the latter, Mountune has an upgraded replacement part available.

Because of the ride and interior upgrades, it’s best to go with a 2015 or later model. And if you want upgraded infotainment, you’ll have to go with a 2016-2018 ST. Luckily, these hot hatches are fairly affordable. You can find a good-condition 2016-2018 Ford Focus ST for under $15,000 on Autotrader, and the earlier models sometimes go for less than $10,000.

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