Patrick Rall's picture

A Review of the 2014 Ford Focus ST: The Ultimate American Sport Compact

The American sport compact world has been clamoring for the high performance Ford Focus RS that has dominated the European segment for years and while the RS still hasn’t arrived stateside, the Ford Focus ST is a powerful representation of how great an American sport compact can be…and in more ways that just straight line acceleration.

While both General Motors and the Chrysler Group have offered up some quality sport compacts over the past decade with models like the Chevrolet Cobalt SS and the Dodge Neon SRT4, neither of those cars offered the all around performance of the 2014 Ford Focus ST. Like the top European and Japanese sport compact cars, the Focus ST offers balanced performance that can cater to the tastes of every go-fast junkie so whether you enjoy drag racing, road racing or autocross – the EcoBoost’d Focus ST is sure to put a smile on your face when it flexes its muscles. Best of all, even when you look past the high performance capabilities of the ST package, the Focus itself is a great little car with gobs of space and tons of high tech goodies so it makes for a great daily driver that is just as comfortable on the highway as it is on the race track.

My 2014 Ford Focus ST carried a base price of $24,115 while the Equipment Group 201A added $2,505, Navigation added $795, the 18” Rado Grey alloy wheels added $375, the Tangerine Scream paint adds $595 and the destination fee added $795 for a total price of $29,180. It should be noted that you can get all of the features that matter from a performance standpoint for the base price, but I would consider the options on my test car essential for a daily driver and with the Tangerine Scream being one of the best looking paint options in the US market – I wouldn’t have the Focus ST in any other color. The only other feature I would have liked to see on my Focus ST test car was a sunroof, which is available for $895.

The Exterior
The modern Ford Focus hatchback is a very sporty car in basic form with a very “fast” silhouette, an aggressive face and a body that poses a very sporty stance, but the ST package takes that all a step further. The result is a car that is very clearly a performance themed hatchback, but the look of the Focus ST is not outlandish enough that grown men will look silly driving it to work like some of the super aggressive sport compacts on the market

focus st front

Up front, the hood and headlights are similar to the rest of the lineup, but the 2014 Ford Focus ST wears a unique front fascia with huge central grille, sharp sculpting through the bottom of the deep-reaching fascia, projection fog lights mounted in the outer fascia openings and black filler throughout that contrasts against the bright metallic gold paint to complete the aggressive, sporty look. This front end isnt aggressive enough to catch the eye of someone who is unfamiliar with the Focus ST yet when sitting next to a non-ST Focus, the ST has a distinct face that allows this package to stand out in the sport compact segment.

Along the sides, the only unique body part of the Ford Focus ST that differs from the rest of the Focus lineup is the body colored side skirt that is slightly larger than the other models, giving the ST a lowered look while the sport tuned suspension gets the whole car sitting a little closer to the ground. When combined with the unique 18 inch wheels of the ST package, this Focus has a lower, sportier stance that makes it look much more like a sport compact than just your average economy 5-door. Body colored mirrors and door handles join with the blacked out trim to continue the sexy black and gold look that starts out front. Also, while the Rado Grey wheels cost a little more than the standard silver rollers, I really like the darker wheels and would absolutely pick them were I ordering a new Focus ST of my own.

focus st rear

Out back, the vast majority of the 2014 Ford Focus ST is shared with the rest of the Focus 5-door models, but the ST package adds a prominent spoiler that extends off of the high side of the hatchback glass and a rear bumper that is much more aggressive than the non-ST models. In addition to extending further towards the ground for a lower look around back, the ST rear fascia has a pair of black panels that tie in to the front design scheme along with an indentation in the middle for the uniquely shaped central exhaust tip. As for the low profile rear spoiler, it serves to give the Focus ST a far sportier look from the back and the sides, extending the roofline and breaking up the sort of bubbly, friendly rear haunches.

I am admittedly a fan of the modern Ford Focus 5-door design, the additions of the ST package really put this great looking hatchback over the top. This car looks aggressive enough to stand out as a performance model, but the additions aren’t enough to give the Focus ST that tacky “boy racer look” that you get with some of the other popular sport compacts from the last 15 years or so.

The Interior
While the outside of the 2014 Ford Focus ST takes a more subtle approach to sport styling, the interior screams “race car”. My test car was fitted with the two tone tangerine scream/black interior layout that emphasizes the high performance nature of the Recaro front seats while also giving a more performance oriented look to the rear bench as well. In addition to the Recaro seats with the ST logos embroidered on the seatbacks, the unique ST steering wheel, the silver/red shift knob, an extra trio of gauges mounted high on the dash and the two tone color scheme, the Focus ST interior isnt all that different from the Focus Titanium – but that is one of the aspects that makes this high performance package so great.

focus st dash

My Ford Focus ST was equipped with the MyFord Touch system and a Sony 10 speaker sound system that allows the driver easy access to every aspect of the interior through the 8 inch touch screen mounted high on the center stack. While this system has received some rough reviews from the technologically inept, I love the MyFord system. With the combination of voice commands and the collection of buttons on the steering wheel, this infotainment system allows the driver to quickly and easily adjust the sound system, the navigation system, the climate control system and the hands free phone system without taking your hands off of the road for very long. The Sony speaker system sounds awesome whether you are listening to hip hop or heavy metal and there is no question that the gloss black Sony sound system interface panel mounted just below the touch screen gives the interior of the Focus ST a very upscale look. I also love the addition of the extra gauges above the touch screen, with a boost gauge flanked by engine temperature and oil pressure gauges that don’t really make the car any more fun to drive, but I think that every high performance car with a turbocharger should have a boost gauge to show just how quickly your EcoBoost engine is making the boost needed for big power.

focus st front seats

Before getting my time with the Ford Focus ST, I heard from a handful of other folks who have driven this car and came away with bad things to say about the Recaro front seats. They complained that the seats were too narrow for bigger drivers and as a bigger driver, I am inclined to agree. I LOVE race seats in performance models because I prefer to have a seat that keeps me securely in place under hard cornering but the deep thigh bolsters of the ST Recaro seats forced my legs together more than I liked. This forced me to alter how I sat to best access the clutch and throttle while driving the car hard and while I didn’t like that at first, I quickly got used to the issue. I could see how bigger drivers might not love these seats with their deep bolsters and narrowish seating surfaces, but I would still take these seats over a standard seat any day. Aside from the tight bolsters, both the driver and front passenger should enjoy plenty of leg, knee, elbow and shoulder space while the taller drivers might find the head space to be a touch tight with the Recaro seats. The rear bench seats do not have the deep bolsters but they do offer an impressive amount of leg space for rear riders with the front seats adjusted to comfortably seat a 6 foot tall driver and passenger. The rear seat does have enough of a lift to the center section that it can be a little uncomfortable for an adult, but this space will comfortably seat a child between two adults who are just as comfortable as the folks up front. Finally, the Focus ST has the same spacious rear cargo area as the rest of the 5-door Focus lineup so whether you are hauling hockey bags or groceries – the area under the hatch offers as much space as any car in the segment.

focus st rar seats

The 2014 Ford Focus ST is minimally modified on the inside relative to the rest of the Focus lineup, but when you consider just how nice the interior is in the current Ford Focus – the ST package really doesn’t need any major upgrades to impress. While the Recaro buckets might be a little tight for some, they are a beautiful example of race seats adapted for daily driving use and they look awesome while the roomy cabin of the Focus 5-door offers plenty of space for front and rear riders…all with cutting edge navigation and entertainment technology that you can expect with the MyFord Touch infotainment setup.

The Drive
The Ford Focus ST is a great car in the same ways that the rest of the Focus lineup models are great – ways that have made the modern Focus one of the bestselling nameplates in the entire world. However, it is the unique aspects of the Focus ST drivetrain and functional bits that make this car so much fun to drive in every situation. First off, the Focus ST is powered by the turbocharged 2.0L EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine mated exclusively to a proper 6-speed manual transmission. This sends 252 horsepower and 270lb-ft of torque to the front wheels for some serious acceleration while still offering impressive fuel economy figures. The EPA rated the Focus ST as getting 23 miles per gallon around town, 32mpg on the highway and a combined figure of 26mpg. In my experiences, I found the 32mpg highway figure to be realistic, but I was not able to hit that combined number. Over the course of my test time in the Focus ST, I only averaged around 24 miles per gallon, but I will admit very readily that I was driving the car hard all of the time. This car is a total blast to drive and the boost is addictive so driving it in a manner that will yield strong fuel economy is a real task for anyone who loves going fast as much as I do. It is probably able to average 26mpg, but not when you drive it hard as much as I did. Honestly, if you are that worried about fuel economy, you probably shouldn’t be buying a high performance model…although those ST owners who can display more self control than I could will likely be able to get the strong fuel economy that is predicted by the feds.

focus st front angle

The Ford Focus ST is designed to go fast and it does so as well as any sport compact built by an American automaker. With the help of an advanced traction control system and torque vectoring steering, the Focus ST allows you to use all of that power whether you are launching from a stop or powering through a turn. As is the case with all high performance front wheel drive cars, there is some “torque steer” on a hard launch from a stop but the high tech helpers make it less significant than it is with some other models such as the Dodge Neon SRT4. The traction control system makes getting away from the line a bit easier for the novice drag racer while turning the helpers off after you have gotten a good feel for the clutch and how hard you can launch will yield much better short times when racing. When you launch hard, the Focus ST pulls hard through every gear and even without power shifting, rarely do you feel any dip in the acceleration forces until you are well past the 100mph mark. Where some sport compacts offer lots of mid range power or lots of low end torque, the Focus ST offers instant power on demand whether you are going from a stop, a slow roll or jumping into the throttle when you are cruising at 70 on the highway. This is an American sport compact that will take down all but the quickest of the modern American muscle cars along with just about any sport compact that you will come across on a daily basis. This is an awesome car to drag race as it has tons of low end power and a chassis/suspension setup that allows you to actually use that power while the wonders of the EcoBoost engine afford this car big time power on the top end as well – allowing you to hang with the big boys on long, high speed highway runs. The clutch is surprisingly light and easy to learn, allowing you to quickly get a feel for every day driving while also allowing for a very simple learning curve for those drivers who want to get into high performance driving. Really, the only aspect of the entire drivetrain that I can complain about is the exhaust system, which is far too quiet for my tastes. While I love the roar of the EcoBoost engine under hard throttle, the exhaust is so quiet that when driving fast with the windows open, the wind noise is so much louder than the exhaust that it can be hard to rev match during hard shifting. With some practice, I got a feel for the transmission and clutch that allowed me to get the most out of the Focus ST but models like the Ford Mustang – with a louder exhaust system – makes it much easier to downshift on a road course in a way that minimizes power loss.

focus st side

The 2014 Ford Focus ST has the power and gadgets to make it a beast in a straight line, but many American sport compacts have been criticized for being too much of straight line monsters while struggling through the twisties. Models like the Dodge Neon SRT4 and Chevy Cobalt SS offered big power and big acceleration, but they fell short when compared to the European sport compacts that could handle the turns as well as they handled the drag strip. Fortunately, the Focus ST was designed in the shadow of the European Focus RS and that translates to a car that will handle with the best that Europe or Japan have to offer. The combination of the variable power steering system, the torque vectoring system, the sport tuned suspension and the wide high performance tires all around afford this car crazy impressive handling attributes. Ford wanted the Focus ST to handle like it was on a rail and even on incredibly sharp turns like a highway on ramp, you can accelerate hard while turning and you can do so with plenty of confidence. Even when cranking up to speeds well beyond the highway speed limit on a fairly tight on ramp, the Focus ST resists the urge to understeer like other front drive sport compacts. In some cases, I found that the front wheels will begin to spin under hard cornering before the cars with understeer and push the nose to the outside of the turn. This incredible road hugging ability allows you to get through turns more quickly and accelerate sooner when coming out of hard turns – with results that are impressive enough to allow you to close the gap on cars that have more power that cannot handle the turns as well as the Focus ST.

focus st rear angle

In addition to being able to get through longer, sweeping turns with more speed and earlier throttle input than many of the closest competitors, the Focus ST also offers impressive handling when slicing through short, quick corners. Through the types of quick turns that you come across on most road courses and some of the more demanding public roads, the Focus ST is sharp and nimble enough to zip through the twisties more effortlessly than many rear wheel drive performance cars. I believe that the vast majority of drivers who would buy the Focus ST will run out of driving ability before they find the true limits of this awesome little hatchback so while drivers with lots of experience in far more expensive sports cars will be able to push the ST to its limits, most drivers will find that this car handles well enough to meet all of their needs and wants.

If I had to find something about my drive time in the 2014 Ford Focus ST to complain about, it would be the ride quality. The sport tuned suspension is (predictably) very stiff and while that allows the Focus ST to be one of the best handling sport compacts sold in America, that stiff suspension transfers more of the road surface roughness into the cabin than you would experience with non-ST Foci. This is the kind of car that your grandma might complain is too bumpy when driving on the highway, but anyone who can really appreciate the handling attributes will surely find the sacrifice in ride quality to be more than worth the advantages in grip at all speeds.

The 201 Ford Focus ST offers incredible acceleration from a stop and at speeds while also offering handling like few American sport compacts ever…but it does this all in a way that preserves the ability to serve as a comfortable daily driver. The ride might be a little rougher than the Focus Titanium, but when you aren’t driving the Focus ST hard the car is beautifully simple to drive. The engine is quiet, the transmission is user friendly and the cabin is surprisingly quiet under normal driving circumstances so while this car might feel like a sports car when pushed hard – it is just as pleasant to drive as the rest of the Focus lineup when you are driving like everyone else on the road. If you love to drive, you will love the Focus ST but unlike other cars that sacrifice the comforts of daily driving, this high performance Focus has everything that makes the rest of the Focus lineup so popular with those folks who arent interested in going fast.

The Ford Focus is one of the bestselling cars in the world and the Focus ST takes the features that makes the nameplate so hot on a global level while adding power that allows it to keep up with the vast majority of cars sold in the US today.

The Final Word
If you are looking for a sport compact that will perform well in any high performance driving situation while still offering all of the comforts of a good daily driver and solid fuel economy – all for well under $30,000 – the 2014 Ford Focus ST is unquestionably the car for you. Where some high performance sport compacts can get to be a headache to drive each morning and evening through rush hour traffic, the Focus ST is no more work than any of the non-ST Focus packages with a manual transmission. Although the highway ride lets you feel the bumps more than other models, the ride quality is good enough that you can drive your kids to hockey practice without the ride beating them up on the way there.

focus st high

The Focus ST is a car that you can take to the drag strip, road course or autocross course on the weekend with the realistic expectations of being very competitive with other cars in the class, but it is civilized enough that you can spend all week driving it to and from work without spending a fortune on gas and without suffering the first world problem of driving a stripped out performance model. All of the features that make the whole Ford Focus lineup one of the world’s bestselling cars combined with big power and a track tuned suspension system make the Focus ST my candidate for the best American sport compact of all time – one that can compete with European and Japanese competitors in every way.


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Comments

Great review. Thanks for taking the time to write this "short book" on the Focus ST.. How did you find the overall interior comfort,(other than the seats,) engine noise level and road vibration transference Via the stiff suspension and speed rated tires, was it tiring? Good looking car.
I couldn't agree more with your review. I had no idea about this car and actually went in to a Ford dealership to buy a Fusion. When I mentioned sporty ride, power and economy. The salesman suggested I test drive the focus st, I laughed thinking this guy is trying to make a sale. I eventually took it for a drive and was instantly hooked. I couldn't believe the handling and torquey power down low, it reminded me of European sport sedans and although it's a Front driver, it sure reminds me of a good rear drive car. Sure, there are better cars out there, but for me, this was what I was looking for at a price that can't be beat!
New pocket rocket from Ford.....
Man! WHAT a machine! I wasn't REALLY expecting the rocket on wheels I was getting when I ordederd this Baby! I had put 54,000 business on a traditional Focus-and it was a super car! But I just wanted more-and I got it- 3-fold! I live in the Bluegass area of Kentucky! KNOWN for its twisty- mind blowing corners from 60 down to 15- then exiting out to 70 in a "flat" before downshifting back to a 15 shute. FUN! You drive this car- it will go where you put it- you aren't along for the ride- you CONTROL it! AWESOME! In all aspects so far! GRIP like I've never experienced before-and I've had Camaros- Honda Si's, and well- muscle machines that just never handled well. I don't even screw with interstates anymore- I LOOK for the competition of the twisty maze unique to this region. It's America's best kept secter----and I'm 61 :) Later all----
Great review! I have greatly enjoyed my Oxford White ST3 the last 2 months. In stock from it performs great. But i have now flashed a stage 1 tune from cobb along with just an intake and all i can say is it truly wakes up the car! great ride and i can actually fit my family! a huge upgrade from the Scion FR-S i had before.