The 2014 Ford Focus ST is a turbo hatchback with bold looks and a lot of power to back up that image. It’s big enough to carry things yet nimble and sporty to make for the perfectly practical fun daily driver. Let’s look at it in more detail in this, the RallyWays 2014 Ford Focus ST review.
Here we have the Ford Focus ST. This is Ford’s reintroduction of the hot hatch to the US Market. It is also the older brother of the Fiesta ST reviewed a few weeks ago.
The Focus ST, FoST for short, is a very exciting turbo hatchback option that has seen very good sales. I know this because at every car show or meet I’ve gone to in the last few months there are at least a couple of these present. For this write-up we partnered with Crowley Car Company and North County Ford in Vista, CA for the test car. I was happy to get a hold of this particular car as it was a trade-in and had only 9,500 miles. This means it still feels like a new car, but I could drive it like a car that has been broken in. Win, win.
The guys from North County Ford brought the car to the Targa Trophy road rally which started at HRE Performance Wheels. They handed me the keys before doing the rally in a Mustang Boss 302. I took the FoST on a considerably longer and more exciting route than the FiST the previous week. Good fun because the mix of curvy roads went from long sweeping turns to really tight stuff. Then, the freeway drive was long enough to really get a good feel for the FoST as a commuter car. I also had a couple of food and coffee stops during the course of the drive that allowed me to stop, go away from the car for a bit and “reset” my thoughts before driving it again. This allowed me to get more familiar with the car than a typical one-time test drive would allow – not to mention, this is much longer a drive.
Ford Focus ST Specs of course
- Curb Weight: 3223 lbs (roughly 500 lbs more than the Fiesta ST)
- Engine: 2.0L GTDI EcoBoost I-4 engine
- Horsepower: 252 HP @ 5500 RPM (A good 50 more or so than the FiST – Not Evo power, but trekking into Golf R territory here)
- Torque: 270 LB/FT @ 2500 RPM (Torquey car this. 70 more torques than the FiST)
- Transmission: 6-Speed manual of course
- Length: 171 inches (About 5 inches shorter than an Evo X and 5 inches longer than the Golf R)
- Width: 71.8 inches
- Height: 57.7 inches (That’s not even half an inch taller than the FiST)
This particular Ford Focus ST is painted in Tangerine Scream – A shocking yellow that has quickly become the seminal Focus ST color. Ever since I saw the car for the first time at San Diego Auto Show 2012, the bright yellow paint got ingrained in my consciousness. Any time someone says, “Ford Focus ST” that bright yellow image of a turbo hatchback spinning on the Ford display stand comes to mind.
The Focus ST is a heavily stylized car with plenty of cues to identify its young boy racer looks. Things like the front air dam, side skirts and rear diffuser surrounding an odd, but interestingly-shaped exhaust. It has a neat wing over the rear window. The taillights are very big, quite stylized and the sides of them go way up the rear quarter panels. The wheels are pretty fantastic looking and the front grille is very menacing. It’s a car that doesn’t look very friendly – in a good way.
2014 Ford Focus ST interior
The interior is just as dramatic, if not more. This FoST has the ST2 partial leather Recaro package in a matching Tangerine Scream yellow. There is also a Charcoal Black with Performance Blue option, but it is not offered with the yellow car. One more partial leather option is the Smoke Storm option which is basically all black and greys. For the more posh and serious look you can opt for the ST3 Recaro package which offers full leather.
Unlike the new Mustang, there’s not a whiff of retro in the Focus ST. Everything about it is modern and even futuristic. The steering wheel is quite interesting. Most car companies are still sticking to their guns and offering mainly 3 spoke steering wheels in their performance cars. Here goes Ford and puts in a 4 spoke. However, it is a really nice wheel. The size is perfect for the car and it is very comfortable to hold and use. Plus, it’s quite attractive. That’s a good thing because you spend so much time in front of it. Too many cars have awful-looking steering wheels when really, it’s not too hard to design a good-looking one.
The entire layout of the inside of the car is well-designed, albeit a bit busy. However, busy and futuristic seem to go hand in hand. Maybe it was my time in the Fiesta ST, but the interior of the FoST felt familiar and comfortable. I think the layout and interior quality is better in the FoST as well. The bigger screen for the head unit is also a welcome sight. There are also quite a bit of gadgets and fun things to entertain you inside the car. That could be good or bad depending on your point of view. I like simple cars and usually gravitate towards them. But admittedly, when I hop into a car with a lot of toys I am immediately distracted and want to play with them all. Case in point, the Focus ST has a rather cool gauge pod over the dash in the center. It’s a very angular design that holds 3 gauges: Engine oil temperature, boost pressure and oil pressure. All 3 useful under extreme circumstances like a track, but the middle one being the most fun during your spirited driving sessions.
There are a number of things that really stood out to me about the Ford Focus ST’s appearance. First, the wheels. These are really good looking and nicely stylized wheels. Well done Ford. Secondly, the entire car looks like one well thought-through single unit. While the FoST is a souped up Focus, I have a hard time believing that Ford didn’t already have it in mind when they designed the base Focus. It all seems perfectly cohesive. Finally, it’s a well rounded car. The FoST feels like a good balance of size, comfort, practicality and power. It’s not leaning in any of those directions very steeply, but rather nicely balanced in the middle.
Oh, and the gas tank cover it pretty nifty. The cover is designed to blend in with the body work. Pressing a little dimple on the cover, pops it open for fueling. Press it back in and it clicks in place. I don’t know why exactly, but pressing it open and pressing it closed gives you a very satisfying feeling that makes you want to do it over and over again.
The ergonomics on the Ford Focus ST are almost spot on. We already know the Recaro seats are amazing. The seating position is highly customizable and it was really easy to get into a comfortable sport driving position. However, I did find I could get the steering wheel a bit closer to me in the Fiesta ST than in the Focus ST. In other words, I preferred the “racing” position in the FiST over that of the FoST. On the other hand, the position of the gear shifter is a little better in the FoST. The shift lever sits higher and it doesn’t feel like a reach.
I also liked the simple things like the window buttons. One touch rolls them down automatically and one pull rolls them both up automatically – driver and passenger windows. I know this sounds like a commodity, but you’d be surprised. I’ve driven, and even own, a number of newer cars that still require you to hold the window buttons down or up the whole time. It should be noted that I have never heard of anybody accidentally chopping their arms off with the automatically rolling windows. Why not make them standard on all cars from now on?
Focus ST driving impressions
The Focus ST is noticeable powerful. It is not a fire-breathing race car, but it’s quite powerful compared to other cars in this price range. The power at 252 HP is higher than a Volkswagen Golf GTI at 200 HP, yet the Ford Focus ST is slightly less expensive when fully loaded. I can’t really think of another FWD car, that at the same price range offers this amount of power. The closest cars in power and price would be the 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart at 237HP and the 2014 Subaru WRX at 265 HP, but those are both AWD. So, needless to say, the FoST has a very good amount of power for the price. You could argue that the V6 Mustang is a good option for power and price… but the Mustang feels like it doesn’t belong in this category of car.
The engine sound is very sporty and loud. That’s a good thing unless you like quiet engines. It might be loud under power but it’s very smooth and pleasant sounding. Plus, at cruising speeds it quiets down a lot. Put your foot down though and the FoST tells you exactly what it wants to do.
The steering is very quick and lively. The steering rack is a bit numb as most electric steering cars are, but it feels precise and enjoyable. One thing I noticed though, the steering might be quick, but the full lock angles are not that high. For this reason, the turning circle is rather ginormous. Yes, you can make U-turns in town, but barely actually. It’s not a truck though, so don’t worry. You’ll be fine.
The drive is fun and rewarding. You can feel the higher weight of the car when you want to drive it like a Fiesta ST, after all the Focus ST is 500 pounds heavier than the Fiesta ST. While this is a bit of hindrance in canyon runs, for commuting in a fun fashion, the FoST is clearly the winner. Freeway driving is much better. The car commands a spot on the road that the smaller cars can’t pull off. Additionally, part of that weight comes from more insulation. This means the car is much more quiet inside than bare hot hatches like the Fiesta ST. For example, wind noise at freeway speed in the Fiesta ST was VERY noticeable. Wind noise in the Focus ST at freeway speeds is perfectly acceptable.
The suspension in the Ford Focus ST is definitely sporty, yet comfortable. It’s definitely tuned for more comfort than the suspension in the FiST. This makes the FoST a better DD and most certainly the better car to drive to Vegas. But this is all a bit of a waste anyway. I already know you’re going to lower the car and replace the stock springs with a set of much higher spring rates or even a full set of coilovers. You will then look really, really cool, take corners at higher speeds and much more flat, yet you will be doing that same drive to Vegas hopping up and down like a rabbit on wheels. But we all know it’s for the best, right?
Manual transmission hill assist
This is the first manual transmission car I have driven that includes hill assist. Hill assist prevents the car from rolling backwards when taking off from a full stop on an incline. In most manual transmission cars, your footwork has to be fast and precise when taking off from a stop on an incline to prevent your car from rolling into the car behind you, or into the ocean if you happen to be on a boat ramp. This fancy footwork usually involves a bit of clutch riding to keep the vehicle from rolling backwards before you actually go anywhere. It’s typical, but your clutch doesn’t like this because it wears out faster. This is the reason that manual transmission drivers in San Francisco are 3 times more likely to have to replace their clutches before the age of 20. I made up those statistics, but I bet I’m not far off either.
With hill assist, the car somehow telepathically knows you’re on a hill with grandma driving in the car behind you tailgating you all the way. If you roll back 2 inches you’ll scratch the screaming yellow paint and piss off grandma. But, no, Mr. FoST won’t let you down. You lift your right foot off the brake and as you swiftly swing it over to the gas you realize, “wait a second! I’m not rolling backwards at all.” Yup! Mr. FoST applies the brakes for you while you take your jolly good time setting off from a stand still. Clever car this.
Unfortunately, there is a problem with hill assist. Hill assist will save your clutch and your screaming yellow paint, but it will also make you lazy and stupid. Chances are that after driving your Focus ST for a whole year you will one day attempt to drive a 1995 Toyota Pickup Truck for a surf trip in Mexico. You immediately forget you don’t have hill assist and you ram the rear bumper into a Mexican taco truck.
More driving dynamics
Dynamic is a good word because dynamic is what this car is. You don’t have to settle for a boring appliance simply because you need the practicality of a hatchback. The Focus ST is a pleasure to drive everywhere. It’s also easy to live with. It’s cool and aggressive, but doesn’t look out of place in a grocery store parking lot. It’s big enough to haul things in it, but it’s not a minivan. It’s still technically a small car and drives like such. There is a good reason the Focus ST sells well – It can provide the fun, without taking away the fact that you NEED a car to DO things, not just to drive around aimlessly and really fast. The FoST makes as good a commuter as it does a canyon carver.
A few downsides
The few downsides I found on the Ford Focus ST were mostly a matter of personal preference and a trade off to more weight and more power. On a personal preference level, I didn’t like the feel of the clutch too much. I prefer a more linear clutch that moves at the same rate throughout its throw. This is the way the Fiesta ST clutch felt to me. The clutch pedal in the Focus ST however, felt more like it had short throws and it didn’t engage in a linear fashion. In other words, the grab of the clutch happened quite fast and during the final bit of travel in the clutch pedal. This made the clutch feel a bit like an ON/OFF switch. Some people prefer this. It’s a good thing during high speed pulls and really quick-shifting. But for normal driving, I feel have a harder time performing smoother and less jerky shifts.
The second thing was the torque steer. Torque steer is more noticeable here than it is in the Fiesta ST. I did hear that Ford improved upon their electronic front differential for the new 2014 Fiesta ST over the previous design of the Focus ST. But while this may be true, I feel it has a lot to do with the extra power, extra torque and extra weight the system has to deal with. The 2014 FoST is a considerably more powerful car than the FiST and it carries more weight. It’s a lot more work for the e-Diff to have to deal with. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad torque steer and the system does a good job of ironing it out and straightening the car. But what I’m saying is you tend to feel more of what the system is doing to correct the torque steer. Once you’re used to the little robot in the front end pulling the steering wheel straight, you’re good and clear.
Final thoughts on the Ford Focus ST
Ford has a winner here with the 2014 Focus ST. It’s easy to see why it still outsells the Fiesta ST even though the Fiesta ST is newer, has a few other updates and has gotten way more hype. The FoST is a great-looking turbo hatchback. More importantly, it possesses it’s own unique flair and quirky looks. It’s not simple and elegant like the Golf GTI, nor is it eccentric and traditional like the Subaru WRX. The Ford Focus ST is muscular and modern. Its uniqueness is the result of blending an intelligently engineered exterior, highly stylized and unapologetic interior with the power and presence to back up that image.
If it’s a good-looking and well-design hot hatchback you after, you like loads of tech and equipment, and want a lot of car for your money, the Ford Focus ST definitely provides all that with added coolness and fun to last for years. Not to mention, you could probably smoke a few GTIs at a track day.
Big thanks to Crowley Car Company for lending me the car. This was on heck of a fun drive. Crowley posts a lot of their cars on Instagram here. Finally, don’t forget to subscribe to RallyWays for FREE for more content like this.