Choosing a Hot Hatch - 2013 Ford Focus ST Long-Term Road Test

2013 Ford Focus ST Long Term Road Test

2013 Ford Focus ST: Choosing a Hot Hatch

January 17, 2013

2013 Ford Focus ST

If you're shopping for a performance hatchback and stuck with a major case of indecision, I can empathize. I'd have a hard time choosing, too.

In my mind, the top picks here are the Ford Focus ST, the Mazdaspeed 3, the Subaru WRX and the Volkswagen GTI. (Here are the four cars set up on the Edmunds comparison tool.) I like each of these cars for different reasons. The GTI is the most refined and comfortable. The Mazdaspeed is the most muscular. The WRX is also strong and adds all-wheel-drive traction. Yet the cool thing about the Focus ST is that it largely combines the refinement of the GTI with the performance of the Mazdaspeed and Subaru.

In terms of price, the Ford Focus ST, Mazdaspeed 3, Subaru WRX and Volkswagen GTI all start in the $24,000 to $26,000 range (with destination). That would seem to be another point in favor of the Focus. But since it's new, dealers likely aren't going to be willing to negotiate down from MSRP as they would with the other cars (we in fact encountered dealer markups on the Focus when we bought ours.)

So you might end up paying more for the Focus. But from a long-term ownership standpoint, I'd say any relative extra you pay would be worth it given how good it is.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 5,785 miles


  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    I know the GTI is falling behind on performance, but I just love it. I'm a Mazda fanboy, but the MS3 just didn't do it for me like the GTI did. The GTI fits me like a glove and was still pretty fun to drive. I'd say you're right that the ST comes the closest to matching the GTI's refinement to the MS3's and WRX's performance. I'd love to have one, but my Miata is serving me just fine for now and it is correct wheel drive.

  • if the subaru had a more quality interior, Id choose that all day.

  • bassracerx bassracerx Posts:

    i just never really got a good connection with the new focus. ive driven a few and i can't see why the auto journalists are going nuts about it. the GTI is a bad choice buying one now is just asking for a bad taste in your mouth when in a few months the next-gen gti will come out. both the mazdaspeed 3 and the WRX are on old but great platforms and if you are willing to trade some muscle for mpg are the ones i would pick. i would def chose the wrx because theres nothing like that boxer growl to put a smile on your face and as much as it rains where i live awd would def be apretiated!

  • nedmundo nedmundo Posts:

    I've driven all but the GTI, which, due to my previous VW experience, I would avoid. I'm sure it's excellent though. Of the others, I'd get the Focus ST. I'm not crazy about the dash and MFT, but it is an excellent blend of performance, refinement, and utility. For me, its refinement makes it a better daily driver than the MS3, and its steering, audio, and interior are, IMO, much better than the WRX. I think it handles better too. I would be concerned about the reliability of a first year model from Ford, but if my TSX got totaled tomorrow, I'd probably buy an ST.

  • fizzump04 fizzump04 Posts:

    I think the ST is the best looking of the bunch too- agressive but not fidgety. The GTI's styling is the most conservative, but it comes with an available dual-clutch gearbox. My ideal car: the ST's performance and exterior, with the GTI's gearbox and interior. -Fizz

  • ikana ikana Posts:

    I have a 2012 WRX. I wanted all-weather performance and it has not let me down there. It is amazing in the snow with a good set of winter tires. I can live with the compromises that it makes to get the performance that it does. I'm expecting that next year's model is going to be about the same performance-wise but with more frills. If that's the case, I'll pass. I drove a Mazdaspeed 3 before settling on the WRX. I think Mazda does driving dynamics well generally speaking and the Mazdaspeed 3 definitely won in steering feel, but it felt cramped by comparison. It also didn't feel anywhere near as fast, despite having a more powerful engine. I also didn't care for the styling, exterior and interior. The Focus ST looks interesting, but I don't think I can get over the FWD. It also seems to lack character (at least from my observer's perspective) and is easily mistaken for a regular focus. I like cars that have character. If I didn't need all-weather performance I think I'd go for a BRZ.

  • hybris hybris Posts:

    I'm pulled between the well-roundedness of the Focus and the AWD of the Subaru. I really wish that more car makers would have the option of have a AWD model especially in this class.

  • yaymx5_ yaymx5_ Posts:

    Gotta factor in depreciation too. I think the GTI probably has the most gentile depreciaton...

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    My heart says Focus ST, my brain says that the VW GTI might actually be a better bet. I'm pretty leery of the ST because some of the initial reactions from Focus fan forums hasn't been glowing regarding the build quality and longevity (not to mention that depreciation on the baser Focii are horrendous at the moment). What I would really like a Toyobaru hatch.

  • snaab92 snaab92 Posts:

    The WRX is quicker than the MS3 folks! Stop being lazy and do a 4 way comparison! You guys are overdue for one. Add in the Ralliart for grins.

  • zoomzoom22 zoomzoom22 Posts:

    I'd take the WRX. I like the ST but it just seems a little sterile for my tastes. The GTI is for sissies and I just can't get past the front end of the MS3 (although it's steering is nearly perfect and it's turbo thrust is addictive). I guess I've always had a thing for WRX's, and a good driver can get one to sixty in a hair under five seconds. That's much quicker than any of the other three cars here.

  • steve_97 steve_97 Posts:

    GTI all the way

  • huisj huisj Posts:

    Anybody here? Does the comment thing work yet? Where is everyone?

  • hybris hybris Posts:

    @huisj Be happy that a few people have stuck around other wise what you see is what you get.

  • cotak cotak Posts:

    WRX is fast in a straight line but Subaru really lets people down in other departments. Here in Canada they cost way too much and leave out the bits you'd like. I just had a quick browse on their website and you can't get HID lights until you are in an STI and even than it's only low beam. Wait a second, low beams? What do we need HID in a low beam for? Oh wait yes, so it "looks" good. You'd think that since you get more light from the HID you might want to use that when you need it. Oh and it's manual leveling too because clearly it has to look like cheap aftermarket shove a bulb in HID. Otherwise it's just not poser enough. And there's also no navigation option for the WRX either (STI only). No 6 speed either. On the serious side of this comment you know why that is. They have to leave some stuff STI only otherwise they wouldn't sell. Handling wise the WRX is ok but again you don't have the LSDs (STI again), and the test numbers looks worse than some of the cars in this "comparison".

  • andyment andyment Posts:

    Perhaps Canada is different, but here in the States, my WRX limited came with HIDs and had the option for Navigation as well. I say of the 4, WRX all the way. Not only is there great aftermarket support, but there's nothing like hearing that Boxer engine when you're laying into the gas.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    @andyment: I was with you until you mentioned "hearing that boxer engine". The WRX has a unique exhaust note because of the exhaust layout, but like most turbocharged cars I'd hardly call it soul stirring. The WRX unfortunately is a bit agricult

  • ikana ikana Posts:

    It isn't "soul stirring" like a BMW M3, but I can't think of a car that costs less and offers a better engine note from my experiences, can you think of one? I think that the interior is more than sufficient, it lacks the questionable taste of the Mazdaspeed 3. (inside and out) It also lacks the apparently frustration-prone my ford touch system that the ST has. It is basic, certainly. My biggest concern is the disappointing sound system. What the WRX offers is best in class performance and all-weather practicality. That's why I chose it. I expect that next year's model will introduce an upgraded interior and better fuel economy, because those are supposedly the areas where the WRX lags behind. I'd drive a car that's raw and exciting, rather than "nice".

  • nismo2z nismo2z Posts:

    I'd get a Veloster Turbo. But that's mostly because I already have a normal Veloster... If I was going pure-sporty, I'd be Looking at a V6 Mustang or maybe even an Optima SX (My wife Loves the Optima, easy sell there).

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