2016 Ford Focus ST Review
Pros & Cons
- Powerful turbocharged engine paired with a precise six-speed manual gearbox makes for an engaging driving experience
- sharp handling around turns
- civilized ride quality for a performance car
- interior looks stylish.
- Automatic transmission isn't available
- some drivers may find the optional Recaro seats overly confining.
Edmunds' Expert Review
Small cars don't have to be boring. You'll get a kick out of the 2016 Ford Focus ST. It's fast, polished and ready for both daily driving duty and weekend fun. Read more to learn what else we like about this year's Focus ST.
Maybe you hunger for precise steering and sharp, balanced handling. Or maybe you're just genetically programmed to crave the thrill of dumping the clutch and mashing the gas pedal. Regardless of the explanation, the high-performance 2016 Ford Focus ST is here to meet your desires.
The 2016 Ford Focus ST's attention-grabbing "Tangerine Scream" is the only color that costs extra.
This sporty compact four-door hatchback gets significant powertrain and suspension upgrades compared to mainstream Focus models. Topping that list is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that pumps out a healthy 252 horsepower. The only transmission is a short-throw six-speed manual, further emphasizing the Focus ST's high-performance purpose. Handling, meanwhile, is honed by sport-tuned underpinnings that can even facilitate a touch of oversteer for accomplished drivers at a track day.
Though the above formula isn't new, what makes the Focus ST stand out from the pack is its overall civility. The optional Sync 3 touchscreen infotainment system (replacing MyFord Touch this year) is on the cutting edge of cabin technology, while the ST's premium materials and livable ride quality make it a sport compact you can comfortably drive every day. Of course, you have to be willing to drive a stick shift every day, as there's no automatic offered. We should also point out that the rear seat is short on legroom when measured against competitive compacts.
Though the MyFord Touch interface is pictured, the Focus ST now comes with Ford's latest Sync 3 system.
Nitpicking aside, the 2016 Ford Focus ST is a very appealing choice in the so-called "hot-hatch" category. Of course, you'll likely want to check out the competition, too. The Volkswagen Golf GTI is another excellent choice, providing comparable refinement, a larger backseat and sharp handling that was missing from the previous-generation GTI. The Mini Cooper (S or JCW) offers punchy performance and high customization possibilities, while the Subaru WRX sedan offers the benefit of all-wheel drive in adverse weather. At the end of the day, it's hard to think of a small car with a better balance of adrenaline and adaptability than the Edmunds "A" rated Focus ST.
2016 Ford Focus ST models
The 2016 Ford Focus ST is a performance-oriented version of the Focus four-door hatchback. There is no sedan version. The higher-performance Focus RS is reviewed separately.
The 2016 Ford Focus ST is available solely in the hatchback body style with a manual transmission.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels with summer tires, performance brakes, an electronic limited-slip differential, LED daytime running lights, foglights, a sport body kit, keyless entry and ignition, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, front sport seats (with driver height adjustment), a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, MyKey parental controls, a rearview camera, a 4.2-inch central display, Sync voice controls and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and a USB port.
The ST2 package adds xenon headlights, cornering lights, dual-zone automatic climate control, Recaro front sport seats, cloth and leather upholstery, the Sync 3 electronics interface with an 8-inch touchscreen and a 10-speaker Sony sound system with HD radio, satellite radio and dual USB ports.
The ST3 package adds heated mirrors, a keyless entry keypad, full leather upholstery, heated front Recaro seats (with eight-way driver power adjustments), additional head-restraint adjustments, a heated steering wheel, a rear center armrest, multicolor ambient interior lighting, carbon-fiber interior accents and a navigation system.
Stand-alone options include a sunroof, dark gray 18-inch alloy wheels with red-painted brake calipers, all-season tires, the navigation system (requires ST2 package) and a set of black or red racing stripes (with matching mirror caps) that run from the front of the car to the rear bumper.
Performance & mpg
Under the hood, the front-wheel-drive 2016 Ford Focus ST gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that delivers 252 hp and 270 pound-feet of torque. It's mated to a six-speed manual transmission that includes hill-start assist.
In Edmunds testing, the Ford Focus ST accelerated from zero to 60 in 6.4 seconds, which is a bit sluggish for this type of performance car. That's partly explained, however, by the fact that you have to shift into 3rd gear to hit 60, which puts a little extra time on the clock; most rivals with manual transmissions can get there in 2nd gear.
The EPA estimates that the Focus ST will achieve 25 mpg combined (23 city/31 highway), a respectable showing for a hot hatch.
The 2016 Ford Focus ST comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, a driver knee airbag, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. The Sync system includes an emergency crash-notification feature that automatically dials 911 when paired with a compatible cell phone. Also standard are blind-spot mirrors, a rearview camera and Ford's MyKey system, which can be used to set electronic parameters for inexperienced drivers.
In Edmunds testing, a Focus ST needed 109 feet to stop from 60 mph, a good result for an affordable performance car with summer tires.
If you go strictly by the numbers, the 2016 Ford Focus ST might seem a little underwhelming. Take it for a spin, however, and it'll show you its true colors. Real-world acceleration is strong, even at higher speeds, and the precise action of the six-speed manual is bound to put a smile on your face. The outstanding steering calibration and confidence-inspiring brakes only add to the fun.
Perhaps just as importantly, the ST's suspension delivers a ride quality that, while firmer than that of the base Focus, is easy to live with in day-to-day commuting and errand-running. The interior also stays impressively quiet, making for unexpectedly relaxing highway hauls.
The 2016 Ford Focus ST features one of the nicer cabins in the segment. The design is attractive, the layout driver-oriented and the materials quality above average. The standard front sport seats serve up solid comfort and support, while the optional Recaro seats feature more substantial side bolsters that offer extra lateral restraint in hard cornering. A word of advice, however: Be sure to spend some time sitting in the Recaros if you're considering them, as some drivers may find them too confining on long drives or while zipping around town.
Optional Recaro seats are wonderfully supportive, but also very snug. Try before you buy.
New this year is Ford's Sync 3 system, a replacement for the automaker's much-maligned MyFord Touch setup. Instead of the standard 4.2-inch display, Sync 3 features an 8-inch touchscreen designed to incorporate gestures like "swiping" between pages or "pinching" to zoom that will feel familiar to smartphone or tablet users. The menu structure is greatly simplified, ditching MyFord Touch's quadrant-based layout in favor of a more familiar layout with categories arrayed in a strip at the bottom of the screen.
In back, rear seat passengers will find an acceptable amount of headroom, but less legroom than in competitors like the GTI and WRX. There's cargo space aplenty, however, with 23.8 cubic feet of room behind the 60/40-split rear seats and a handy 44.8 cubic feet with them folded down.