The whims of many performance compact car shoppers can change quickly, and that doesn't bode well for the 2017 Ford Focus ST. It's unchanged for this year, which means it's pretty much the same car that debuted for the 2013 model year. If it were a person, you'd likely say it has hit middle age, with some graying at the temples. But before you write off the ST in favor of something newer and more hypeworthy, consider that the Focus ST still represents "hot hatch" performance at its best.
This souped-up version of Ford's well-known compact starts with a practical four-door hatchback body style. From there, Ford adds a number of engine and suspension upgrades, starting with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that puts a robust 252 horsepower to the ground via a six-speed manual transmission. (An automatic isn't even offered.)
Complementing this combo is a sport-tuned suspension that makes short work of a winding stretch of road, without the harsh ride quality that often accompanies such setups. That the ST is docile enough to be a perfectly acceptable daily driver seems like more than you might reasonably hope for.
Inside, the Focus ST offers an attractive and comfortable cabin done up in high-quality materials and sporting the available Sync 3 system with its 8-inch touchscreen and easy-to-use nature. A potential weakness can be found in the interior — namely, a rear seat that's relatively short on legroom — but we're guessing that's not a primary concern for most people.
If you do need more rear seat space, you'll want to check out what Honda is promising this year in the form of all-new high-performance Si and Type R versions of the Civic. There's also the Volkswagen Golf GTI, which combines many of the same strengths as the Focus ST, or the Mini Cooper, which can't be beat for customization possibility. Ultimately, though, the 2017 Ford Focus ST's combination of practicality, comfort, fuel economy and stylish good looks makes it a great choice for a compact car that will get your adrenaline going ... even if it is the old guy of the bunch.
The 2017 Ford Focus ST comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver-side knee airbag. The Sync system includes an emergency crash-notification feature that automatically dials 911 when paired with a compatible cellphone. Also standard are a rearview camera and Ford's MyKey system, which can be used to set electronic parameters for teen drivers.
In Edmunds testing, a Focus ST needed 109 feet to stop from 60 mph, a typical result for an affordable performance car with summer tires.
trim levels & features
The 2017 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.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels with summer tires, performance brakes, an electronic limited-slip differential, foglights, LED daytime running lights, a sport body kit, keyless entry and ignition, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, front sport seats (with driver height adjustment), 60/40-split rear seats, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, MyKey parental controls, a rearview camera, a 4.2-inch central display, Bluetooth, Sync voice controls and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and a USB port.
The ST2 package adds xenon headlights, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, cloth and leather upholstery, Recaro front sport seats, the Sync 3 infotainment interface with an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone app integration, and a 10-speaker Sony sound system with HD radio, satellite radio and dual USB ports.
You can also get the ST3 package that includes heated mirrors, a keyless entry keypad, full leather upholstery, heated front Recaro seats (with eight-way power adjustments for the driver), a heated steering wheel, a rear center armrest, multicolor ambient interior lighting, carbon-fiber interior accents and a navigation system.
Stand-alone options include dark gray 18-inch alloy wheels with red-painted brake calipers, high-performance all-season tires and the navigation system (requires the ST2 package).
The front-wheel-drive 2017 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 mph in 6.4 seconds, which is a bit slower than some other cars in this class. That's partly explained, however, by the fact that you have to shift into third gear to hit 60, which puts a little extra time on the clock; most rivals with manual transmissions can get there in second gear.
EPA estimates for the 2017 Focus ST weren't available at publishing time, but last year's model posted 25 mpg combined (22 city/30 highway), a respectable showing for a hot hatch.
The 2017 Ford Focus ST understandably has a firmer ride quality than the standard Focus, but it's still comfortable enough to make the car a solid choice for everyday motoring.
Where the ST really shines, however, is in the driving experience itself. The 252-horsepower four-cylinder delivers abundant acceleration, while the crisp action of the short-throw manual gearbox makes it a pleasure to use. Communicative steering and strong brakes make the car just that much more enjoyable.
Inside, the 2017 Ford Focus ST boasts a handsome cabin. Both construction and materials quality are top-notch. The standard front sport seats are both comfortable and supportive. The available Recaro seats feature larger side bolsters designed to provide enhanced support in hard cornering, but some drivers could find them too restrictive in everyday driving or on long trips. Rear seats offer decent headroom but come up a little short on legroom compared with competitors.
You can get by with the standard 4.2-inch display, but the 8-inch touchscreen upgrade is worth getting. It's easy to use and includes the latest smartphone app integration systems.
From a practicality standpoint, the Focus ST is pretty easy to live with. It offers 23.8 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seats, and folding the 60/40-split rear seatback gets you a useful 43.9 cubic feet of space, about 3 cubic feet more than the Mini Cooper four-door but almost 9 cubic feet less than the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.