The 2014 Ford Focus ST is a fun-to-drive, spirited hatchback with turbo power, European-style handling and practical seating and cargo room.
A compact-sized car, the Focus five-door hatchback even garnered top, five out of five stars from the federal government in frontal and side crash testing.
And for driving enthusiasts, the Focus ST is something of a bargain, offering horsepower and torque usually associated with six-cylinder cars for the price — and fuel mileage — of a small four cylinder.
In fact, the 2014 Focus ST with 2-liter, turbocharged and direct injected EcoBoost four cylinder delivers 252 horses and 270 foot-pounds of torque at 2,500 rpm. This compares with the 268 horsepower and 248 foot-pounds of torque that a 3.5-liter V-6 generates in the larger, heavier, 2014 Toyota Camry sedan.
Best of all, starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $24,450 for a base, 2014 Focus ST with six-speed, manual transmission and sport-tuned suspension.
All Focus cars are front-wheel drive. While some lower trim models of Focus are sold as sedan and hatchback, the ST comes only as a five-door hatch and only with manual transmission.
Competitors to the Focus ST are other sporty, front-wheel drive, four-cylinder compacts, such as the 205-horsepower, 2014 Honda Civic Si Coupe, which has a starting retail price of $23,580. The four cylinder in the Civic Si Coupe is naturally aspirated, not a turbo, and is paired with a six-speed manual.
Another competitor, the 2015 Volkswagen GTI, has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $25,215 and comes with a turbocharged, gasoline four cylinder developing 210 horsepower and mated to a six-speed manual.
The U.S. heyday for so-called "hot hatchbacks" was in the 1970s and 1980s, but they have long been popular in Europe. No wonder, then, that Ford Motor Co. tapped its European operations for the modern Focus ST.
The chassis in the test vehicle was solid, and despite its compact dimensions — just 14.3 feet in total length — the Focus ST felt and looked like a substantial car.
There was road noise from the tires and good engine sounds during acceleration. But the sounds were not overbearing.
The Focus ST's 2-liter, double overhead cam, direct injection, turbocharged Ecoboost four cylinder is the same one that has been used in the much larger Ford Flex. So, in the 3,200-plus-pound Focus, this powerplant offers real scoot and power.
First gear has a short gear ratio for quick get up and go and second and third gears can keep the car in best engine revs for strong power.
The sixth gear accounts for the 32 miles-per-gallon rating in highway driving that the federal government gave the Focus ST. The city rating of 23 mpg is not laudatory. But the test car still averaged 27 mpg in city/highway travel, translating into a travel range of 334 miles. A fillup cost less than $50 since the Focus ST can use regular gasoline.