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2015 Ford Focus ST REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/3/2017

Con: No automatic transmission offered; some drivers may find the optional Recaro seats overly confining.

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Interior: The interior of the Focus ST shows how compact cars now blend utility with an appreciation for fine materials and leading-edge design. The cockpit is attractive and the materials are of high quality. And just as you'd expect in a performance car, the driving position is excellent and the optional Recaro front seats offered in the ST2 and ST3 packages have large side bolsters that keep you very secure during hard cornering. We recommend sitting in the Recaro seats before deciding if they're for you, however, as certain drivers can find them confining and uncomfortable for long drives.

We've been critical in the past of the optional MyFord Touch system, and it's still prone to slowdowns and ergonomic miscues. However, the large touchscreen (combined with the truly useful Sync voice command system) does look classy, and it provides some neat customization possibilities. Make sure to try out both this setup and the base "MyFord" system extensively on your test-drive to see if you can use it on a daily basis.

The ST's rear seat is shorter on legroom than the accommodations of competitors like the GTI and Subaru WRX, but overall utility is excellent, with 23.8 cubic feet of space with the 60/40-split rear seats up and a generous 44.8 cubic feet with them folded down.

Body: The 2015 Ford Focus ST is a performance-oriented version of the Focus four-door hatchback. There is no sedan version.

Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, performance summer tires, foglamps, performance brakes, an electronically controlled limited-slip front differential, keyless ignition and entry, air-conditioning, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split-folding seatback, a rearview camera, the Sync voice-activated phone and audio player interface, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, a USB/iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack.

The ST2 package (Equipment Group 401A) adds xenon headlights, cornering lamps, Recaro front sport seats, two-tone cloth/leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, the MyFord Touch electronics interface with an 8-inch touchscreen display, and a 10-speaker Sony sound system with HD radio and satellite radio.

The ST3 package (Equipment Group 402A) includes the ST2's features and adds heated mirrors, heated front Recaro seats, an eight-way power driver seat, additional head restraint adjustment, full leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, a rear center armrest, an overhead interior console, ambient interior lighting and a navigation system.

The Cargo Management package adds a cargo net and a cargo organizer.

Stand-alone options include a sunroof, a dark gray finish (with red-painted brake calipers) for the standard 18-inch wheels, and a set of black or red racing stripes that run from the front of the car to the rear bumper.

Driving: Just as you'd expect from a car in this category, the 2015 Ford Focus ST's performance is strong, and hearing the sound that the turbocharged engine makes as it revs toward 6,000 rpm is a true thrill. The precision of the steering and the crisp action of the six-speed manual transmission make you feel as if you're in touch with this car's mechanical soul. The Focus ST may not put down class-leading numbers at the drag strip, but in real-world driving, it's never less than a blast.

Equally striking is the Focus ST's composure during harder driving. Special tuning of the electric-assist power steering, electronic differential control and stability control systems helps maintain traction without making the car feel clumsy. And if you're looking for more excitement on a back road (or planning to sign up for a track day), you can dial the stability control into a more permissive setting or switch it off altogether.

For day-to-day driving, the Focus ST is still quite livable. The suspension tuning is certainly firm, but this is one of the best-riding performance hatchbacks you'll find. It's also fairly quiet, as the engine really makes itself heard only during hard acceleration.

What’s New: The 2015 Ford Focus ST benefits from several cabin and exterior styling refinements, as well as tuning enhancements that improve handling and steering feel. A rearview camera is now standard, and the options list grows to include amenities such as a heated steering wheel.

The signature feature of the front-wheel-drive 2015 Ford Focus ST is a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that delivers 252 hp and 270 pound-feet of torque. It's matched with 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. This is a tad slow for this type of performance car. However, that's partly because you have to shift into 3rd to hit 60 (adding an extra tenth or two of time), whereas most rivals with manual transmissions can get there in 2nd gear. Real-world performance is still quite strong.

The EPA estimates the Focus ST will achieve 26 mpg combined (23 city/32 highway), which is respectable mileage for a hot hatch.

Safety: The 2015 Ford Focus ST comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, a driver knee airbag, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. The Ford Sync system also 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 certain parameters for teen drivers.

In Edmunds testing, the Focus ST needed 109 feet to stop from 60 mph, which is a short distance for an affordable performance car with summer tires.

Pro: Powerful turbocharged engine; precise six-speed manual gearbox; sharp handling; poised ride; stylish interior with many high-tech options.

Edmunds Say: The 2015 Ford Focus ST delivers strong hot-hatchback performance, yet doesn't forget to deliver on the poise and polish.

Introduction: You can never go wrong by making a great thing even better, and this seems to have been the thinking behind the bevy of upgrades the Ford Focus ST receives for 2015. On the outside, the Focus ST gets sportier front and rear fascias, new wheels and new stripe choices. Inside you'll find a tidier center stack control layout, more interior storage, new features (including a standard rearview camera) and a new flat-bottom steering wheel that allows more leg clearance. Ford says it also retuned the ST's suspension and steering to make the car feel even more responsive and nimble to drive.

These new tweaks serve to sweeten a car that was already a dominant force in its segment on the strength of its ability to deliver what hot-hatchback shoppers prize most: pulse-quickening performance. Armed with high-performance tires, a sport-tuned suspension, strong brakes and a muscular 252 horsepower under the hood, the Ford Focus ST has the skills to impress, whether in a straight line or on serpentine roads. Its turbocharged four-cylinder serves up an engaging good time, aided by a useful steering compensation feature that minimizes distracting torque steer commonly seen in high-powered front-drive vehicles. The car's sharp reflexes heighten the fun quotient around corners, while wide, summer-rated tires keep things glued to the road.

But what makes this Ford truly compelling is its gift for melding all this performance with high levels of comfort. Ride quality is gracious and easy to live with, and its stylish, well-appointed cabin gives the Focus one of the plushest interiors in this segment.

Of course, there are other choices to consider, and the ST's three most direct rivals join the fray in top form, given that they've all been redesigned recently. The 2015 Subaru WRX is quicker from a stop and its all-wheel-drive system makes it more suitable for cold weather climes, but it's trumped by the Focus ST when it comes to interior quality and overall refinement. The 2015 Mini Cooper S boasts strong performance and unique character, but its small cabin and stiff ride makes it a less pleasant daily driver than the Ford. Then there's the 2015 Volkswagen GTI, which is sportier this year than it was previously and largely matches the ST for all-around goodness.

Choosing one won't be easy. But thanks to its performance, comfort, style and reasonable pricing, the Ford Focus ST is right in the mix.

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