The Fiesta ST and Focus ST have been hyped up by automotive journalists since they came. We praise the Fiesta ST, in particular for being one of the most fun hot hatches ever. The Focus ST is also fun, but with a slightly more grown-up attitude. If you’re in the market for a hot hatch, but can’t decide between the two, you’re not alone. In this short article, we will help you decide which one is better for you.
Ford equipped the Fiesta ST with a 1.6L engine paired with a KP39 turbocharger from Borg Warner. This tiny little turbocharger will produce around 21psi of boost which is actually quite a lot for a production car. This allows the Fiesta ST to produce a claimed 197 horsepower and 202 lb-ft. Dyno tests prove the Fiesta ST actually produces closer to 250 lb-ft of torque.
The Focus ST, on the other hand, is equipped with a 2.0L engine paired with a K03 turbocharger which is also from Borg Warner. The turbocharger is small compared to other 2.0T engines, but larger than the KP39. That K03 turbocharger produces about 16psi of boost, but many owners report closer to 19psi. This allows the Focus ST to produce 250 horsepower and 250 lb-ft.
Ford uses these tiny turbochargers for a reason: low-end torque. These tiny little turbos make max boost at a very low RPM which makes the car feel much faster than it actually is. For the Fiesta ST, with a tune installed we regularly saw 23+ at 2,200 RPM. The larger turbocharger on the Focus ST has room for increasing boost, whereas the Fiesta ST turbocharger is pretty close to the limits from the factory.
Both turbochargers struggle to make top-end power when pushed to the limits. This is caused by an inability to maintain boost levels at high RPM. Not only does the boost taper off from 20+ psi down to 10-15psi, but the charge air temperatures at that point are insanely high. High charge air temperatures mean less ignition advance and more detonation – yikes!
Focus ST: 1
Fiesta ST: 0
This next part is very subjective so don’t take it too seriously! Both the Focus ST and the Fiesta ST share the same “sea creature” looking front end. It’s kind of what Mazda does with the Speed3, but the big smiley face on the front end is flipped upside down. The Focus ST received a face-lifted front end which arguably improved the looks.
They both look really good, but from the rear, the Fiesta ST looks a little odd. The Fiesta is a fairly tall and narrow vehicle whereas the Focus is much wider. We think the Fiesta ST looks a little angrier, but the Focus ST looks much more like a sports car. We will leave this one as a tie because which one looks better is completely up to you.
Focus ST: 1
Fiesta ST: 0
The interior is where you send all your time driving the car (obviously). They base both cars on cheap economy cars, in fact, the standard Focus is one of the worst valued vehicles on the market based on resale value. If you’re expecting a super nice interior from either of these vehicles you’re in for a surprise.
The Focus ST is spacious and comfortable. The materials used are average including some hard plastics, but that’s being expected considering it’s based on an “econobox”. Overall, the Focus ST actually has a decent interior, but it’s nothing to write home about. The trunk space is awesome thanks to the hatchback nature of the vehicle. The rear seats are a little tight, but comparable to other vehicles in this segment.
Unfortunately, the Fiesta ST is awful regarding interior quality. They make pretty much everything out of a hard plastic with a weird texture on it. It’s better than some other vehicles in this price range, but it‘s nothing to get excited about. The buttons are cheap; the materials are cheap, and it looks pretty boring on the inside. The rear seats are pretty small, but that is to be expected in a vehicle this small. Trunk space is also relatively limited, something which you should expect in a vehicle this small.
You may actually have to sit in a Focus ST and a Fiesta ST to really see the difference in the interior, but the Focus ST interior is WAY nicer.
Focus ST: 2
Fiesta ST: 0
If you’re expecting a smooth ride out of either of these cars you’re in for quite a surprise. To achieve the level on handling Ford has with these little front-drive hatchbacks the suspension must be very stiff. The Fiesta ST has a much firmer ride than the Focus ST, but that’s not to say that the Focus ST isn’t very stiff as well. Both are much softer than the Focus RS which is unbelievably stiff.
I would recommend taking a ride in a Focus ST. If you find the Focus ST to be annoyingly stiff than the much stiffer Fiesta ST is definitely out of the cards. Interestingly enough, many owners report improved ride quality after installing aftermarket suspension. The stock damping setup leads to a rather bouncy ride which can be solved with quality dampers.
Focus ST: 3
Fiesta ST: 0
It shouldn’t really surprise you that the Fiesta ST is cheaper to buy than the Focus ST. It makes less power and is based on a $13k car. Prices vary greatly from place to place, but you can buy a Fiesta ST from the dealership for around $20k depending on the options and if Ford has any sales going on. The Focus ST will hover around $25k, once again this really depends on the options and if Ford is having any big sales going on.
On the used market both are significantly cheaper, but the Fiesta ST is almost always a few thousand dollars cheaper than the Focus ST. I purchased my 2015 Fiesta ST with 25k miles for $21k including all taxes and fees plus an extended warranty.
Focus ST: 3
Fiesta ST: 1
Fun to Drive
The single biggest reason anyone should buy one of these cars is how they drive. Neither of these cars are particularly fast on paper, but they both feel like little rocket ships. Ford specifically designed both of these cars for canyon and autocross driving. If you’re planning on buying one of these for driving in a straight line, you should really look elsewhere.
The Focus ST is faster on the typical canyon road and the autocross. I have tested this and the Focus will almost always come out on top. The wider track and larger engine really help it dominate the autocross. The proper independent rear suspension gives the Focus ST a massive advantage when driving at the limit. However, to some, it doesn’t “feel” that fast which is fairly hard to even explain. It’s definitely fast enough to get you in trouble on the street, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. A car that “feels” fast will always be more fun than a car that is fast.
Throwing the Focus ST into a corner will result in some lift-off over steer which is something you want in a FWD car. This helps to mitigate under-steer which FWD cars inherently struggle with. The wider track and wider tires definitely help with this issue, but the brake vectoring system is what really makes all this magic happen.
The Fiesta ST, on the other hand, is definitely slower on big canyon roads. On super tight and technical canyon roads it can actually pull ahead due to its much smaller size. In fact, on my local twisty canyon road, no vehicle was able to outrun my Fiesta ST (Including a Viper ACR, BRZ, Veloster Turbo, 350Z, etc). The narrow width and tall height do limit it on big racetracks. Some people have even reported flipping their Fiesta ST if they bump a curb hard enough on a track, but that has only happened a few times.
The Fiesta ST’s tiny turbocharger give it a super hard punch when pulling out of corners, making it feel incredibly fast. Plus the smaller size, shorter gears, and stiffer suspension make everything feel even faster. Once again the brake vectoring system is what really lets this little car shine on a canyon road.
Here’s the point I’m trying to get to: the Focus ST is faster, but the Fiesta ST is way more fun. Seriously, hop on an ST forum and almost everyone will tell you the same exact thing. Matt Farah from The Smoking Tire even compared the Fiesta ST to a BMW M3 saying the Fiesta ST just feels way faster, but in reality it isn’t.
Focus ST: 3
Fiesta ST: 2
To summarize all this information, there a couple key points to remember. The Focus ST has a nicer interior, smoother ride, and is faster. The Focus is really a better car for the average person. For those of us who want to most manic and fun car possible the Fiesta ST is a clear choice. It’s small size and punchy engine makes it feel way faster than a Focus ST while actually being slower.