Photography and video by ©2016 Toni Avery

In a world where the majority of high-powered sports cars and even moderately powered sports cars only come equipped with the latest dual-clutch, flappy paddle transmissions, there’s the Ford Focus ST. Equipped with a standard six-speed manual transmission, the Focus ST brings the remaining purist enthusiasts an affordable and fun option. Because not every great car also has to deplete your bank account.

This Focus is equipped with a 2.0 L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine producing 252 HP and 270 lb-ft of torque mated to a 6-speed manual transmission.

Having driven both the Fiesta and the Focus ST, I can now see the distinct differences between them. Performance wise, the Focus is a faster car all around with seemingly endless amounts of top-end speed. While it’s not as quick as the Fiesta, it feels overall faster.

Torque comes in at 2,500 RPMs, which is on the low-end but it doesn’t throw you back in your seat. It’s not an instant torque feel, while it doesn’t have any problem getting up and going. You can feel the weight difference between the Focus and Fiesta when taking it on a twisty canyon drive. It’s not a huge deficit against the Focus, it’s just more noticeable when really driving the car hard.

One of the biggest complaints, and possibly a deterrent, about the Focus is its noticeable torque steer. Sure, it’s more noticeable than the Fiesta (one of the reasons some choose the Fiesta over the Focus), but it isn’t nearly as discernible as a car I recently tested, the 2016 Hyundai Veloster Rally Edition. If this is the only reason someone would choose a Fiesta over a Focus, I’d say to test drive other front wheel drive cars with more severe torque steer to see if it would truly be the deciding factor.

The clutch pedal is light yet springy, while the brakes provide an aggressive bite when needed. The transmission is smooth with very short throws required from gear to gear. Steering is very precise with very little effort needed for most any turning action.

Exclusive to the Focus are boost, oil temp and pressure gauges. These provide an even higher performance feel to the Focus. I even caught myself seeing how much boost I could get out of this little hot-hatch.

Ride quality is firm but not jarring with just the right amount of road feel and comfort. The car stuck well to the road on my canyon run and provided a smooth ride on the highway. It’s also a plus that unless you’re really on it, the cabin is pretty quiet inside. I really enjoyed the engine noise that is forced inside when pressing hard on the accelerator or when performing that perfect blip downshift. There’s not much of an exhaust note to speak of, but for daily driving the noise level works well.

The exterior of the Focus features the optional Tangerine Scream Tri-coat paint color, optional Black Exterior Stripes, which automatically add 18-inch Machined Aluminum Wheels with Black Painted Pockets.

Just looking at a Fiesta and Focus ST side-by-side it’s easy to tell that the Focus is a good deal larger. The front fascia is slightly different in appearance than the Fiesta and so is the rear with a special exhaust tip. Having never been a huge fan of stripes on a streetcar, the optional strips with the bright yellow paint look so good I can’t imagine a Focus ST any other way now.

Inside the Focus ST is an all-black cabin with full leather heated Recaro seats, carbon fiber accents (in the 402A package), Navigation and satellite radio.

Some cars with all-black interiors just look cheap, no matter how nice the car is, but Ford has done a great job of making the Focus feel just high-end enough to excuse the lack of color. While you can opt for color accents throughout, which I would recommend. The 402A package adds a number of upgrades including heated front seats (Recaro full leather), ambient interior lighting, heated steering wheel, heated mirrors, voice-activated navigation, dual zone air temp control and an upgrade to the exterior of Bi-xenon HID headlamps.

While the packages total cost of $4,995 may scare you away, all of its upgrades are more than worth it. When you really take into consideration just how much you are getting with this car, it’s truly a bargain.

There’s plenty of passenger room up front, while the back seats can become a little cramped if you have someone tall sitting in front. The trunk is also a decent size allowing for plenty of groceries or even a short weekend getaway for two’s worth of luggage. The Recaro seats are incredibly comfortable with ample side bolstering to hold you snug.

With the anticipation for the new Focus RS on high alert, Ford is making some incredibly smart moves as far as performance cars go. Not only do you have several different Mustang trim levels and engine configurations to choose from (while we all know which two really count), but also two different hot-hatches to choose from at an even better value than a lightly optioned Mustang. Now, Ford will bring a third hatch to really give die-hard VW owners a run for their money.

2016 Ford Focus ST

Base Price: $24,425

Options: Equipment Group 402A, Tangerine Scream Tri-coat,

18″ High Performance All Season Tires, Black Exterior Stripe

Price with Options: $30,540

Destination Charge: $875

Total Price: $31,415

Fuel Economy: 22 City, 31 Highway, 25 Combined 

 GirlsDriveFastToo gives the 2016 Ford Focus ST an overall rating of (out of 5 total):