Ford Focus ST vs. Focus RS

Samuel Weber
September 28, 2021

While Ford’s performance line is generally associated with the Mustang and variants of the iconic muscle car, Ford has been developing high-performance variants of nearly every vehicle in their lineup for decades. With vehicles like the early 2000’s SVT Focus and Lightning F-150, it is obvious that Ford can make some seriously fun and fast vehicles outside the Mustang name. When Ford brought out the Focus ST in 2013 it caught many Americans off-guard with its small turbocharged motor, manual-only gearbox, and front-wheel drive performance layout. Even more, the debut of the Focus RS and its rally-inspired look, massively powerful turbo motor, manual only setup, and bright blue debut color made it an attention-grabber as soon as it hit dealer lots.

These two cars were a quick way to enter the tuner market and give many rivals, such as the Subaru WRX, Volkswagen GTI, and other import vehicles, and offered serious performance for an incredible value. With high-revving small motors, both the ST and RS impressed the entire market, holding value for years to come even when damaged. However, the two cars have major differences, weaknesses, and benefits over each other. For anyone on the fence deciding which one is the right vehicle for them and their lifestyle, a proper and in-depth comparison of the two cars is a must-have.



Focus ST Basics Focus RS Basics Interior Performance Specs


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Focus ST Basics

The Focus ST was Ford’s first leap back into the hot hatch game in the USA since the SVT Focus in the early 2000s and they came out ready to go against competition from Europe and Japan immediately. Competing against cars like the Mini Cooper JCW, VW Golf GTI, Subaru WRX, Mazdaspeed3, and more, the Focus ST featured a 2.0L turbocharged inline-4 that put out a stout 252 horsepower to the crank. The front-drive hatchback prided itself as a fun-to-drive and fuel-efficient hot hatch that could be used as a family car if needed. Easy to upgrade and easy to run, the Focus ST made it only five years before being discontinued in America.



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Focus RS Basics

While the Focus and Focus ST seemed mostly tame on the surface - save for the center exhaust, larger wing, and bright colors, the Focus RS was everything the Focus ST could have ever dreamed to be. With a large rear wing, dual exhaust, all-wheel-drive, a built-in drift mode, antilag, and another 100 horsepower on top of the Focus ST for a solid 350 horsepower from its 2.3-liter engine, the Focus RS was rally and racing-inspired through and through. The factory Recaro seats tighter, the driving experience more raucous and set up as a full-blown performance car.



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Interior Differences

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The inside of the Focus ST screams performance from nearly any angle. With well-bolstered Recaro bucket seats up front and aggressive rear seat bolstering to match, the cockpit of the Focus ST puts you directly in command of the manual 6-speed unit and various gauges for measuring boost, oil pressure, and more. These features put together in addition to the flat-bottom sport steering wheel makes the inside of the Focus ST a very fun place to be. While hard plastics are abundant, it is to be expected in a sub-$30,000 vehicle when new and the car feels quality in the right places as well as feeling high-quality with its driving experience.

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The Focus ST may have a seriously good-looking interior, but the Focus RS takes the interior upgrades just slightly further to cement its massive price increase and performance change. Every Focus RS receives electric blue accents and stitching that matches the car’s debut color, plus different accented gauges than the ST. The Recaro seats are more racing buckets than simply well-bolstered regular sport seats and the rear seats are heavily bolstered as well. While a fair amount of the car’s interior is at least similar to with the ST, The RS is more performance-based than the ST even while sharing similar interior parts. The RS feels more racy just upon sitting in the seat than with the ST, and the performance setup comes together as one cohesive design.



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The largest difference between the cars becomes apparent when looking at performance figures and different mechanical parts. While the cars do share the same basic chassis from the Focus hatchback, the similarities end there. Under the hood of the Focus ST sits a 2.0 liter turbocharged engine that supplies power to the front wheels to roast the tires with massive torque steer as it pulls to a top speed of 155 miles per hour. The ST handled well, kept up easily with its German and Japanese rivals, and was an incredible bang-for-your-buck value over nearly any other car in its class. It has proven itself to be easy to modify and easy to maintain for the most part as well.

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The RS does everything the ST does, but makes it more dramatic than ever before for any Ford hatchback. With the same 2.3 liter turbo motor now found in the High Performance trim EcoBoost Mustang, this 350 horsepower motor rockets all four wheels to 165 miles per hour and does the 0-60 sprint in only 4.7 seconds. While the ST battled cars like the Mazdaspeed3, the RS was busy competing with the Audi S3, Mercedes-AMG CLA45, Volkswagen Golf R, and other high-performance all-wheel-drive compact cars in the $40,000 and up price backet. Wildy modifiable, the RS was plagued with the stereotypical issues associated with highly-boosted small engines but with those slight issues being easily manageable, the RS quickly became one of the most thrilling hatchbacks to drive in years.



ST vs RS Specs

Focus ST Focus RS
Engine 2.0L Turbo Inline-4 2.3L Turbo Inline-4
1/4 Mile Time 14.8 seconds 13.5 seconds
0-60 mph 6.3 seconds 4.9 seconds
Price $25,170 (new) $41,120 (new)
Horsepower 252 hp 350 hp
Torque 270 lb-ft 350 lb-ft





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