Ford Focus ST vs Focus RS

Ford Focus ST vs Focus RS

Last Updated October 9, 2020 | C.J. Tragakis
Contents

Sadly, neither the Ford Focus ST or Focus RS are sold in the U.S. anymore. Though the Gen 4 Focus ST is still sold overseas, Americans are relegated to the used market for these hot hatches. 2018 was the last model year for both trims. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, because it means you can get a fun, practical car for not a lot of coin.

Though Ford only uses the acronyms in marketing, “ST” stands for “Sport Technologies” and “RS” for “Rallye Sport.” The Focus ST is a hot hatch, while the Focus RS is a scorching track machine. Both are based on the ordinary Focus platform, which handles nicely, but is a commuter car at the end of the day. Despite different design philosophies, it’s natural to compare the Focus RS vs ST.

The ST adds more power, better suspension, and a six-speed manual transmission to the base Focus. The RS takes things even further, with a larger EcoBoost engine, AWD, and track-tuned suspension. Looking at them more closely, there are a lot of characteristics that separate the two. Each is a different animal, excelling at different things.

Focus ST vs Focus RS Specs
Specification 2018 Ford Focus ST 2018 Ford Focus RS
Starting MSRP (2018) $25,170 $41,120
Trim Levels ST1, ST2, ST3 RS2
Engine 2.0 liter turbocharged I-4 2.3 liter turbocharged I-4
Horsepower 252 hp 350 hp
Torque 270 lb-ft 350 lb-ft
Transmission 6-speed manual 6-speed manual
0-60 mph 6.2 seconds 4.5 seconds
Drive Wheels FWD AWD
Length 171.1 inches 172.8 inches
Width (without Mirrors) 71.7 inches 71.8 inches
Height 57.9 inches 58.0 inches
Wheelbase 104.3 inches 104.3 inches
Curb Weight 3,214 lbs 3,460 lbs
Cargo Volume Behind Rear Seats 23.3 cubic feet 23.8 cubic feet
Cargo Volume Behind Front Seats (with Rear Seats Folded) 43.9 cubic feet 44.8 cubic feet
Rear Seat Leg Room 33.2 inches 33.4 inches
Rear Head Room 38.0 inches 38.0 inches
Fuel Type 87 octane required, 93 octane recommended 91 octane required, 93 octane recommended
Fuel Capacity 12.4 gallons 13.4 gallons
EPA MPG 25 comb, 30 hwy, 22 city 22 comb, 26 hwy, 19 city

ST vs RS Appearance

Though the Focus ST and Focus RS have the same footprint and platform, there are subtle differences in size. This is due to the bumpers and suspension set-up. The Focus RS sits a bit higher on its 19-inch wheels.

The front fascia is one of the most noticeable differences between the two cars. The Focus ST adopts a larger, honeycomb-style grille than the regular Focus. It doesn’t feature any of Ford’s usual horizontal lines or tri-bar design.

The RS takes things a step further, with a more aerodynamic, rally-inspired look. It’s aggressive, streamlined, and instantly recognizable. There’s a large opening for the bigger, performance-oriented intercooler. It’s tough to deny that the RS looks “cooler,” but it could be too flashy for some.

Ford Focus ST vs Focus RS Front Fascia Comparison

The Focus ST has 18-inch wheels, while the Focus RS has 19-inch wheels on sportier tires. Some ST owners like to put 19-inch RS-style wheels on for aesthetics and sharper handling (at the cost of some ride comfort).

At the rear, the RS features a more traditional dual exhaust setup with a large diffuser. The ST is more subtle, with its single “USB-shaped” exhaust outlet in the center. The rear wing on the RS is larger than the ST’s, which looks more integrated into the body. The RS wing has black accents and features an embossed “RS” logo on each side.

Ford Focus ST vs Focus RS Rear Comparison

2018 Ford Focus ST and Focus RS Paint Colors
2018 Exterior Color Focus ST Focus RS
Oxford White
N/A
Triple Yellow Tri-Coat
N/A
Hot Pepper Red Metallic Tinted Clearcoat
N/A
Blue
N/A
Magnetic
N/A
Shadow Black
N/A
Race Red N/A
Nitrous Blue Metallic Quad-Coat N?A

Sample colors are for representative purposes and may not accurately portray actual paint color due to screen settings, metallic finish, etc.

Focus ST and RS Interior Comparison

The Focus RS interior is a slight upgrade over the Focus ST. But the materials and infotainment are mostly the same as the ST2 and ST3 trims. The ST1 is more basic and noticeably cheaper than the 2 or 3 level trim of either model. The Focus RS always comes with the Sony infotainment system and 10 speakers, like the ST2 and ST3.

The Focus RS has unique Recaro sport seats, a special steering wheel, and a shifter with a shorter throw. The ST2 and ST3 seats are the same shape as the RS1 and RS2 seats respectively. However, the RS2 seats have special Miko ultrasuede inserts that can’t be had in the ST. There’s also a heavy blue theme going on with the RS logos and stitching. The ST opts for more red.

Ford Focus ST vs Focus RS Interior Comparison

Apart from that, the cabin of the ST and RS are both just as usable. Storage areas are small but plentiful. The rear seat space isn’t cavernous, but not bad for two average-sized people. The hatchback offers plenty of practicality. Plus, the rear seats fold completely flat, once the bottom cushions have been lifted forward. The RS actually offers just slightly more cargo room than the ST, but that’s because it doesn’t have a spare tire. This is also probably the reason for the extra one-gallon fuel capacity in the RS.

Focus ST & Focus RS Interior Dimensions
Specification 2018 Ford Focus ST 2018 Ford Focus RS
Cargo Volume Behind Rear Seats 23.3 cubic feet 23.8 cubic feet
Cargo Volume Behind Front Seats (with Rear Seats Folded) 43.9 cubic feet 44.8 cubic feet
Rear Seat Leg Room 33.2 inches 33.4 inches
Rear Head Room 38.0 inches 38.0 inches

Under the Hood: ST vs RS Performance

There’s no denying that the Focus RS is much more powerful than the ST. But they’re both designed for different things. The ST is a step up from the base focus, designed to be an affordable hot hatch that makes sense as a daily driver. Its handling is firm and sporty, but not harsh enough that it’s rough over bad pavement. With less power and no AWD, the ST’s better fuel economy will also help ease strain on your wallet.

Ford Focus ST vs Focus RS Engine Comparison

The RS, on the other hand, is truly meant for the track. It’s rally-inspired and pushes the EcoBoost engine platform to its limits. The sporty suspension also means the ride is quite a bit rougher. If you won’t be pushing the car in a closed course setting, some would argue the RS makes less sense. This is a major trade-off compared to the ST, not to mention other cars with softer suspensions.

Focus ST & Focus RS Performance Specs
Specification 2018 Ford Focus ST 2018 Ford Focus RS
Engine 2.0 liter turbocharged I-4 2.3 liter turbocharged I-4
Horsepower 252 hp 350 hp
Torque 270 lb-ft 350 lb-ft
Transmission 6-speed manual 6-speed manual
0-60 mph 6.2 seconds 4.5 seconds
Drive Wheels FWD AWD
Wheelbase 104.3 inches 104.3 inches
Curb Weight 3,214 lbs 3,460 lbs
Fuel Type 87 octane required, 93 octane recommended 91 octane required, 93 octane recommended
Fuel Capacity 12.4 gallons 13.4 gallons
EPA MPG 25 comb, 30 hwy, 22 city 22 comb, 26 hwy, 19 city

Power

The Focus RS uses the 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder with 350 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. The Focus ST uses the smaller 2.0-liter EcoBoost, tuned for a more mild, but still impressive, 253 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are used in other vehicles, like the Escape and Bronco Sport. However, they’re both tuned for maximum performance in the ST and RS.

Both engines have good torque, but it can be tougher to get it to the ground in the Focus ST with its FWD setup and lack of a limited-slip differential. The RS didn’t get an LSD until the 2018 model year. The RS features a high-capacity intercooler and enhanced torque vectoring control for the AWD system. For track use, most will upgrade the ST’s intercooler, which is not as good as its sibling’s.

Handling

The Focus RS has a handling advantage due to its AWD. This system doesn’t give the RS any off-roading prowess but is engineered for sharp handling and the ability for RWD bias. It can handle loose surfaces, like snow and sand, more easily. Plus it has an available “Drift Mode” for track use that makes it handle like a RWD car.

The RS also has Brembo front brakes, which help cornering and stopping. It came with either Michelin Super Sport or Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, which are highly-regarded in the performance scene. Although a used RS might not have its original tires, you can always replace them with the same type.

The Focus ST is noted in its segment for lively handling with great feedback. Like the RS, it has torque vectoring control. It’s just not as advanced because it doesn’t work with an AWD system. That said, the programming makes it a great handler with some RWD characteristics through corners. Unlike most other FWD cars, it can be induced to oversteer, making it more enjoyable on an autocross circuit. Using a slight application of brakes on one side, the system will prevent understeer while letting the rear rotate around a bit.

Focus ST vs Focus RS: Which Is Right for You?

Looking at the Focus RS and Focus ST at a glance, they aren’t actually that comparable. They’re both designed to do different things well at different price points. From our perspective, you can’t go wrong with either.

The Focus RS is the better performance car, there’s no doubt. But you make two big sacrifices: comfort and price. These days, a used Focus RS will often cost about $30,000, whereas the Focus ST can be bought for around $15,000. Though production numbers aren’t available, you can expect the Focus ST to be about four times more common on the used market as the Focus RS. That’s not helped by the fact that the RS was only made from 2016-2018, and just 1,500 were produced for the limited-run 2018 model year.

The Focus RS is also known for a pretty rough ride, whereas the Focus ST is similar to a regular commuter car. Test drive both, if you can, to get a good feel for how they behave on different surfaces. And while the AWD of the Focus RS might give you hope that it'll be a good car for the cold months, you won’t reach full potential without winter tires.

For all-out performance that you’ll use on the track or autocross course, the Focus RS is tough to beat. If you want something that’s less expensive and more comfortable to drive, go with the Focus ST. For an even less expensive ride that’s not as powerful but handles even more like a go-kart, check out the Fiesta ST.

Sources: Ford

Ford Focus ST vs Focus RS

In the used market, the Focus ST and Focus RS are both highly-sought-after hot hatches. Learn about the differences between these two Ford models and what their pros and cons are.