Ford Focus ST vs VW Golf GTI

Ford Focus ST vs VW Golf GTI

Last Updated March 4, 2020 | C.J. Tragakis

Ford hasn't manufactured a new Focus ST in America since 2018. But that hasn't stopped it from becoming a popular choice for enthusiasts in the used market. Although there aren’t tons of practical yet sporty cars to rival the ST, the competition is still fierce. The most formidable is the long-running Volkswagen Golf GTI.

The 7th generation or Mk 7 VW GTI is one of the closest matches to the Focus ST’s size, performance, and price. In this article, we’ll compare the Focus ST vs GTI with the assumption that you’re looking at the used market. The Focus ST was refreshed in 2015, the Golf GTI in 2016. To keep things fair and stay within the sweet spot of a 3-year old used car, we’ll compare the 2017 models.

Focus ST vs Golf GTI Specs
Specification2017 Ford Focus ST2017 VW Golf GTI
Starting MSRP (2017) $24,775 $25,595
Estimated Used Price Range $14,000 - $23,000 $14,000 - $25,000
Trim Levels ST1, ST2, ST3 S, Sport, SE, Autobahn
Horsepower 252 hp 210 hp (S) or 220 hp (Sport, SE, Autobahn)
Torque 270 lb-ft 258 lb-ft
Transmission 6-speed manual 6-speed manual or 6-speed DSG automatic
Length 171.1 inches 168.0 inches
Width 74.1 inches 70.8 inches
Height 57.9 inches 56.8 inches
Wheelbase 104.3 inches 103.6 inches
Curb Weight 3,214 lbs 3,116 lbs
Cargo Volume Behind Rear Seats 23.3 cubic feet 22.8 cubic feet
Cargo Volume Behind Front Seats (with Rear Seats Folded) 43.9 cubic feet 52.7 cubic feet
Rear Seat Leg Room 33.2 inches 35.6 inches
Rear Head Room 38.0 inches 38.1 inches
Fuel Type 87 octane required, 93 octane recommended 87 octane required, 91 octane recommended
Fuel Capacity 12.4 gallons 13.2 gallons
EPA MPG 25 comb, 30 hwy, 22 city 28 comb, 34 hwy, 24 city (manual) or 27 comb, 32 hwy, 24 city (DSG)
0-60 mph 6.2 seconds 5.9 seconds (manual) or 5.6 seconds (DSG)

Ford Focus ST vs GTI Exterior

Comparing the exterior style of the Focus ST and GTI is purely a matter of taste. In terms of looks, each has something to offer.

Focus ST vs Golf GTI Exterior Dimensions
Specification2017 Ford Focus ST2017 VW Golf GTI
Length 171.1 inches 168.0 inches
Width 74.1 inches 70.8 inches
Height 57.9 inches 56.8 inches
Wheelbase 104.3 inches 103.6 inches
Curb Weight 3,214 lbs 3,116 lbs

While the Focus ST isn’t as “boy-racer” as the Civic Type R, it’s sportier looking than the more subtle Golf GTI. It has a larger grille, rear decklid spoiler, and more aggressive aesthetic overall. The MK 7 GTI simply looks like a slightly sportier iteration of the regular Golf. It’s all business, with some subtle badging and red grille accenting to let you know its true intentions.

2017 Ford Focus ST vs VW Golf GTI Exterior

The Focus ST is one of the most “European” cars Ford has offered in America in terms of style and performance. Plus, the engine came from Spain and the transmission from Germany. Despite this, the GTI remains the quintessential “Euro-hatch.” If you like that style and want something that will stay off the radar, the GTI’s subtlety is for you.

The GTI's exterior dimensions are noticeably smaller than the Focus ST's. It would be pretty obvious if you were looking at the two of them parked side-by-side. But when it comes to practicality or driving feel, they’re very close.

2017 Ford Focus ST Paint Colors
ColorCodeSample
Shadow Black G1
Triple Yellow Tri-Coat H3
Magnetic J7
Kona Blue L6
Race Red PQ
Oxford White YZ
2017 VW Golf GTI Paint Colors
ColorCodeSample
Pure White 0Q
Reflex Silver Metallic 8E
Tornado Red G2
Night Blue Metallic Z2
Carbon Steel Gray Metallic 1K
Deep Black Pearl 2T

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

VW GTI vs Focus ST Interior

The refined cabin of the MK 7 GTI is a nice place to spend time. It feels high-quality and sleek, though some would argue it's too minimalist. The Focus ST isn’t quite as luxurious as the GTI. But optional leather Recaro seats and small details, like auxiliary center gauges, add more character.

2017 Ford Focus ST vs VW Golf GTI Interior

There is one area where the GTI shows its unique personality: the plaid seating inserts. Love them or hate them, they are a standout feature when it comes to style. If they aren’t your thing, the optional leather seats are more subtle. Heated front seats are standard in the GTI and optional for the Focus ST.

Focus ST vs Golf GTI Interior Dimensions
Specification2017 Ford Focus ST2017 VW Golf GTI
Cargo Volume Behind Rear Seats 23.3 cubic feet 22.8 cubic feet
Cargo Volume Behind Front Seats (with Rear Seats Folded) 43.9 cubic feet 52.7 cubic feet
Rear Seat Leg Room 33.2 inches 35.6 inches
Rear Head Room 38.0 inches 38.1 inches

Despite the Golf GTI’s smaller exterior dimensions, it offers nearly identical cargo capacity as the Focus ST when the rear seats are up. Plus, it offers more cargo capacity than the Focus when the seats are folded down. If rear passenger space is important, the extra 2.4 inches offered by the GTI is a consideration.

As for technology, both have standard Bluetooth audio and a backup camera. The highest trim GTI, the Autobahn, offers adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking.

Overall, it’s hard to deny that the GTI has a more premium-feeling and practical cabin. However, the Focus ST is comfortable and has everything you need (at least in ST2 and ST3 trims). It isn’t too far behind the GTI. In our opinion, the Focus ST's interior is also more exciting to look at.

Performance of the Ford Focus ST vs Golf GTI

Engine and Fuel Economy

The ST and GTI are like many small performance-oriented vehicles. Each features a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This provides a good balance of efficiency and power. While the Focus ST has a solid fuel economy of 25 mpg combined, the GTI really shines here. The manual version of the GTI gets 28 mpg combined.

2017 Ford Focus ST vs VW Golf GTI Rear Exterior Driving

When it comes to power, it might be surprising that the Focus ST has over 40 hp on the base GTI. When you add the GTI Performance Package (included with all non-base 2017 trims), it's still ahead by 30 hp.

However, the GTI is a bit quicker from 0-60 mph. With a stick shift, the GTI will do the job in 5.9 seconds, versus the Focus ST’s 6.2-second time. That’s plenty of quickness for a hot hatch. And you’d be hard-pressed to feel the difference between the two.

Focus ST vs Golf GTI Performance Specs
Specification2017 Ford Focus ST2017 VW Golf GTI
Horsepower 252 hp 210 hp (S) or 220 hp (Sport, SE, Autobahn)
Torque 270 lb-ft 258 lb-ft
Transmission 6-speed manual 6-speed manual or 6-speed DSG automatic
EPA MPG 25 comb, 30 hwy, 22 city 28 comb, 34 hwy, 24 city (manual) or 27 comb, 32 hwy, 24 city (DSG)
0-60 mph 6.2 seconds 5.9 seconds (manual) or 5.6 seconds (DSG)

Transmission

The Focus ST only comes with a 6-speed manual transmission. If you don’t want to row your own gears, the GTI’s DSG dual-clutch automatic will shift for you. It offers quick, sporty shifts too, so it won’t feel like an econobox. The GTI has a traditional 6-speed manual as well. The DSG is quicker, but both cars are around the same acceleration time regardless of transmission.

Handling

To be honest, these cars aren’t about straight-line excitement. They’re built with sport-tuned suspension set-ups for fun through the corners. The Focus ST does not have a limited-slip differential (LSD). Instead, it uses a brake-based system called torque vectoring control. The base GTI S doesn’t have a mechanical LSD either, but uses a similar electronic system to the Focus. The upper GTI trims with the Performance Package do have LSDs though.

Handling and steering feel are mostly subjective. But many feel that the Focus ST offers some of the most fun possible in a FWD package. The GTI is also enjoyable but may feel a bit more disconnected when it comes to road feel.

Still, lateral acceleration numbers are almost identical, with 0.90 g for the GTI (0.91 g with the DSG) and 0.92 g for the Focus ST. Both are sharp-handling hatches.

Reliability

Reliability is always a difficult topic to address. The consensus is that VW has come a long way since the early 2000s. However, import parts and service will always tend to be more expensive than domestic. That might favor the Focus ST if you’re concerned about repairs in the long run.

You may have seen the Focus in the news for issues with the DCT automatic transmission. Fortunately, that issue doesn’t affect the ST since it comes with a manual transmission only.

VW Golf GTI vs Ford Focus ST Price

At the time of writing, Kelly Blue Book shows similar results for the two models.

The 2017 Ford Focus ST is showing an average dealership fair market range of $15,951-$18,074. The ST2 trim level brings that up to $17,008-$19,131.

The 2017 Golf GTI is nearly identical, at $16,499-$19,620 for the Sport trim. That’s one step up from the base S.

Prices fluctuate over time, but a comparable GTI will likely be a bit more expensive than a Focus ST (but only just).

Which Hot Hatch Is Right for You?

Deciding between the Focus ST or GTI is tough, as each of these cars offers a lot for the price. The Golf GTI may be a bit more refined, but the Focus ST is more fun and engaging to drive. Both are practical, even for small families. We recommend test-driving both to see which one feels better for you. But as for pure fun-to-drive factor, our money is on the Focus ST.

If you’ve decided on the Focus ST, there are many aftermarket upgrades that improve your performance and style. For a look at all the details of the ST, check out our in-depth Focus ST guide.

Sources: Ford | Volkswagen| Car and Driver | MotorTrend | Kelley Blue Book | PaintScratch.com

Ford Focus ST vs VW Golf GTI

If you’re searching the used car market for a fun hot hatch, both the MK 7 Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST should be on your shortlist.