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- Sweet ST, schizo RS
- High-economy 3-cylinder
- Ride quality on non-performance models
- Attractive sheet metal
- Lots of high-end options
- Convoluted dash
- Tiny audio controls on base models
- Lots of tire noise
- Costs more than some good rivals
- Light on safety tech
The 2018 Ford Focus is irony on wheels: it comes in a dizzying range of models, of which the SEL and ST are our picks.
The 2018 Ford Focus has broad appeal, maybe too broad to digest at a glance. Commuting daily? There’s a Focus for that. Into the gas-mileage lifestyle? There’s one of those, too. How about shredding tires as a part of your daily ablutions? Check.
The Focus family runs the gamut from miserly sedans and hatchbacks to legitimate track weapons. The S, SE, and SEL tilt toward the latter, while the ST and RS deliver a huge turbocharged kick in the pants. All have good handling, cramped rear seats, somewhat higher price tags than rivals, and better luxury touches than safety scores.
The Focus lineup earns a 6.3 on our scale of 10, with higher scores for fuel economy and features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Ford still stamps and folds the Focus’ sheet metal as it has since 2012. Its design still holds a smart appeal, though hatchbacks have more pert bodies. Inside, all Focus cars have an overly busy look that submerges its dials and buttons in waves of black plastic. It’s not an inexpensive look, just a cluttered one.
Ford sells a parsimonious 3-cylinder turbo Focus, and for commuters who value fuel economy ratings, it’s not a bad choice at all. Still, more commonly, the Focus has a 4-cylinder engine with a choice between manual and automatic and dual-clutch transmissions. Acceleration is moderate, shift quality fine except in the dual-clutch unit, where it’s jerky, particularly at low speeds. (A Focus Electric only has batteries; we cover it separately.) On all, steering is quick with some heft, and ride quality is quite firm without being brittle.
The Focus ST sharpens its skill set with a 252-hp turbo-4 and a 6-speed manual. It’s the Focus for everyday enthusiasts. The 350-hp Focus RS dumps everything from the performance shelves into its shopping basket: torque-vectoring, all-wheel drive, Track and Drift drive modes. It’s a track toy that gets tiresome on public pavement.
All Focus hatches and sedans have well-shaped front seats, while RS and ST models have more confining sport buckets. No Focus has a spacious back seat. It’s tough for big people to fit three across, to slip in easily under the low roof, to find knee room suitable for people old enough to have a mortgage.
The IIHS says the Focus doesn’t do well in its latest crash test, but other scores are fine, and all models have a rearview camera. Other standard features include USB and Bluetooth audio, and in a charming retro throwback, a CD player. Top trims get navigation, leather, a clear and easy-to-use infotainment system, and Sony audio.