Ford Focus
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Overall

Ford’s mainstream compact is now available with smoking-hot ST performance, or, oppositely, electric economy.

Drivetrain

160-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder connected to a five-speed manual transmission or optional twin-clutch automated manual; ST adds turbo and extra gear to handle 252 horses; optional all-electric drivetrain with 143-horsepower motor.

After aggressively expanding the guest list from both ends of the social spectrum for 2013, Ford is sitting back and watching the praise continue on its compact Focus line for 2014. The ST performance model takes all the positives of the Focus and then adds a list of improvements aimed at buyers who are in the mood for a Volkswagen GTI. The 2.0-liter “EcoBoost” turbocharged four-cylinder produces 252 horsepower and even features overboost with a giant slug of mid-range torque added. The ST is still front-wheel-drive, but uses a stiffer suspension, bigger and stickier tires and a variety of electronic systems to make it a true back-road hero. The ST gets unique parts inside and out, including more supportive seats and only comes with a six-speed manual transmission. The ST’s “green” counterpoint is the Focus Electric that features a 107-kilowatt (143-horsepower) motor and lithium-ion battery pack that can deliver a claimed range of 76 miles. By Ford’s clock, recharging takes three to four hours from a 240-volt home station available for about $1,500 from electronics retailer Best Buy. Like the ST, the Focus Electric stands out from regular Focii thanks to an Aston Martin-esque grille and headlights, along with special wheels, low-rolling-resistance tires and other wind-cheating aids. Like other modern electric cars, the Focus isn’t inexpensive with an MSRP of $39,200 before tax rebates and other incentives, but there aren’t many downsides if you can afford it. Both new Focus models only come in four-door hatchback form, but the “regular” cars can be had as sedans. That’s because it’s the only style available if you order the price-leader “S” that comes with manual climate control, tilt/telescopic steering wheel and basic four-speaker audio system and 15-inch steel wheels. The SE, SEL and Titanium trims get progressively more expensive for both sedan and hatchback. For the fuel conscious who don’t want to stretch up to the Electric, the optional SFE package — with its aero wheel covers, grille shutters, high-efficiency tires, four-wheel disc brakes and a rear spoiler — is rated at 40 mpg on the highway. The standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is rated at 160 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on all models, while optional is a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox. All models arrive with torque vectoring, which is a system that applies light braking pressure to slow down the inside wheel when the car is turning. This helps the Focus attack the corners with more precision by reducing the tendency to plow straight ahead (referred to as understeer).

Base price (incl. destination): $17,200
Type: Four-door sedan; four-door hatchback
Base engine (hp): 2.0-liter DOHC I4 (160)
Optional engine (hp): 2.0-liter DOHC I4, turbocharged (252); 107-kilowatt electric motor (143)
Layout: Front-engine, front- wheel-drive
Transmission: Five-speed manual; six-speed manual (ST); six-speed automated manual; single-speed controller (Focus electric)
MPG (city/hwy): 28/40 (automated manual with SFE package)
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control
Weight (lb.): 2,910