Ford Focus ST Vs. Volkswagen Golf GTI: Hauling People, Cargo, and Tail

The Volkswagen Golf launched the hot-hatchback segment decades ago, but it is hotter than ever now as seemingly every automaker has one of these lightning-quick hatchbacks in its lineup. The 2018 Ford Focus ST is the Blue Oval’s base hot-hatch offering, and it gives the 2019 Golf GTI a run for its money. Which is the better hot-hatchback for our Jacksonville, Florida buyers? Keep reading to find out.

Exterior

The 2018 Ford Focus and 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI feature sporty designs, but the Golf GTI takes more of a sleeper approach with its toned-down body style that’s free of spoilers and other aggressive accents. The Focus ST, on the other hand, has a roof-mounted rear spoiler and a more aggressive front bumper.

The Ford Focus’ body checks in at 171.7 inches long, 74.1 inches wide, and 57.9 inches tall. The Focus’ wheelbase measures 104.3 inches. At 168 inches long, 70.8 inches wide, and 57.8 inches tall, the 2019 Golf GTI is narrower and shorter than the Focus ST.

The GTI’s 103.6-inch wheelbase is shorter than the ST’s by 0.7 inches, but this wheelbase sits under a 3.7-inch-shorter body, pushing the GTI’s wheels are closer to the corners. This helps the GTI in the corners. Also in the GTI’s favor is its smaller footprint, which makes it easier to zip in and out of traffic.

Advantage: 2018 Ford Focus ST

  • More aggressive body

Advantage: 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI

  • Sleeper body style
  • Smaller footprint makes it better in traffic

Interior

The Ford Focus ST and VW Golf GTI feature sporty interiors that boast flat-bottomed steering wheels, splashes of color, metallic trim, and large infotainment screens. The difference between the two is the GTI’s cabin is a little more toned down than the Focus.

Up front, the 2018 Ford Focus’ seats offer 38.3 inches of headroom, 43.1 inches of legroom, and 55.6 inches of shoulder room. The Golf GTI bests the Focus in headroom and shoulder room at 38.4 and 55.9 inches, respectively, while the Focus takes the legroom crown by 1.9 inches.

The 2018 Focus ST’s rear seats offer 38 inches of headroom, 33.2 inches of legroom, and 52.6 inches of shoulder room. The 2019 Golf GTI betters the Focus ST in every rear-seat measurable with its 38.1 inches of headroom, 35.6 inches of legroom, and 53.9 inches of shoulder room.

In the hot-hatchback segment, cargo room is a big part of the equation. The 2018 Ford Focus ST features 23.3 cubic feet of cargo room with the seats up and 43.9 cubes with the rear seats folded. This bests the Golf GTI’s standard cargo room by 0.5 cubic feet, but the GTI’s maximum cargo capacity of 52.7 cubes beats the Focus by 8.8 cubes.

Advantage: 2018 Ford Focus ST

  • More front-seat legroom
  • More standard cargo room with seats up
  • Sportier interior design

Advantage: 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI

  • Roomier rear seat
  • More max cargo room
  • Toned-down cabin

Performance

The Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI are performance hatchbacks, so they are focused on power-to-weight ratios instead of raw power. That’s not to say they are not powerful, but both hatchbacks sit below a more powerful hot-hatchback in their respective lineups. The ST sits beneath the Ford Focus RS, and the Golf GTI is below the VW Golf R.

The Ford Focus ST rolls in with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that cranks out 250 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 270 pound-feet of torque at 2,500 rpm. This routes through a six-speed manual transmission that delivers power to the front wheels. The amounts to an independently tested 6.3-second 0-to-60 time and a 150 mph top speed.

The VW Golf GTI uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder to produce 228 horsepower at 4,700 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque at 1,500 rpm. Like the Focus, the Golf GTI comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive, but you can toss in an extra $1,100 to get a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. Despite its reduced output, the Golf GTI is quicker to 60 mph than the Focus ST at 6.2 seconds with the manual and six seconds with the dual-clutch transmission.

The Golf GTI and Focus ST are not fuel-sipping econoboxes, but the Golf GTI has a slight advantage here. With the dual-clutch transmission, the VW gets 24 mpg city, 32 highway, and 27 combined. The manual transmission increases all three ratings by 1 mpg. The Focus ST, however, gets 22 mpg city, 30 highway, and 25 combined.

Advantage: 2018 Ford Focus ST

  • More horsepower and torque

Advantage: 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI

  • Dual-clutch option shaves 0.3 seconds off sprint time
  • Better fuel economy

Pricing and Features

As niche vehicles, the Focus ST and Golf GTI don’t have a ton of trims or options. In fact, the Focus ST is a trim level within the Focus lineup, but it has three packages that act as trims themselves: ST1, ST2, and ST3. The 2018 Focus ST’s prices range from $25,170 to $30,850.

The 2019 Golf GTI has four trim levels: S, Rabbit Edition, SE, and Autobahn. Prices will range from $27,595 to $35,995.

2018 Ford Focus ST Key Features and Pricing by Trim

ST1: $25,170

  • 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine
  • Six-speed manual transmission
  • Body-color door handles
  • Power body-color mirrors with manual fold
  • Mirror-integrated turn signals
  • Auto-on/off halogen headlights
  • LED signature lighting
  • Daytime running lights
  • Rear spoiler
  • Hill-start assist
  • Manual climate control
  • Power door locks
  • Power windows
  • Tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel
  • LEather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel with “ST” badge
  • Front and rear 12-volt power outlets
  • Cruise control
  • Ford MyKey
  • Push-button start
  • Leather-wrapped ST gear-shift knob
  • Rear HVAC vents
  • Torque vectoring control
  • Active grille shutters
  • 18-inch Rado Grey alloy wheels
  • Rearview camera
  • Perimeter alarm

ST2: $28,850

  • All ST1 features, plus
  • Cornering lights
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control
  • HID headlights
  • HD Radio
  • Overhead console
  • Power moonroof
  • RECARO Smoke Storm partial-leather seats
  • SiriusXM
  • 10-speaker Sony audio system
  • SYNC 3 infotainment system
  • 8-inch touchscreen
  • AppLink
  • Two smart-charging USB ports
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

ST3: $30,850

  • All ST2 features, plus
  • 8-way power driver’s seat
  • Ambient lighting
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Heated mirrors
  • Voice-activated navigation with SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link
  • RECARO Charcoal Black full-leather seats
  • Rear armrest
  • Keyless entry keypad
  • Carbon-fiber Interior Accent Package

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI Key Features and Pricing by Trim

S: $27,595

  • 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine
  • Six-speed manual transmission
  • Hill-start assist
  • 18-inch aluminum wheels
  • LED daytime running lights
  • LED fog lights
  • LED taillights
  • Auto-on/off halogen headlights
  • Heated windshield washer nozzles
  • Heated mirrors
  • Leather multifunction steering wheel
  • Power-recline front seats
  • Power windows
  • Cloth seating with Clark Plaid inserts
  • Cruise control
  • Ambient lighting
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Heated front seats
  • Six-speaker audios system
  • HD Radio
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • VW Car-Net App Connect
  • Composition Color infotainment with 6.5-inch color touchscreen
  • Rearview camera
  • Automatic post-collision braking

Rabbit Edition: $28,895

  • All S features, plus
  • Gloss-black 18-inch wheels
  • LED adaptive headlights
  • Keyless access with push-button start
  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Black rear spoiler
  • Black mirror caps
  • Rabbit-badged seat tags
  • Red-stitched floor mats

SE: $31,795

  • All S features, plus
  • Power sunroof
  • LED adaptive headlights
  • Leather seating
  • Keyless access with push-button start
  • Composition Media infotainment with 8-inch touchscreen
  • SiriusXM
  • VW Car-Net Security & Service
  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Rear cross-traffic alert

Autobahn: $35,995

  • All SE features, plus
  • 12-way power driver’s sport seat with lumbar support
  • Climatronic dual-zone automatic climate control
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror
  • Fender Premium Audio system
  • Discover Media infotainment with navigation and 8-inch touchscreen
  • VW Car-Net Guide & Inform
  • Active Blind Spot Monitor
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Lane-keep assist
  • Park-distance control
  • Parking-steering assist
  • Automatic high-beam headlights

Who Should Buy the 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI?

Those looking for the enhanced performance of a dual-clutch transmission have no choice but to go for the Golf GTI. Plus, buyers who need more cargo and rear seat room will appreciate the extra space in the GTI.

Who Should Buy the Ford Focus ST?

The Focus ST offers great value in every trim level relative to the Golf GTI. Plus, the Focus ST will cost less to maintain as it ages. On top of the money saved, the ST is also just a tenth of a second off the base GTI’s 0-to-60 sprint time.

While this all sounds great on paper, new-car buyers in Jacksonville, Florida will want to feel the power of the 2018 Ford Focus ST in person. Come on down to the Garber Automall new-car showroom serving Orange Park, Jacksonville, and Fleming Island for a test drive. Can’t make it in today? You can see what 2018 Ford Focus models we have in stock via our online inventory.

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