The 2018 Ford Focus ST asks us to live in the moment, not only because of its intense driving attitude and ability to enliven everyday tasks, but because Ford's radical plan to eliminate mainstream cars from the US lineup in favor of crossovers and SUVs means that the car faces its own mortality. For now, though, Ford's compact daily-driver street racer is still (thankfully) in production. If you're looking for a machine that mixes a long list of practical attributes with a wonderfully judged sense of high-speed delinquency, the 2018 Ford Focus ST is a top choice.

Best Value

The Ford Focus ST is a compact five-door hatchback that's been systematically and thoroughly upgraded with high-performance parts. A turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four runs 252 horsepower to the front wheels; a six-speed manual is the only available transmission. A big brake disc and an 18-inch wheel are situated at each independently-sprung corner of the chassis, which is tuned to be pleasantly firm and direct but not nervous or harsh.

The Focus ST is its own trim level. Options are limited to two packages – the ST2 package brings Recaro seats partially upholstered in leather, dual-zone climate control, a moonroof, and the SYNC 3 infotainment system with SiriusXM satellite radio, while the ST3 adds heaters to the steering wheel and the fully leather Recaro seats, navigation, and some carbon fiber dress pieces to the ST2's feature set. Feel free to weigh the magnitude of the ST3 package's $5,680 price tag against the need to heat your hands and posterior, but the Focus ST is well equipped in base form and makes for an easy call for our value pick:

  • Model: 2018 Ford Focus ST
  • Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Output: 252 hp / 270 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 22 City / 30 Hwy
  • Options: N/A
  • Base Price: $26,045 (including an $875 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $26,045

Performance

Ford Focus ST

Objectively, the Focus ST is safely quick, fast, and grippy enough to look good on paper; subjectively, it's one of the most enjoyable compact driver's cars on the market. Ford has tuned the turbo motor to effectively eliminate lag, providing lots of usable and controllable power throughout the rev range.

Handling is a great mix of nimble responses and solid feel, aided by a trick stability control system that cuts torque steer and enhances turn-in. (Something to whisper to your stat-sheet-obsessed friends: The ST may not have the power numbers and all-wheel-drive grip of its pricey, tech-heavy Focus RS sibling, but it's more pure fun to drive on a daily basis.)

If there are any weaknesses to the Focus ST's performance attributes, they tend to be comparative instead of absolutes. For example, it's not as refined as the current Volkswagen GTI and its chassis isn't as impeccably mannered as the current Honda Civic Si – both of which are newer designs.

Style

The Focus ST dresses for the job. A set of spoilers and body extensions adds a healthy dose of attitude to the hatchback Focus, which has always been pleasantly attractive; the effect is a sense of playful aggression absent from many bland mainstream products (and the ST's archrival Volkswagen GTI) without going too far into the manga-influenced belligerence seen on the Civic Type R.

The interior is also stylized, but in a less inspiring way. For all its modern design and high feature count, the Focus' interior has always been excessively busy – the multitude of buttons and their occasionally awkward positioning complicates operation instead of enabling it. The Recaro seats add some upscale character but won't be comfortable for all body shapes, and rear seat room is not exactly voluminous.

The Best and Worst Things

Ford's development of the Focus ST puts it right in the sweet spot of a number of subjective buyer considerations: it's quick and fun without being abrasive, the styling touches are stimulating without being over the top, and it works well on a daily basis without simply being a mundane commuter car with a big turbo motor. It's a terrific answer to the perennial one-car-for-everything question, with the added benefits of serious driver gratification and an appealing sticker price.

The current Focus has been in production since the 2012 model year, and, while it's still appealing, some of the details – especially the button-heavy and slightly scattered interior – and the car's general sense of refinement deserve a refresh...which will apparently not happen for US buyers. Business decisions are business decisions, but the Focus ST is something special and to see it in the light of its announced demise provokes a peculiar kind of sadness.

Right For? Wrong For?

Ford Focus ST

Do you want a car that both reflects and can carry an active lifestyle? Are you willing to forgo some exhaustive degree of refinement in favor of serious pivot-and-run amusement? Do you know a good traffic-court lawyer? The Focus ST is a case study of what can happen when a car company gets serious about the deeply unserious idea of mischievously fast driving and gets it right.

Do you want your adolescent thrills to be packaged in a more mature wrapper? The Volkswagen GTI lines up directly with the Focus ST but presents a more restrained image. Do you prefer classic handling balance? Consider the similarly powered (and priced) Mustang EcoBoost. Do you want a Focus ST but plan to play it safe and buy a crossover instead? You'll never forgive yourself, and neither will your fellow American car enthusiasts; live your truth.

The Bottom Line

The 2018 Ford Focus ST remains a blast of affordable, well-packaged, and very usable fun in an increasingly timid and bottom-line-minded automotive marketplace. Buy one while you can; it'll be missed when it's gone.