Volkswagen Golf vs. Ford Focus

By

Automotive Editor

John Diether has been a professional writer, editor, and producer since 1997. His work can be found on TV, radio, web, and various publications throughout the world.  He is a graduate of Northwestern University and has a 1992 Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance in his garage. 


, Automotive Editor - April 17, 2018

Two of the most recognizable compacts on the road, the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus offer crisp performance and a touch of sophistication at an economical price. That combo alone keeps them in the top tier of small cars, though each has its own strategy for appealing to buyers. Which approach works better for us?

See a side-by-side comparison of the Golf & Focus »

What the Golf Gets Right

With its upright design and squared-off rear, the Golf provides excellent visibility and welcoming headroom for tall adults. The most important benefit may be cargo space — there's 53.7 cubic feet of it with the rear seat folded. No compact hatchback can hold more. Much like the outside, the interior has a buttoned-down look that's mature and reassuring without being dowdy.

The turbocharged, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine produces 170 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque, enough to make the Golf one of the quicker compacts on the market. EPA ratings come in at 29 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving with the standard five-speed manual transmission, or 28 mpg combined with the optional six-speed automatic.

Standard features include some pretty heady stuff for this class. Every Golf gets automatic emergency braking, an 8.5-inch touchscreen, and automatic wipers.

What the Focus Gets Right

Whether in sedan or hatchback form, the Focus offers expressive styling and a pleasant mix of quality materials inside. Handling remains a strong suit, as does the stress-free ride and attractive instrumentation. Although the Focus will get a full redesign next year, the current model still feels competitive with newer rivals.

Most examples carry a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 160 hp and 146 lb-feet of torque. The EPA rates the Focus at 28 mpg combined with the standard five-speed manual, or 31 mpg with the optional dual-clutch six-speed automatic. In our view, the 2.0-liter provides an excellent balance of performance and efficiency.

For buyers on the efficiency end of the spectrum, Ford also offers an excellent 1.0-liter, turbocharged three-cylinder that manages 123 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque. With the five-speed manual, the 1.0-liter returns an impressive 34 mpg combined, although the advantage nearly evaporates with the automatic.

The hatchback can handle up to 44.8 cubic feet of cargo, while the sedan's trunks tops out at 13 cubic feet.

The Best of Both

The Golf is easy to appreciate for its quality, features, and cargo capacity. There are no apparent efforts to economize on packaging, which isn't usually the case in this class.

The Focus is a well-rounded player that's enjoyable to drive and still somewhat daring in design. That said, we can't help but wonder how much better next year's Focus will be.

Our Verdict: Volkswagen Golf

The Golf comes closer to perfection in the categories that really matter to buyers.

Take a closer look at the Volkswagen Golf »

Take a closer look at the Ford Focus »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

John Diether has been a professional writer, editor, and producer since 1997. His work can be found on TV, radio, web, and various publications throughout the world.  He is a graduate of Northwestern University and has a 1992 Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance in his garage. 


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