2013 Volkswagen GTI vs. 2013 Ford Focus ST

By Emme Hall.

We all love a good hatchback. They are practical without sacrificing style and offer lots of storage with a small footprint. Up until now, the 2013 Volkswagen GTI has been one of the top dawgs in the hot hatch segment. But along came Ford with Focus ST a few years ago and they are sending the WolfsburgPack howling back to their den. Should Volkswagen be worried, or does the 2013 GTI best the 2013 Focus ST?

2013 Volkswagen GTI

The GTI gets a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine good for 200 hp and 207 lb/ft of torque. Power is put to the front wheels via the standard 6 speed manual transmission. Volkswagen’s DSG dual clutch automatic is also available. It’s a good choice if you don’t mind losing that third pedal, but I once had a date pick me up in a DSG equipped GTI. He was not granted a second date. Get the manual.

The stick shift will get the GTI to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds and EPA fuel ratings are 21 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 25 mpg combined. The DSG fares a little better at 24/33/27.

Standard equipment on the GTI includes 18” wheels, power accessories, cruise control, air conditioning, heated front sport seats with plaid cloth upholstery, Bluetooth, satellite radio, iPod integration, an 8-speaker sound system, and a rear roof spoiler. The Convenience and Sunroof Package adds a multifunctional steering wheel, touchscreen for the radio, a different style of 18” wheels, and a sunroof (natch). The Sunroof and Navigation Package will get you the sunroof, xenon headlights, LED running lights, and navigation with a touchscreen interface.

2013 Volkswagen GTI

Some may scoff at the mere 200hp of the GTI, but it’s definitely a fun ride. The suspension is tight without sacrificing comfort, turbo lag is minimal, and there is loads of low-end torque. However, without a limited slip differential, it’s not as much of a corner carver as one would hope. Word on the street is the 2015 GTI will have an LSD, but until then you’re stuck with the XDS system, which keeps the inside wheel from spinning in turns by applying its brake. It’s fine for daily driving, but if you’re looking to really toss it about, wait for the LSD.

Like the GTI, the 2013 Ford Focus ST gets a 2.0L turbocharged 4-banger, but this one puts out 252 hp and 270 lb/ft of torque. Power goes to the front wheels via the only available transmission, a 6-speed close ratio manual. 60 mph comes in 6.2 seconds and EPA fuel ratings are 23 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway, and 26 mpg combined.

2013 Ford Focus ST

The Focus ST comes standard with 18” wheels, summer tires, keyless ignition and entry, power accessories, air conditioning, cruise control, 6-speaker sound system, and iPod integration. Optional packages include the ST2, adding front Recaro seats, the MyFord Touch interface with an 8” touchscreen, satellite radio, and dual-zone automatic climate control. The ST3 package adds heaters to those Recaros, xenon headlights, and a navigation system. A sunroof is also available.

When you think Ford and performance, you probably go right to the muscle car genre. However, Detroit has shown us they know how to make a small driver’s car that outperforms its European counterparts. Steering is crisp and precise and the short throws of the manual transmission are a joy to experience. Torque steer is kept to a minimum, the turbo spools up quickly, and despite having the same fake-it-til-you-make-it-let’s-just-electronically-apply-the-brakes-to-the-inside-wheel-during-turning-instead-of-giving-the-people-a-true-limited-slip-differential as the GTI, the Focus ST hugs the turns a bit better and has less understeer.

2013 Ford Focus ST

The 2013 Ford Focus ST starts at $23,700 and the 2013 Volkswagen GTI at $24,200. I have always had a lot of love for Volkswagen, but in this case, I have to go with the Focus ST. Not only is it a smidge less expensive, it squeaks by the GTI in cornering as well. Of course, both would benefit with a mechanical limited slip differential, but until then, either of these cars is a good choice if you need something sporty yet practical.

Just remember to get the manual. Always get the manual.

(Note: All vehicles provided by manufacturers for comparison test purposes. Photos provided by Ford and Volkswagen.)