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2018 Ford Focus ST vs. 2018 Subaru WRX: Which Is Better?

  • The 2018 Ford Focus ST and the 2018 Subaru WRX compete in the sport compact segment.

  • The Focus ST is only available as a hatchback, and the WRX can only be had as a sedan.

  • The WRX comes standard with all-wheel drive, and the Focus ST is only available with front-wheel drive.

Editor’s note: You may want to read more of Autotrader’s model vs. model comparison car reviews as well as the 2018 Ford Focus review, and the 2018 Subaru WRX review.

If you need a practical 4-door, but you want a fun-to-drive sports car, there are a lot of great sport compacts that can serve both your wants and your needs with little compromise. Two of the best offerings in this segment are the 2018 Ford Focus ST and the 2018 Subaru WRX.

Both of these cars have their own distinct personalities that make them unique from each other. Let’s take a look at what’s similar, what’s different and which is better between the Subaru WRX and the Ford Focus ST.

2018 Ford Focus ST and 2018 Subaru WRX Exterior


If the Ford Focus ST and the Subaru WRX look familiar, it’s because they have similar counterparts that are much more common. The WRX is based on the Subaru Impreza and the Focus ST is, of course, based on the regular Focus. The differences in the exterior hint at the upgrades under the hood.

The most obvious aesthetic difference between these two cars is that the Subaru is a sedan, and the Ford is a hatchback. The Focus ST comes with a thoroughly revised front end, a rear spoiler, a body kit and special wheels. The WRX has similar revisions over the Impreza, but the rear wing is optional.

Which one looks better between these two is pretty much entirely up to your own personal taste. Depending on what kind of car enthusiast you are, you might think one is hideous and one is beautiful, while another enthusiast also in the market for these cars might think the exact opposite. See the 2018 Ford Focus models for sale near you

2018 Ford Focus ST and 2018 Subaru WRX Interior


Both of these cars have upgrades on the inside as well as the outside with the goal of making driving a more pleasurable experience for the driver. This is achieved through upgrades like bolstered seats (Recaro seats are available in both cars).

The Subaru WRX interior is ergonomically quite comfortable, but it suffers from subpar materials that tend to make the car feel a bit cheap on the inside. Although the WRX is usable as a family car thanks to its fairly roomy back seat, it’s not exactly a luxurious affair. Normally that wouldn’t bother us much, but other cars in this segment are getting really nice, and the WRX is falling behind in the interior department.

The Focus ST’s interior looks a little nicer and a little sportier than the one in the WRX. It still doesn’t have luxury car-like material quality, but it’s a little nicer than what’s in the Subaru. The Focus ST’s interior suffers from a cramped back seat compared to its competitors, including the WRX, which has a bit more room. The ST has more cargo space by virtue of being a hatchback rather than a sedan.

The Ford’s interior is a little more modern, but the Subaru will be more comfortable for your back seat passengers. See the 2018 Subaru WRX models for sale near you

2018 Ford Focus ST and 2018 Subaru WRX Exterior


The performance numbers are pretty close for these two cars, but the ways they bring power and torque to the road are a little different. The Subaru WRX comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter flat-4 “boxer” engine that makes 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. It comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, but it has an automatic option if you’d rather let the car do the shifting.

Under the hood of the Focus ST lies a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four engine that makes 252 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. That’s a little less power and a little more torque than the WRX. Unlike the Subaru, the Focus ST doesn’t have an automatic option. Its only transmission is a 6-speed manual, which is a pro for enthusiasts but a con for more casual drivers who can’t drive stick and just want a fun daily driver.

The biggest mechanical difference between the Focus ST and the WRX is which wheels motivate the cars. The Focus ST is a FWD car, but the WRX comes standard with symmetrical AWD at every trim level. That makes it more versatile in all road conditions than the Focus ST and arguably a little more practical.

One perk for the Focus ST over the WRX is fuel economy. The Ford is a little better on gas returning 22 miles per gallon in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway, and the best fuel economy the WRX can achieve is 21 mpg city/27 mpg hwy. Part of the reason for that is the standard AWD.

So the WRX has more transmission variety, more power and standard AWD, but the Focus ST makes more torque and gets better fuel economy. The WRX has an advantage if you live in a snowy climate, and the Focus ST has the bonus of fuel savings if you live somewhere where you don’t really need AWD.

2018 Ford Focus ST and 2018 Subaru WRX Exterior


The whole point of these cars is to have genuine sports car performance in a practical car at an affordable price point. Both cars offer strong performance along with strong value with the Subaru WRX starting at $26,995 and the Focus ST starting at $25,170. They can both climb up to around the $30k mark and beyond when optioned with features like Recaro leather seats, premium audio, navigation and a sunroof.

The main reason the WRX costs more than the Focus ST is because of its standard AWD. Any car in this class with AWD is hard to find at this price point, so the WRX is still a pretty good value, despite being the more expensive of the two.

2018 Ford Focus ST and 2018 Subaru WRX Exterior


This is a close one, and at the end of the day, each enthusiast probably has a good idea of which one of these cars they’re leaning towards. However, we slightly prefer the Focus ST over the WRX. The Focus ST’s lower starting price and better fuel economy make it a more affordable car to both buy and live with and we think it has a nicer interior, albeit cramped in the back seats. The standard AWD of the WRX is great, but it also adds to the price and hurts its fuel economy, making it kind of a burden if you don’t need the AWD. It’s hard to go wrong with either of these sport compacts, but our recommendation is the Focus ST. Find a 2018 Ford Focus for sale or Find a 2018 Subaru WRX for sale

Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt is an author specializing in Oversteer content, new car reviews, and finding the best car, truck, and SUV deals each month. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Eric can often be found exploring the north woods on his 1983 Honda Gold Wing when the weather allows it. Father of four, husband of one, and unapologetic minivan enthusiast. Eric mastered driving stick by having a 3-cylinder Chevy... Read More about Eric Brandt

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  1. I have a 2015 WRX Limited with manual transmission and I hit 30MPG on the highway all the time.  I usually get 24-26 mpg in mixed driving. I’ve gotten up to 34mpg on highway alone as well if I keep my right foot under control.

    But I totally agree on the interior being “meh”.  The “leather” steering wheel? Terrible. I had mine replaced somewhere int eh 20-30k miles range because the leather was tearing/delaminating.  Guess what? 50k miles and the same thing is happening. Looks terrible.

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