After experiencing the gloriously impractical 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C at the Doin' Time In Joliet 24 Hours of LeMons race, I returned to the Upper Midwest a month later and drove the '15 Focus ST around Door County, Wisconsin, for nine days. This car is just-about-across-the-board loved by nearly every car writer in the world (including my colleagues at this publication), and I was ready to be a rebel and say I didn't like it… but that's not how things sorted out. I haven't been this tempted to buy a review car since I drove the Mitsubishi Evo GSR nearly two years ago.
I spent most of my childhood in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I started out in proper Upper Midwest fashion: in Minneapolis, with Old-Style-drinking parents with thick Minnesota accents and serious Detroit machinery. Now that I'm married to a Milwaukee native, I take an annual trip to the in-laws' vacation cabin on Lake Michigan and revisit my Midwestern roots. There's no way I'd drive some foreign machine around in a region where young people still buy Buicks and you'll see a half-dozen Pontiacs and Saturns for every Volkswagen, so the Focus ST seemed like the correct car choice for the small towns and wide-open farm roads of rural Wisconsin.
With 252 horsepower— which is just two fewer than the V8 in the final version of the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor— and an emphatically non-clunky 6-speed, this car is tremendous fun. Blasting away from stoplights, diving into corners on country roads, all that good stuff is easy in the Focus ST, and it's cheap enough that you could still talk yourself into thinking you're being sensible by buying one. I think the Miata is slightly more fun and costs similar money, but the list of compromises involved with daily-driving a two-seat convertible just stretches on and on.
I did all sorts of practical stuff with the Focus ST during my stay in Wisconsin: shopping, taking passengers to eating establishments serving perch and whitefish, hauling bags of trash to the dump, all manner of activities that let the ST owner tell himself see, this wasn't a frivolous purchase at all! The ride is on the stiff side (OK, you'll take a beating on rough pavement, live with it), the interior is made of unapologetically cheap/tough materials, and the seats are just tolerable (the Recaro seats that are part of the 401A package improve things dramatically, but you'll fork over an extra $3k -- Ed.)
Of course, you'd want to take this car to the occasional track day, which usually means breaking parts and unplanned spending, but in principle it's a perfect low-buck commuter/enthusiast machine. The audio system sounds decent, the Bluetooth connection is non-maddening, and the fuel economy is impressive for all that forced-induction power.
So, I'm not going to break away from the auto-journalist herd and write that the Focus ST is overrated (though I wish that I could say that the lamentably underpowered Sonic RS is underrated). This deal is nearly impossible to beat.
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