Originally published June 29, 2015

So your life is going pretty well. School seems like ages ago; you’re making great progress with your career, and all those grown up responsibilities are ostensibly mounting by the day.

When you’re not working, there is no shortage of household responsibilities. And family responsibilities. And, well, do you ever get time to do anything for yourself anymore?

Why not turn your commute into something more rewarding, something interesting? Something for you. Something… better.

Sure blowing the life savings on a new, obnoxious, mid-engine, 12-cylinder hyper exotic machine would give you some instant gratification, but imagine the stress of returning home each night to your cardboard box because the house was sold to afford it. And where will the kids’ hockey bags go? Heck, where will the kids go?

No, that’s a silly idea. Instead. Buy one of these two cars. It doesn’t matter which one really, because they both achieve the same thing. They’re both fitted with four doors to easily put the family in; a hatchback to contain all your junk; and an efficient little engine to keep your fuel budget in check.

But here’s the best part: both possess enough performance chops to be honestly and truly fun to drive.

Still, wouldn’t it be nice if someone could just tell you which one is better? Well, driving enthusiast, that’s what we’re here for.

The Looks

Look, neither of these is a sleek and sexy coupe or roadster. These two cars are based on more plebian machines, and thus their appearance is largely dictated by utilitarianism. Still, when fitted with 18-inch wheels wrapped in low profile performance rubber and bodies painted a bright crimson, a certain sporting intent is communicated to the other driving species in the urban jungle. And then there’s the $500 strips of black vinyl that have been affixed to the Focus’s hood, roof and hatchback that virtually shout “Hey cops, I’ma gonna do something I shouldn’t, just you watch!” Plus everyone knows that stickers add at least five horsepower, so how could you forego the stripe package?

While handsome and clearly more sporting than lesser Golfs, the GTI is bland – almost dowdy – parked next to the Focus ST. Sure the GTI is handsome, but in a my-hair-has-been-nicely-parted-and-I-have-my-best-sweater-vest-on kind of way.

For 2015 both cars are updated, and while this year’s GTI is all new, those who aren’t VW aficionados will need to study the details carefully to pick out a new GTI from last year’s model. Ford has made some subtle updates – a few extra hood creases here, some nice-looking wheels there – and of course those sassy stickers – but otherwise, this year’s Focus ST is not a whole lot different than last year’s.

And yet the Ford is definitely the more eye-catching car. Its grille is particularly aggressive and defines the attitude for the rest of the design from nose to tail. The greater rake to the rear hatch and bigger rooftop spoiler also give the Focus a more sinister profile. The GTI, meanwhile, is clean, mature and business-like.

Exterior Styling Score – GTI: 3.5/5 ST: 4/5

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