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Used test – hot hatches: Ford Focus ST vs Volkswagen Golf GTI

Two of the most popular hot hatches in the UK – and two of the most exciting, too. But which makes the best used buy?

Words ByWhat Car? team

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Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST

Our Verdict

Both of these cars combine storming performance with hatchback practicality and a surprisingly comfortable ride. They’re also practical enough to use every day, and shouldn’t break the bank when it comes to running costs.

Thanks to the Ford’s slightly more brash image, the Volkswagen is probably the one that will appeal to more people, more of the time on the dealer’s forecourt. Its understated looks and classy interior give it that perfect blend of taste and aggression that’s made the GTI such a cult favourite.

And while the Focus is cheaper to run, the Golf isn’t exactly pricey by comparison. If you prefer the way it looks and value its more relaxed manners on the motorway, that might be enough to tip the balance – we wouldn’t stop you.

However, it is the Ford that wins here today, simply because it’s better in almost every area. Not only is it faster than the Volkswagen, but it’s also sharper and more involving to drive, cheaper to buy and cheaper to run. It even makes a more interesting noise.

In fact, the only area in which the Focus loses out to the Golf meaningfully is inside, where its dashboard is fiddlier and its boot is smaller. But those disadvantages aren’t enough to deny it first place. The Mk6 Golf GTI is good; the Mk3 Focus ST, however, is better.

Read our review of the latest Volkswagen Golf GTI

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Also consider:


1st – Ford Focus ST-2

For Sharp handling; awesome performance; tempting price

Against Some torque steer; small boot; fiddly buttons

Verdict A brutally fast hot hatch you can use every day

Rated 4 out of 5

Read the full used Ford Focus review

Find a used Ford Focus for sale in the What Car? Classifieds


2nd – Volkswagen Golf GTI

For Fun to drive; upmarket, user-friendly dashboard; comfortable and composed

Against Higher price; not as enjoyable or as fast as the Focus

Verdict Still hugely desirable, even if you do have to pay more for the privilege

Rated 4 out of 5

Read the full used Volkswagen Golf review

Find a used Volkswagen Golf for sale in the What Car? Classifieds


Specifications: Ford Focus ST-2

Engine size 2.0-litre petrol

List price when new Β£23,495

Price today Β£11,500

Power 247bhp

Torque 251lb ft

0-60mph 6.4sec

Top speed 147mph

Fuel economy 39.2mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 169g/km


Specifications: Volkswagen Golf GTI 5dr

Engine size 2.0-litre petrol

List price when new Β£26,235

Price today Β£13,000

Power 208bhp

Torque 206lb ft

0-60mph 6.4sec

Top speed 147mph

Fuel economy 38.7mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 170g/km


Price today is based on a 2012 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

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