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Toyota 86 GTS vs Ford Focus ST

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Toyota 86 GTS and Ford Focus ST go head to head in this comparative review.

3 stars

VALUE from $35,490

3.5 stars

VALUE from $38,290

The four-seater gets plenty of kit -- satnav, touchscreen audio with voice commands, Bluetooth and USB connection, limited-slip diff function, 17-inch alloys, LED running lights, HID automatic headlights, leather/Alcantara heated sports seats, dual-zone climate control and fully adjustable sports steering wheel.

The ST gets Recaros, 18-inch alloys, leather-wrapped sports wheel, auto headlights and rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, nine-speaker USB/Bluetooth Sony sound with voice activation, reversing camera and satnav. Plus variable-ratio sports steering.


Subaru's flat-four with Toyota's dual fuel injection produces 147kW at a lofty 7000rpm and 205Nm not much earlier at 6400rpm yet it's flexible. The busy soundtrack is augmented by an intake sound generator and conducted by a sharp six-speed manual gearbox turning the rear axle. Dance anyone?

With an uprated version of the 2.0-litre direct-injection turbo four from the Ford Falcon, the ST produces 184kW/360Nm with a claimed thirst of 7.4 litres/100km. The only transmission is a six-speed manual. Electronic assistants include three-stage stability control and torque vectoring.

3 stars


3.5 starsDESIGN
The long, low look gets attention. Well-proportioned rump with twin exhaust pipes and a diffuser. When you sit behind the upright steering wheel the GTS has comfy leather/Alcantara sport buckets. The two rear seats are somewhat useful but the Focus has a real back seat.
You won't confuse this five-door with a mainstream Focus. The interior is more versatile than the 86's and gets the full sports seat treatment. The dashboard and chunky steering wheel are too busy but it's a comfortable passenger space front and rear.
3 starsSAFETY 3.5 starsSAFETY

Five stars were awarded to the near-identical twin Subaru BRZ. The safety features list of the "Toyobaru'' includes seven airbags -- dual front, front-side, curtain and a driver's knee bag, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control (with a sport mode).

The newest hot Focus has a five-star ANCAP rating, with dual front, front-side and curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assistance systems, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.

2.5 starsDRIVING 4 starsDRIVING

It's not a scorcher in a straight line but the 86 GTS is light on its wheels, with sharp steering, rifle-bolt gearshift and great balance. On the right road or track, the driver can lead the rear end a merry dance without real fear of being bitten.

More civilised than the 86 in traffic; the Focus makes better noise when exploiting the bags of grip, enthusiastic well-weighted steering and considerable grunt. Still some torque steer with which to contend. The ST will cover long distances in better shape.


Two new-age hot shots: one boasts more grunt but delivers it all through the front wheels, the other goes for light 'n' nimble without huge outputs. Both will delight the driver but the Ford is easier to live with day to day.

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 12 comments

  • Wow of course the Australia ford wins just wow I have a driven both. The ford is so sluggish ans cheap we’re as the 86 is agile and fun to drive.

    Harris of Point pieper Posted on 26 February 2014 11:37am
  • These cars are not comparable to each other and are attracting different buyers. The 86 is a bargain well balanced sports car and the Ford is a hot hatch. The ford has a lot of competition from more prestigious brands. The 86 sits in a world of its own. The 86 is sold out for months. Can’t argue with that

    JB of melbourne Posted on 24 February 2014 2:22am
  • Julian, I dare you to list me a few alternatives to the Toyota - Brother BRZ maybe. I cant think of any on the market in regards to a RWD Coupe, same size, pricing, spec etc.

    Therefore, we see FWD drive vs RWD comparisons… I think its about time the FWD stereotypes be abolished, and the Focus proves this to be the case.

    Fair game of Ballarat, Vic Posted on 19 November 2013 12:36pm
  • Driven both…86 is absolutely fantastic to drive, drivers position is great, balance is great, not fast but wherever you point the nose at it just goes, and still lets you have fun when you want it. I would say it is a combination between Porsche Boxter and MX5. Ford however, has good power in straight line, but hated the understeer and torque steer. Nothing ground braking there. Just anothe FWD car. It is not a drivers car by any means. Interior is bad in both, but in Ford’s case, it tries too hard to make it look more than it is: a cheap plastic interior. Same as 86 but at least it does not try too hard! Technology, I know that more R&D went into the 86 than any Ford all together. Now lets look at the sales and demand of both: 6-12 months wait for the 86 and huge sales and awards all over the world. ford..just another FWD with turbocharged engine!

    Mercer of Brisbane Posted on 22 October 2013 2:12pm
  • And how about doing a comparison of apples vs oranges while you are at it?

    mike clayfield of Brisbane Posted on 12 October 2013 3:51pm
  • Haven’t driven either of these cars as we have the big daddy mac XR6 Turbo and couldn’t justify similar price for a slower Focus ST. However this article has forgotten to mention the mini Focus ST being the soon to be released Fiesta ST = Which would out shine even the 86. Chris Harris (UK) says its a great package and even gets its sideways on the track (youtube). Would be a great replacement for our lowly Barina…

    Ash of Vic Posted on 17 August 2013 10:20pm
  • I have driven performance FWD and RWD, if you still believe RWD is the answer you have not driven a performance FWD car in the last 5 years. There are so many awsome Front drivers now it often makes the old school RWD obsolete and fuel heavy.I agree the 86 looks great in the metal but I dont buy a car for looks, performance cars are for performance. The ST is stunning value and goes hard.

    Andy of Qld Posted on 01 August 2013 2:13pm
  • Both of these cars are awesome. Toyota/Subi is no frills realy, lacking in power but great handling and balance. Fun to drive. The Focus is aimed at higher end hot hatches and does the job very very well. I’d be happy trading in the Captiva for either one of these…Kuga looks to be the closest I can get to it though.

    CJ of NSW Posted on 20 July 2013 12:27pm
  • Focus ST is a remarkable car for the price,
    1. Value for money.
    2. Performance and pure enjoyment.
    3. Practicality, everyday living and
    5. Great looks in real life, rather than some of the terrible photos I have seen.

    I guarantee ill be holding onto my 2013 Focus ST much longer than owners of the 86 or BRZ. Besides, you have to be smashing that rev limiter to complete any sort of sizeable drift in dry conditions. And don’t bother bringing the 86 or BRZ to a track day. After your 10 laps your already at-least half a lap behind.

    One last point, The focus ST Sony stereo is not as complex as these reviewers quote. On purchase all the functions are clearly shown by the salesman at CityFord and the rest I self explanatory.
    I’d love to see someone test drive this car and quote me otherwise. Oh and if you would rather a Golf GTI, keep saving your pennies because it will cost you at least $7,000 more for a comparable package. 

    Pete Evans of Sydney Posted on 08 April 2013 3:02pm
  • There is a distinct styling difference that make these two cars completely incomparable. I wouldn’t buy a hatchback regardless of how fast it goes. On the flip side I think there are many more who wouldn’t buy a coupe despite how cool it looks.

    Car fan Posted on 21 October 2012 6:24pm
  • Have another look at the ST specification. I think you will find the ST has got the GTS covered and probably deserves a higher Value rating than the GTS

    Muz of Brisbane Posted on 21 October 2012 11:24am
  • While you’re doing rwd vs fwd comparisons, how about comparing the GT86 vs Polo GTi?

    Julian Posted on 18 October 2012 9:29pm
Read all 12 comments

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