The Ford Focus ST has been pitted against several budget-minded sporty cars, but hot hatch fans have been waiting for a comparison between the Focus and its closest turbocharged, front-drive competition: the Mazdaspeed3. That wait ends today, as Motor Trend’s Carlos Lago tests both hatchbacks on the latest Head 2 Head.
On paper, the two hatchbacks appear very similar. The Mazdaspeed3 makes an ample 263 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque from its turbocharged 2.3-liter I-4, while the Focus ST produces slightly less from its turbo 2.0-liter mill, at 252 hp and 270 lb-ft. Wheelbase, curb weight, and base price are all remarkably close, and should make this an interesting comparison.
Lago begins on the street at the helm of the Mazdaspeed3, and first comments on the car’s somewhat confused cabin design. Things improve in the Focus ST, with a dash layout that’s better organized and more cohesive. Though the Focus has racier-looking seats, Lago notes that those in the Mazda do just as good a job of holding you in place. Thanks to a specially designed intake resonator tube, the Focus ST has the better engine note at wide open throttle.
Since both cars are front-drive and turbocharged, Lago devises a simple test to judge torque steer. The goal is to accelerate for as long as possible (with traction control off) without touching the steering wheel. The Mazda fails horribly, though the Focus also ends up in the dirt fairly quickly. Finally, the host meets up with Randy Pobst at Willow Springs International Raceway to see how the cars perform on the track. Find out which hot hatch comes out on top in the episode below.