2018 Ford Focus 

Starting Price: $18,825  Price Yours

Above Average: Sporty performance, fuel economy, styling

Below Average: Interior room, car can get pricey

Consensus: Driver-centric but highly practical


2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI 

Starting Price: $27,265 Price Yours

Above Average: Sportiness, styling, and a significant Euro-inspired fun factor 

Below Average: Rear-seat legroom, four-door hatchback layout is only choice

Consensus: An enthusiast’s cult classic that keeps getting better


A great driver even in base trim, the Ford Focus is one of the brand’s best sellers. Originally designed by Ford’s British and German design teams, it is now available in sedan and hatchback models and four trim levels, as well a wide variety of engines, plus an all-electric model. There's also the enthusiast-friendly Focus ST, an impressive piece of work that is only one-upped by the all-wheel-drive Focus RS, the new benchmark in high-performance compacts. Sporty, comfortable, and stylish are three buzzwords that apply to the Volkswagen Golf GTI. Fuel efficient and fun to drive are a couple of others. Its strong performance, impressive fuel economy and other pluses make this a 220-horsepower enthusiast’s pocket rocket from the moment you start it up. Available in S, SE and Autobahn trim levels there’s a choice of 6-speed manual or excellent 6-speed automatic DSG gearbox with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shift levers. Available driver assistance package, adaptive damping system and performance package which features a larger brake kit round out some of the offerings. For those who want even more power, VW fans can look to another hatch in the family: the 292-horsepower Golf R.

Ford Focus Advantages

Available in hatch and sedan body styles, and with a variety of engine choices, the Focus gives buyers more flexibility.

Volkswagen Golf GTI Advantages

A true cult classic, the Golf GTI is ready for a little Autobahn-burning right out of the box.


Two reliable, well-built hatches that are tops in the compact five-door hatchback field. Both appeal to slightly different customers with a full range of available models and options.

Final Recommendation

Both the 2018 Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf GTI will provide reliability and thrills from behind the wheel. Despite their similarities in layout and design, they might still appeal to two different palates. Too close to call, we would say the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI hit the line in a photo finish.

  2018 Ford Focus 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI
Popular Powertrains    
Engine 2.0-liter 4-cyl 2.0-liter 4-cyl turbo
Horsepower 160 hp @ 6,500 rpm 220 hp @ 4,700 rpm
Torque 146 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm 258 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm
Transmission Automatic, 6-spd Manual, 6-spd
Fuel Economy 31 mpg (27 city/40 hwy) 28 mpg (25 city/33 hwy)
Also Available 1.0L turbo 3-cyl, 2.0L turbo 4-cyl (ST), 2.3L turbo 4-cyl (RS), AWD, Manual 5-spd  170-hp (Golf), 292-hp 2.0L turbo I4 (Golf R), AWD, Automatic 6-spd DSG, Automatic 7-spd DSG
Warranty 3 years or 36,000 miles 6 years or 72,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety Rating 5 Stars 5 Stars
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 104.3 inches 103.6 inches
Overall Length 171.6 inches 168.0 inches
Width 71.8 inches 70.8 inches
Height 57.7 inches 57.8 inches
Turning Diameter 36.0 feet 35.8 feet
Headroom, Front 38.3 inches 38.4 inches
Headroom, Rear 37.9 inches 38.1 inches
Legroom, Front 43.1 inches 41.2 inches
Legroom, Rear 33.2 inches 35.6 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 55.6 inches 55.9 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 52.6 inches 53.9 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 90.0 cu. ft. 93.5 cu. ft.
EPA Cargo Volume 23.3 cu. ft. 17.4 cu. ft.
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