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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A black 2022 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Fastback Nite Pony is shown parked on a showroom floor.

Looking for Fun Behind the Wheel of a Used Car? Check Out These Ford Models

Most drivers have probably noticed that Ford has shifted its focus away from hatchbacks and sedans over the last few years. In fact, as of this writing, the Mustang stands alone as the only true “car” in a Ford lineup now dominated by crossovers, SUVs, and pickups. That’s not to say that those in the market for a Ford sedan or hatchback are out of luck. The preowned market is full of affordable Ford models from the recent past, including performance-minded versions of some of the automaker’s most popular models.

Step into any used Ford dealership, and you’re sure to find plenty of cars that maximize the fun without draining your funds. From the pint-sized powerhouse that is the Fiesta ST to the compact Focus’ own ST model to the renowned Focus RS, these pre-owned Fords are here to prove that edge-of-your-seat performance isn’t limited to those who can afford a late model ride. Read on as we cover some of our favorites and see how a thrilling Ford model could be well within your reach.

The Ford Fiesta ST

If you’re looking for a lot of fun in a tiny package, keep an eye out for a Ford Fiesta ST. The “Sports Technologies” version of Ford’s popular supermini might measure in at just 160 inches, but when you factor in its 197 hp and 2,720-pound curb weight, it all makes for a pretty alluring package. The Fiesta’s turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder might get a lot of the credit for its peppy performance, but it’s the model’s six-speed manual gearbox that made it such a hit amongst drivers looking for an athletic alternative to the run-of-the-mill subcompact. The Fiesta’s responsive clutch is notable for its long engagement range, which makes it easy to climb through gears and put the Fiesta ST through its paces.

The interior leans a little heavily on cheap plastic parts, but some highlights include standard Recaro racing seats. The Fiesta ST also features some impressive fuel economy with an EPA-estimated 35 MPG, making the supermini as economical as it is enjoyable. Then there’s the price. In its last year of production, the Fiesta ST retailed for just over $22,000. That same 2019 model can now be found on the used market for as little as $17,000, making it the perfect starter car for a gear-headed youth or a fun addition to any garage.

The base Fiesta was particularly popular in the UK, enjoying an impressive run that saw the car top the sales charts for more than 15 years, including a steady 12-year run between 2009 and 2020. The Brits were especially bullish on the supermini’s sporty ST guise, which eventually represented one out of every ten Fiesta models sold in the country. That enthusiasm led Ford to keep selling the Fiesta in the UK through 2021, but 2019 represented the last year the model could be found at American dealerships.

So why did Ford choose to discontinue a car that — at least across the pond — was still a perennial best-seller? Pandemic-related supply chain issues certainly played a role, but more of the blame can probably be placed on the automaker’s slow march toward electrification. The Fiesta was produced at Ford’s Cologne, Germany plant, which has since switched its focus towards producing the all-electric Ford Explorer SUV. It’s an ignominious end for the fun little supermini, but luckily, there’s still a healthy number of models to be found on the used market.

A yellow Ford Focus ST is shown driving to visit a used Ford dealership.

The Ford Focus ST

The era of the American hot hatch might be over, but it sure was fun while it lasted. If you were to choose a poster boy for the performance-oriented hatchback segment, it would be hard to do better than the Ford Focus ST (not to mention the RS version). A hit on the European market, Americans first got a taste of the souped-up compact back in 2013. Built with a six-speed manual transmission and a turbocharged, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine capable of producing 252 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque, the original Focus ST embodied everything there was to love about the hot hatch trend.

With the Focus ST, Ford took everything there was to love about the Fiesta ST and made it just a little bit larger. This modest increase in size has a big impact on practicality, allowing the compact Focus to play double duty as a small yet workable family vehicle, a feat that’s hard to imagine when it comes to the featherweight Fiesta. Ford rounded out the Focus ST with upgraded suspension and larger wheels, not to mention some eye-catching styling and interior flourishes that should turn some heads next time you hit the open road.

The Focus ST might have represented the American hot hatch renaissance, but it was never long for this world. Ford discontinued the compact in 2018, putting the whole car lineup out to pasture (excluding the Mustang) and letting the likes of the Honda Civic Type R, Hyundai Veloster N, and Volkswagen GTI fill the vacuum. Like the Fiesta, the sedan was a victim of Ford’s increased focus on crossovers, SUVs, and electric models. It might seem like an odd turn from the company that virtually invented the modern car but believe it or not, the Mustang is now the only car in Ford’s lineup.

The Ford Focus RS

The RS has been a mainstay in the Focus lineup since the compact’s earliest days. Introduced four years into the first-gen Focus run, a 2.0-liter powered the original Focus RS turbocharged Duratec RS engine. But the performance model was more than just its overhauled engine. Ford engineers replaced 70 percent of the Focus’s base components to produce the RS, with notable additions ranging from a limited-slip differential and AP Racing clutch to Brembo brakes, OZ Racing alloy wheels, and more.

With 300 hp to its name, the second-gen Focus RS was the most powerful front-wheel drive on the market in 2009. There’s just one catch: Americans never got the chance to experience it. The Europe-only model showed the compact’s potential as a true performance model, but US drivers would have to wait until 2015, when Ford revived the Focus RS nameplate for the model’s third generation. Powered by a new 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, the third-gen Focus was notable for an advanced all-wheel drive system that allowed drivers to send 100 percent of the engine power to the rear wheels. The third-generation Focus RS was available for just three years, but there are still plenty of prime examples of the muscular compact available for sale on the pre-owned market.

With such a strong following — if not strong sales — the decision to axe the Focus RS might be a little confusing to some drivers. Again, the Focus RS was yet another sporty compact that was axed as Ford shifted its focus almost entirely to the SUV, crossover, and pickup segments. Long-time Focus fans might be holding out for an electrified version of the storied hatchback, but relatively low sales make it hard to justify the required production costs.

The Ford Mustang EcoBoost

After 60 years on the market, we really shouldn’t have to sell anyone on the fun-to-drive merits of the Ford Mustang. The original pony car has made quite a name for itself since first debuting in 1964, creating an entirely new automotive category that combines the best in style, performance, and affordability. Ford has introduced an all-new, seventh-generation Mustang for 2024, which means that six-gen models (2015-2023) should be able to be found for a bargain.

The EcoBoost might not represent the peak of Mustang power — for that, drivers should seek out the GT with a 5.0-liter Coyote V8 — but thanks to a little forced induction, the four-cylinder engine is even more powerful than the Mustang’s former entry-level motor in naturally aspirated, 300-horsepower V6. A little turbocharger goes a long way, allowing the EcoBoost to pump out 310 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque (or 330 when optioned with the High-Performance Package). That might be 125 to 150 fewer ponies than the Mustang’s GT trim, but it actually doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference out on the track. The Ecoboost managed a 4.2-second zero-to-60-mph time, lagging just 0.3 seconds behind the GT despite the latter’s larger V8 and performance exhaust system.

The EcoBoost is also just as comfortable and dynamic as its big brother thanks to Ford’s MagneRide dampers and is a good deal more efficient thanks to the turbocharger. Fuel economy might not be topping most driver’s wishlist when it comes to the pony car segment, but with an EPA-estimated 21 MPG in the city and 32 MPG on the highway, you’ll certainly spend less time searching for a gas station than you would behind the wheel of the GT with its 15 MPG in the city and 24 MPG on the highway fuel economy. The EcoBoost does come up a bit short of the GT in one important way: it’s only sold with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Making the jump to the GT will allow drivers to upgrade to a six-speed manual, improving control and allowing drivers to forge a closer dynamic with their steed.

The Ford Mustang GT

With an original starting price of $35,000 and 460 hp at the ready, the Mustang GT offers high-end performance without the high-end price. That said, drivers searching for the Mustang GT’s sportiest iteration should keep an eye out for models produced between 2018 and 2021. The sixth-gen Mustang’s mid-cycle refresh saw Ford produce the most thrilling GT to date with a 5.0-liter Coyote V8 that boasts not only 460 hp, but 420 lb-ft of torque to boot. Other sixth-gen Mustangs aren’t that far behind with 435 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque (2015-2017) and 450 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque (2022-2023), but 2018-2021 represents the sweet spot if you’re looking for a true thoroughbred.

The GT represents a great starting point, but those looking to max out the Mustang’s rubber-burning credentials will want to look for a used model that’s loaded up with some key add-ons. First, the performance exhaust allows the Coyote V8 to give its most full-throated howl. The GT Performance Package gives the sports car all the bells and whistles it needs to do the Mustang name proud, including revised chassis tuning, an upsized rear sway bar, a Torsen limited-slip differential, and premium Brembo front brakes. Additional upgrades include 19-inch wheels wrapped in grippy summer tires and a unique rear wing that sets the GT apart from the rest of the lineup. 2018 represented the first time the sixth-gen GT was offered with a 10-speed automatic transmission, but we’d recommend sticking with the standard six-speed manual for a more authentic Mustang experience.

Ford Offers Some of the Funnest Vehicles on the Used Market

If you’re on the hunt for a performance-tuned version of your favorite Ford model, the used market is a great place to start. Offering untouchable value and a surprisingly impressive selection, the Ford Fiesta ST/RS, Focus RS, Mustang EcoBoost and GT are just as affordable as they are exciting. The Focus and Fiesta might have already ridden off into the sunset, but the preowned market is full of well-maintained models that are still ready for a little fun.

The Mustang is still alive and kicking, and while some recent versions have made some notable upgrades in terms of performance, style, and amenities, used models still pack that classic pony car punch. As with any used model, it’s important to do your homework. Private sellers might offer some low prices, but questionable quality and vehicle history can turn a seemingly great deal into a massive regret in no time flat. It’s easy to avoid this type of automotive uncertainty by shopping with an established dealership. Visit your local dealer today and begin your search for these fun and sporty models.

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