Ford Focus Review
It’s hard to believe it has been 20 years since Ford sent shockwaves through the motoring industry by ditching the Escort. But the replacement was the fabulous Focus and now there is an all-new fourth generation model on sale.
- Wide range of powertrains and trim levels
- Great driving dynamics
- Extra space for back seat passengers
- Boot capacity is less than some rivals
- Some hard plastic and sharp edges that lower the standard
- Pricey if you want all the trimmings
The Ford Focus is often second in the UK sales charts beaten only by its stablemate the Ford Fiesta, so any changes need to move the car forward with the times without scaring away the existing fan base. And the all-new fourth generation car does just that.
It’s had a complete redesign and looks more athletic without being too aggressive. There is a larger grille, horizontally biased headlights and new tail lamps all positioned as wide as possible to accentuate the width of the car. There are also individual letters that spell out the ‘FOCUS’ name across the back of the vehicle.
The interior is equally as impressive and there’s a wealth of new technology to explore. Passengers also benefit from extra space thanks to some clever trickery by the Ford engineers.
On the Road
Ford has always ensured that customers have plenty of choice when it comes to powertrains and trims levels and the latest Focus offers the same variety. There are Style, Zetec, ST-Line, ST-Line X, Titanium, Titanium X and Vignale spec grades to select from and if five-door hatchback styling isn’t quite big enough then Ford has announced plans to introduce a Focus Estate in October or November along with an Active Crossover at the turn of the year.
Powering the car is a range of punchy, yet ultra-clean engines. The highly-popular three-cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol unit is available with 85PS, 100PS and 125PS. There is also an all-new 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine delivering 150PS or 182PS.
Diesel units include a new 1.5-litre EcoBlue engine delivering 95PS or 120PS plus a 2.0-litre 150PS unit. Customers can also choose between a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission.
We tested the Titanium X model powered by the 1.0T 125PS EcoBoost petrol engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. It could sprint to 62mph from a standing start in 10.0 seconds and redlined at 124mph.
Despite its compact size, this firecracker of an engine is big on performance. It coped admirably with twisting country lanes that meant lots of gear changing and sharp bursts of acceleration. It was composed on the motorway where it easily kept pace with fast moving traffic and it was agile and responsive in busy city centres. We had a short drive in a 1.5-litre diesel-powered Focus and the petrol model was certainly far sharper and more fun to drive.
The Ford Focus has always delivered on the ride and handling front and the latest model ups the ante a notch higher. Improvements to the suspension and chassis result in better all-round driving dynamics. It feels beautifully composed without being boring and can be thrown into corners with a degree of confidence.
Our Titanium X test car was not as sporty or as low to the ground as the ST-Line model which definitely offers a more exhilarating driving experience thanks to the specially tuned suspension, but it was still happy being pushed along at quite a click.
There are Normal, Eco and Sport driving modes that alter the way the car responds with Sport sharpening up the throttle and steering.
There is ample driver feedback from the perfectly weighted steering and the grip levels also impress. There is next-to-no body sway no matter how enthusiastically the car is driven.
The suspension system copes well with any uneven surfaces and another factor worth mentioning is the improved insulation which means barely a sound from the engine or road surface makes its way into the cabin.
In fairness, the Focus drives as well as it looks. And it looks marvellous.
The Ford Focus is as refined as they come in its class. The super slick gear changing is smooth and responsive, the effective suspension set-up prevents the fullest of coffee cups from spilling and the hush within the cabin is actually noticeable.
However, if peace and tranquility are not high on the wish list, the sound system within the latest Focus is guaranteed to leave the neighbours twitching at the curtains. That’s because our Focus featured a Bang & Olufsen 10-speaker 675-watt sound system which cost £350 extra and it’s worth every penny. (This quality of audio would probably crank up the prices on premium models by well over £1k).
Ford designers have given the interior of the car a complete make-over and it’s better in every department. There are 50 per cent fewer buttons (as a result of customer feedback) and the cabin has a clutter-free and modern look with a raft of techno treats to explore.
The build quality has certainly moved upmarket, but rather disappointedly there are some hard surfaces that let the side down. The top of our dashboard was already showing signs of scratching and there were some sharp, unfinished edges around the cup holders. Our car cost almost £26,500 with options fitted so those poor finishes were disappointing to discover.
In the car
There is plenty of steering wheel and seat adjustment on the latest Focus so it’s easy to get comfortable and find the perfect driving position – our car featured six-way power adjustment to the driver’s seat. The driver benefits from great all-round visibility and all the controls, dials and readouts are ideally placed for ease of use. The slimmer, lower console is better positioned and the dashboard is more forward facing for convenience.
Our car featured a head-up display, which is a first for Ford in Europe and other techno treats included the likes of a heated steering wheel, wireless charging pad plus Ford SYNC 3 with an eight-inch floating touchscreen that introduces a DAB radio, navigation system, Bluetooth along with USB ports and full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
At the launch Ford announced the Focus is on sale with its very latest FordPass Connect system. It’s an app-based service that works in tandem with an on-board modem that’s built into the car. From your mobile phone you can lock or unlock the car. You can check fuel levels, tyre pressures, find the vehicle’s location, search for parking spaces (with prices), get live traffic reports and connect up to 10 devices via Wi-Fi up to 15 metres from the vehicle. Owners of an automatic Focus can even start the car via the app so it begins the defrosting process in winter.
When it comes to space, the Ford engineers have been very smart. The latest Focus has grown just 18mm in length and the wheelbase has been extended by 53mm, but those seemingly minute adjustments, along with some extensive redesigning, result in lots of extra interior room.
Two six footers can easily sit one behind the other and back seat passengers not only benefit from additional leg and shoulder room, they have a better view through a glass window rather than the metal panel on the outgoing model. There is enough room for a third passenger in the back but the slightly raised middle section wouldn’t be that comfortable on a longer journey.
Anyone opting for a sunroof should also be aware that it impacts slightly upon the headroom space for passengers.
The boot is competitively sized and the 60:40 split-folding rear seats can be dropped for additional space. It’s worth mentioning that the subwoofer on our premium B&O sound system did make a slight dent in the boot capacity.
Elsewhere throughout the cabin there are cup holders, a glovebox, door bins and a sunglasses compartment to store away bits and pieces.
Prices for the fourth generation Ford Focus range from £18,300 for the entry-level Style to £25,800 for range-topping Vignale models. Our test car in Titanium X trim cost £23,130 although a number of optional extras bumped the price up to £26,805.
The latest engines powering the Focus have been upgraded and are all WLTP compliant. The car is 88kgs lighter than its predecessor with improved aerodynamics and that improves the fuel efficiency.
According to official figures, our test car could deliver combined fuel economy of 57.6mpg with carbon emissions of 111g/km. This would result in a first year Vehicle Excise Duty charge of £160 reducing to £140 the following year.
If you’re looking for better economy and lower emissions, then the all-new 1.5-litre EcoBlue 95PS diesel unit could prove a more suitable choice with its combined fuel efficiency of 80.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 91g/km.
The FordPass Connect system, which is new to the Ford Focus, is free for the first two years then costs ranging from £89 for the modem and £60 for live traffic alerts are introduced at the customer’s request.
The outgoing Focus was starting to feel a tad dated and jaded round the edges to say the least. However, those issues have been addressed in the new model…to a degree. Yes, the materials and finishes feel a lot more sophisticated than the outgoing model, but it somehow lacks the wow factor of some rivals. There are soft-touch surfaces, but the top of our dashboard was looking worn already and had a couple of noticeable scratches. There is a lot of hard plastic around the cupholders and the touchscreen is very prone to fingerprints.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The interior is more premium in its styling and the reduction in buttons is also a welcome move. Some people commented on the climate control switches still being the same, but I personally like the dials to be easy to access. In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than having to navigate a complicated touchscreen menu to simply increase the car’s temperature by a couple of degrees.
The seating also feels more supportive and the car does have a sturdy feel to it suggesting it will survive the test of time. The quality of the materials has been improved, but sadly it’s not a patch on rivals such as the VW Golf.
The Focus comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty.
The Ford Focus was awarded the maximum five-star rating for safety when it was Euro NCAP tested. Our Titanium X car featured the likes of pre-collision assist with autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian/cyclist detection, a lane keeping aid with lane departure warning, electronic stability assist, hill-start assist and intelligent speed assist.
A couple of optional extras were the Driver Assistance Pack costing £500 that added traffic sign recognition, auto high beam and adaptive cruise control, plus BLIS (£400) that added blind spot info with cross traffic alert and braking.
The car also boasted a Thatcham Category One alarm system to keep intruders at bay.