Ford Focus review
The Ford Focus is fantastic to drive, and offers brilliant EcoBoost petrol engines and lots of tech at a top-value price
The Ford Focus is the best-selling family hatch in the UK, and with good reason. There’s a wide range of models, from basic to high-performance, while the turbo petrol and diesel engines deliver decent running costs.
This latest third-generation Ford Focus sets the standard in the family hatchback market, providing supreme quality, comfort and handling - a true rival for the Volkswagen Golf.
Those wanting more space have the option of the Ford Focus estate, too. Unusually, the estate version of the Ford Focus actually drives just as well as the hatch.
The Ford Focus is available in six main specifications - entry-level Studio and Edge, mid-range Zetec and Zetec S and top-of-the-range Titanium and Titanium X. Meanwhile, those after a little extra performance should opt for the excellent ST hot hatch - a great alternative to the likes of the VW Golf GTI and Renaultsport Megane.
The Ford Focus engine line-up features economical diesel and smooth petrol engines. We'd opt for the popular three-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost petrol engine, which strikes a balance between lively performance and low running costs.
An all-new Ford Focus is due to be unveiled at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show. It's received a significant facelift and now features a wider single-piece grille - more in keeping with the other Ford big-sellers such as the Fiesta, Mondeo and Kuga. It'll also get a revamped engine line-up, while a plug-in Ford Focus is on the cards.
Our choice: Focus 1.0T EcoBoost (125) Zetec
You'd struggle to call the Ford Focus pretty. The mix of angles and curves up front looks awkward when compared to the SEAT Leon, and even the Renault Megane’s revised front end is more cohesive. Hopefully an imminent facelift, which will include a Fiesta-style grille, will help to give the design a bit of a lift.
The rest of the car follows a standard hatchback template, although the roofline is slightly longer than its rivals’, giving the Ford a slightly squarer profile. At the back, designers have neatly integrated the fuel filler flap with the right-hand tail-light, although the plastic flap on our car was poorly fitted and didn’t sit flush with the bodywork.
Inside, the Focus features a sculpted centre console with a small 3.5-inch display and a large bank of buttons below that’s flanked by vertical air vents. The Titanium model's gloss black-finished Sony stereo and sat-nav are replaced by a standard dark grey panel in Zetec cars, while the digital climate control is swapped for conventional rotary dials.
That means the Zetec’s cabin isn’t as dramatic, although the sporty cowled dials and blue trip computer screen remain. Overall, the Focus is well built, and the quality of the switchgear is great – we just wish there weren’t so many buttons and that the sat-nav screen was larger.
The Ford Focus has clearly been designed with comfort and efficiency in mind, but having said that it's still an enjoyable ride. It's certainly more exciting to drive than a Vauxhall Astra, and definitely on par with the Volkswagen Golf thanks to sharp steering, an agile chassis and strong grip.
The Focus has always had a reputation for serving up strong driver thrills, and the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine suits its sporty nature.
Although the three-cylinder thrum from this model won’t be to all tastes, the six-speed manual version features a dual-mass flywheel that eliminates vibrations well. The engine is settled at motorway speeds and doesn’t spoil cabin comfort, while the suspension does a good job of soaking up bumps.
In corners, the Focus is very entertaining, with quick steering and a responsive chassis. It’s not quite as focused as past models, but still has an edge over its rivals for handling.
Those wanting a sportier version of the Ford Focus can choose the ST, which is by far one of the best hot hatchbacks available on the UK market. Its powerful engine reaches 0-62mph in just 6.5 seconds, and it offers a firm but comfortable ride, too.
When you consider how many Focuses have been sold, it appears to be a fairly reliable car. Owners aren’t greatly enamoured with it, which is why the model dropped from 19th place in the Driver Power 2012 survey to 70th in 2013 – but there are no major issues that potential buyers need to be aware of. Owners like how the Focus drives and the technology it offers, although a 29th place finish for Ford’s chain of 700-plus dealers isn’t great.
The 1.0-litre EcoBoost is still quite new, so it’s too early to see how such a small engine handles high mileages. We had no problems with it in the Focus Estate we ran on our fleet, though, clocking up 20,000 miles in a year.
Ford’s safety technology helped the Focus earn a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating. You get six airbags and ESP as standard, while the Zetec model includes handy extras such as heated mirrors and a Quickclear heated windscreen. On top of that, you can add Ford’s £550 Driver Assistance Pack, which brings pre-collision city braking, a lane keeping aid, traffic sign recognition, auto lights and wipers and a driver alertness monitor.
The Focus isn’t the most practical compact hatch on the market. While its dimensions are on the large side in this class, the car is small inside.
At the back, you get a 316-litre boot – 89 litres down on the Renault Megane – and this only rises to 1,101 litres with the seats flat. That’s 109 litres behind the SEAT Leon, although a shallow floor makes it easy to unload big items.
Rear seat space is reasonable, although the small back windows and sloping roof line make the Ford feel tighter than its rivals. There’s a decent glovebox, door bins and cup-holders, and the central armrest cubby is part of the upgrade from Zetec to Zetec Navigator.
Plus, if you really need more practicality, you can always opt for the Ford Focus Estate. This has a 476-litre boot,,which expands to 1,502 litres. There's lots of extra headroom for rear passengers, and large cubby holes for storage.
If you don't count the sporty Ford Focus ST, every car in the line-up emits less than 140g/km of CO2, which is pretty good if you consider how large the engine range is.
The latest Ford Focus is lighter than ever before and as a result it's cheaper to run, too. Highlights in the range include a frugal 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine, which manages 58.9mpg and emits only 109g/km of CO2, but the reality is that you would have to drive extremely cautiously to achieve this. Standard stop-start does help, and we managed 43.4mpg on test.
We'd also recommend the 1.6-litre TDCi, which offers tax-free CO2 emissions of 88g/km and still manages 83.1mpg.
The great thing about the Ford Focus is you get lots of equipment and accessories as standard - all for a great-value price tag. Fortunately, the Zetec Navigation model adds satellite navigation, DAB radio, Bluetooth and a USB connection.
The Ford Focus' insurance group ratings fall between group seven for entry-level cars and group 34 for the Ford Focus ST.
Due to the popularity of the Ford Focus, you're likely to find plenty for sale on the used car market, while parts and servicing should be relatively inexpensive. However, residuals aren't as good as the Volkswagen Golf and you'd probably be lucky to get even 40 per cent of its value back after three year's time.