New Ford Focus vs rivals

New Focus vs. rivals
14 Jan, 2011 3:00pm

Can Ford’s all-new Focus regain its place at the summit of the family car class? We pitch it against Vauxhall and VW rivals on UK roads.

Forget the storm clouds brewing overhead – the big drama this week happened on the ground. The new Ford Focus aims to reclaim its crown in the family car class, so we hit the road to find out if it has what it takes...

Our trip took in everything from congested city streets and monotonous motorways to thrilling British back roads. And our Focus 1.6 TDCi Zetec even featured stop-start, to add a dose of economy to proceedings. 

With Ford’s famed chassis know-how, the newcomer was sure to excel around the twisty Yorkshire moors, but it will need more than sharp dynamics to win this test. 

The Volkswagen Golf is the current class leader, and has one of the broadest and most talented model line-ups in the business. We have praised the eco-friendly BlueMotion for its compromise-free design – and the green machine was our choice for this shoot-out. 

Completing our trio is the Vauxhall Astra. 

It arrived fresh from hitting the top of the UK sales charts in December, so the 1.7-litre CDTI Exclusiv would be no pushover. 


So has Ford done enough to propel the Focus back to the front of the family car class? No. The new car addresses many flaws of the old model, such as its dated cabin and engine line-up, but it doesn’t make the leap required to topple the best in the sector. We love the athletic handling that Ford engineers into all of its cars, yet there is a trade-off when it comes to low-speed comfort. And while the cabin is very spacious, the boot is smaller than before, which is a faux pas in this sector.The Golf cements its place at the top of the pecking order with another impressive showing. It has a classy cabin, desirable looks and a capable, confidence-inspiring driving experience. The low emissions of this BlueMotion model only add to the appeal. Bringing up the rear is the Astra. It’s handicapped by its outdated engine and high price. In Exclusiv trim, it’s short on creature comforts, while the unrewarding dynamics leave it trailing for driver appeal. All three of the cars tested here have their compromises, but the Golf demands the fewest – so it’s a worthy winner.

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Once again VW have lined the pockets of AE! It always seems to be about the Golf!

I have driven the Golf and the Astra and look forward to driving the new Focus. I can already say that the Astra beats the Golf for looks, handling and all round performance.

Untill VW change the shape of the Golf instead of injected botox, it will never be a real contender.

i am surprised the ford didn't win as the focus usually does when it launches a new model.Still 2nd place to a VW is no bad thing.It doesn't really matter anyway as this are 3 boring versions

Sick! Folkscar must be winner! But, Ford and Opel are better cars.

I think Vauxhall wiith it's new warranty and badge has become an enticing propersition, before I never looked twice at buying a Vauxhall, they never grabbed my attention. Out of three, the Vauxhall would be my first choice, the Golf is too bland and dull, the Ford has a mainstream common badge and image e.g. McDonalds, X Factor! and is poor on Design & Styling.

AE have not mentioned any faults of the Ford... read carefully and you'll see no real faults are mentioned. Clearly they made their decision before the Focus even came out! They didn't even criticise the Focus' looks! Clearly they are not that bothered about making a serious decision, but rather would put the boring VW first no matter what!

AE have not mentioned any faults of the Ford... read carefully and you'll see no real faults are mentioned. Clearly they made their decision before the Focus even came out! They didn't even criticise the Focus' looks! Clearly they are not that bothered about making a serious decision, but rather would put the boring VW first no matter what!

Bring it on! Golf GTI vs Focus ST vs Astra VXR
It could be quite a shoot out...

Ford have shown that they can style the Focus brilliantly with their Electric version and its Astonesque grill so why make the mainstream models so horrendously ugly. Even the back is too busy with lines going everywhere but the front affronts my senses.

The new Leon will vomit all over them muuhahahahahaaaa!!!

Are you kidding me?? how on earht is the Golf cabin classy, thats a joke. I would get bored in that driving it day in day out. It just looks depressing.
The dashboard looks as though it has been taken straight out of a commercial vehicle. It is boring, looks like an 1980's hi-fi; ti would be more at home in a Ford Transit or a Merc Sprinter.

The Golf is still dated, based on its 2005 chassis platform it is NOT a new Golf but merely a facelift.

Leonidas, not suprised by a biased comment like that you made with a screen name as that. The Leon is boring as fart, only the Cupra versions does it.

I did say the new Leon. And obviously your farts are boring...

I did say the new Leon. And obviously your farts are boring...

Every time a new car is tested it is said to "address the flaws of the old model". Every time! Suddenly the car that was the tester's darling (really the advertising department's) was a dog after all, and the new car sweeps the tin dinosaur aside. Then when ordinary people get in the new car it is just the same old, same old. Like this lot. Apart from better crash worthiness are any of them better to live with than their 20 or 30 year old predecessors?

Focus is too ugly to be seen in, and as for that ghastly gimmicky dash . . . . words fail me. Give me the Golf every time.

Golf is too dul lfor words (apart from possibly 'grey') and the new Focus makes you want to throw up before you get anywhere near the awful interior!

What really makes me laugh though is the supposed MPG values of all three when compared to the results on Auto Express's tests.
Even the supposed 'green' Golf (double zzzz) managed a feeble 42.4mpg?!! I get almost that out of my 1.6T Astra and it's a damn better drive than a weazel-diesel plus it is cheaper to fill up!

i think the new focus having a smaller boot than the old one is a major fault.I had a 2006 focus TDCI a few years ago and it was awful,although its handling was impressive.I found the boot,too small to be practical as the Focus i had was supplied with a full size spare wheel,so raising the floor about 4inches.

Looks like you've compared apples with cheese. Compare a bluemotion with an econetic when you can, not whatever you happen to be able to get hold of... If you had made a decision on bells and whistles the golf doesn't have any. Heck, it hasn't even got a satnav. Locking fuel cap is probably still a cost option.... And as for vw reliability - has anyone driven one lately? EGR valves, ignition coils, parking brakes, starter motors - just talk to anyone in the trade....

We have one of these so called very economical golfs, However it has been the most dreadfully expensive car to run and we have had some crap over the years! the brochures say 80mpg..we average 38, and 41 on a very good run! AE managed 42... I have lost count how many times it has been back to the dealers, they scratch their heads and baffled by how much fuel this can go through, our old (15 years) Rover managed high 50s Shame it went for scrappage! Our car is also a Sod to drive in traffic, never before have I experianced bunny hopping in a Diesel, the last time was in a Austin Metro! The jumping around is said to be perfectly normal...although no mention here...Sum up a good car Spoilt by Bluemotion.

Having driven the lastest Golf and Astra, I'd have to say that the Astra should have won! Really changed my mind about having a Vauxhall!!!! Getting back to the test why didn't they just pick three cars which had similar specs??? Picking the bluemotion was hardly scientific...... As for the Focus, the shape is growing on me, hopefully it will be a looker in real life and I'm sure it will drive the pants off these two!

Trust me guys! Buy the end of this year, the looks of the Focus will no longer be hated. They are growing on me too...and its not the first time i say this here... The car is going to sell... and i cant blame AE for saying the VW wins...many people have claimed that they are pro-Ford all the time. I too would be afraid to say the Ford has won. Only time will tell. ...oh and sales!

Apart from the ugly-ish front fascia, the Focus is quite a looker.

I have one of those "boring" Golf's and it is the best car I have ever had. It looks great goes really well and I enjoy everytime I drive it. It is a MK6 GTI - if that makes a difference.

You would think a car like this would have a larger boot? So, so silly of Ford to get that wrong! I drive an early Ford Focus and also driven a car 2 months old, these are symbols of Ford, not the new one. It's too inconspicuous. Nothing shines to be honest and it doesn't bring anything new to the market? What's the point getting one? That's what a car manufacture does when something is all new. It will be a popular car because everyone will buy it because Ford have made it. VW have made the Golf look really boring, but compared to the Focus it looks good. But the Golf is fantastic inside and has a decent boot. It was worthy to win this contest. The Vauxhall on the other hand is pointless. No room, no space and the worst handling of any car manufacturers. Not worth a penny.

Being the owner of a ford focus zetec s with the stylish bodywork and sporty finnish that looks like the st version im in deep shock at the very poor styling of the rear end of this car in all fairness it looks like a 10 year old styled it in a school competition,From the front and side it still looks like the old focus and has kept the focus look we all love,the cock pit or should i say cockup pit needs just that little more style although i do like it but hey for god sake lose the old hand brake it should be electronic with the push of a button please dont say this is an opptional extra.

I'd like a car of a similar size to the focus, but I want a hatchback with a boot size that is useable. I need to keep my golf clubs and trolley in it, and occasionally I'd like to put in two sets for going away. The old one was too small, so if they have shrunk that the new one becomes silly. The it is a GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND to the next car (not mpv) up, the Mondeo. There is almost space for two more cars between them.

Tried a Golf Diesel on a test run recently......... sent me to sleep because it was sooooo boring. Alfa Giulietta wins on drop dead gorgeous looks and a range of engines to match!! And before anyone starts on about reliabilty, I've got two Alfas at the moment a MiTo and a Brera and have had two 156s and driven over 220,000 miles in them..... er trouble free too. I get hacked off with the old cliche about Alfa reliability. My wife has a brand new A Class... guess what? Had to have a new sterering rack after 5000 miles...... Hmmmm. It's not test drives but actual owner driver experiences that should count.

My now year old Golf Bluemotion has averaged over 60 mpg. Yesterday I drove 124 miles one way and, due to heavy traffic, spent a large part of the journey doing just 50mph. According to the fuel readout, I averaged over 72mpg. The return journey, at less sleep inducing speeds, saw it drop back to 63mpg. To Red Alfa. I had a 156 2.4 JTD from new. In the six months I owned it ,it spent 2 months off the road either waiting for parts or a fix. Luck of the draw. Lovely car but dreadful dealer and support.

Hate lazy German designers, most models only look like facelifts, are they too scared to change anything.... Line up a row of Golfs from all years and I'm sure I couldn't put them in age order. Audi and BMW have only just discovered you can fit a hatch on the back. All I can say is thank god VW own Skoda and Seat, otherwise the brand would be a complete turn off. Yes VW's are good but you want to buy a car with your heart for its looks, not opt for a safe bet and go for the one that looks a bit like the old one. I'm not just talking about VW, Mercedes BMW and Porsche all manage to be uninspiring,

The Ford looks like a Kia / Seat... I had a new shape Golf GT 140TD as a courtesy car. I was suprised how poor it was. A Horrible, horrible car. Boomy, unrefined engine, steered like a panzer, and I felt like i was trying to pull away in 3rd. BORING interior and exterior. My Fiat Bravo (yes, the worst in class, allegedly) frankly wees all over it, and hasn't put a foot wrong in 40k miles.

I've also driven the last gen Focus... that was quite underwhelming too. Nothing like press bias is there? lol...

Take heart Folks you still have the freedom to choose for yourselves ..... what the Editor is really saying in this comparison is that the Focus is the best! All he could talk about is the harder suspension of the Focus, (Zetec stands for sports, so you'd expect that). And styling, in life, this is always subjective, If you don't like the looks go buy something else! Quality, style, economy, refinement, excellent driveability etc speak for themselves. AE mismatched these cars in this test so that the ageing Golf would appear all sweetness and light, I think they need to grow-up and make factual comments. I know I wouldn't buy a car just because it appeared to have a classy interior! As you might tell, I own a Mk1 Zetec, from new Sept 1999, I remember well, the negativity from some quarters regarding its styling and so-called cheap looking dash, compared to the Golf. The plastics were in fact the same quality but the Golf had a bit of soft touch on its dash and AE were pushing that as reason to buy it! What a revelation and inspiration the Focus became.

Disregard the test. It is VW autobild's british branch. The boot is small to almost useless for a small family. (for the ford). These are small family cars you know.

Harder suspension is usefull sometimes a year.

I wonder why british roads are considered poor. A trip to greece or bulgaria makes them look like magic carpets. Still if you do drive everyday cars like this you don't exactly need a pillow like suspension (golf...) nor a stone like suspension...(leon, mazda, honda others). If the new ford does strike a balance, good for it, that is what ford supposedely does best.

To be frank, all 3 cars a good contenders, they will all sale to different type of people. Take the Golf for example, most people who own Golfs will own an ipad, more of technology fashion accessory . Typically i find people who own Golf's now tend to be live in the West End of London in a nice road where pretty much every car is German! It will be owned by the couple who like wine bars and dining out but don't don't like cars, but will own a Golf because it's not cheap but yet not too expensive. Also they don't like cars.
I do like Golf's but looks a little square.

The Vauxhall however will most probably be driven by the Estate Agent who isn't doing as well as some of his work colleagues as they drive A3's or TT's while the Managers have Jag XF's and maybe Merc C-Class. Also I'm not sure the 100k warranty is a grand idea as i bet they'll find a loop hole in not being able to repair the car under warranty. Plus it frightens me that a car should have a warranty this long. If the car's work with no probs then great, maybe Alfa may want to take a leaf out of Vauxhall's Warranty Manual. The Astra looks nice but bit boring compared to the previous one.

As for the Focus, well pretty much every know human will end up driving these including Police / some driving schools / hire cars and they'll be in different colours (providing the Alien sick green which is on the Fiesta). Mind you, the Focus, that front Bumper does remind me of Darth Vaders mouth piece on his helmet. The rear end is like a Kia too

As an owner of a 58 Focus ST, I've been reading with interest on the new model.

What's most amusing in all the reviews, is how the interior on the Mk2 gets slated so much. Strangely enough, I can remember the reviews of the Mk2 (when it came out) being noted for having a much more german-influenced 'mature', refined interior which was a "huge step-up" from the "cheap" Mk1's interior. No one really complained about it back then.

Personally speaking, I found the Mk1's interior quite inviting, and there was a strong sense of 'solidness' from everything, a weighted feel to the doors etc. Sure, some of the plastics on the dash itself are 'hard', but do you honestly sit in your car running your hands over those premium soft-touch plastics? I certainly don't. I fail to see how the Mk2's interior is dated, when it follows the same style as the Golf and most cars in this segment (i.e. quite generic). I know the plastics in the rear and below the knee/door-cards are knocked for being cheap, and yes they are, but that's only really elevated by them being an ugly light grey, if they had been finished in a dark grey to match the top half, you wouldn't even notice.

As far as i'm concerned, if the steering wheel is nice, there's a nice gearchange, and a comfy seat, why would I care about some soft plastics? I've got a supremely comfy Recaro seat which will be better than any Golf seat outside optional GTi/R Recaros, a decent gearchange, and a nice leather steering wheel.

I really can't see the fuss being made over the Golf's interior. I'm sure it's got great plastics and excellent fit, but you aren't going to notice 90% of it, I'd only care if it had a comfy seat, good steering wheel/gearchange, and obviously engaging to drive. Other than that, it looks as bland as my dash. My 'cheap nasty' Mk2 Focus certainly hasn't had any trim falling off, or knocks/rattles. Makes me think £18k was quite a bargain, given the prices nowadays.

As for the Mk3. well it's apparently still cheaper-looking inside than the Golf, so it wouldn't really bother me that it's "better" than the Mk2's. But the actual design is quite nasty in the centre, way too many buttons. Rest looks alright though I guess. Exterior isn't a patch on the outgoing facelift model (in ST, Zetec-S guise at least) though, let alone the Mk1 (ST170/RS). Won't even get started on how awful the ST looks, plus only 5-door and no plans for a 3-door, so I don't think I'll be going to Ford for my next car. Overall, the new Focus is a huge disappointment to look at. That counts for more than a nice interior.

Based on looks, only the Astra here gets me interested, but I hear so much about the handling (or lack thereof), will be interested to see how the VXR turns out, as it looks a bit more restrained/grown-up compared to the outgoing version.

Never having been a Ford person, the ugliness of the latest Focus is of no surprise to me! What does surprise me is Ford's lack of continuity in their designing of cars. The Fiesta is such a good looking well built vehicle, as is the Kuga so why have they made such a hash of designing the MK3 Focus, which should be their most important car?? As for people having a go at the Golf, for all that I am a massive fan of VW cars, I do agree that the MK6 is very bland BUT you know what they say:- "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" and it is patently obvious, that the Golf is far from "broke"!! Sadly, the good old Brits in the main, are a very unsofisticated bunch and tend to go for "flash" because they think "flash" looks expensive or simply follow the rest of the crowd! Ford has always appealed to the masses in this country, a bit like "Hotpoint" who sell the most washing machines in the UK, regardless of the fact that they tend to be less reliable than the German makes, a "load of sheep comes to mind"! The Golf has an indefinable kudos, simple and well built, far more classy than "flash"?? As for the Astra, I like Vauxhalls and have owned one in the past. The new Astra is most certainly the prettiest of the bunch, it's just a shame that Vauxhall haven't progressed re their engines and as far as I know there still isn't any sign of a twin clutch auto gearbox, like VW's DSG or Ford's Powershift.
M. Kaye in York.

Is every opinion here based on spite , envy, bourgeois class snobbery, and stupidity?

My opinion is based on fact. The fact that most reviews that AE does involving the Golf all seem to go their way. Just look at the group test for the Nissan Leaf vs the Golf and Prius. Once again the Golf comes out on top. Why? Because it's a Golf.

In this group test, it should be
1st Focus
2nd Astra
3rd Golf

I don't think anyone can argue this. If they do think the Golf should be on top, then that is pure class snobbery!

We have a 2011 CDTi 1.7 Elite, these are my thoughts....

Interior very well built.
Steers well
Handles well - plenty of grip.
Seats superb
Quiet unless pushed.


Thirsty - averages 40mpg - its predecessor Renault managed better than 50.
Dreadful engine when pushed - slow and noisy with a rev range that would be bettered in my Defender - totally awful.
Hangs onto its revs when moving to 1300rpm or will cruise at nearly 45mph in sixth - in snow scary. You actually havee to brake the car where in others it would slow down correctly when you lift the throttle. What folk think behind me I can only guess at.


Could be a good car but simply is not with the 1.7 engine Avoid it at all costs.

We have a 2011 CDTi 1.7 Elite, these are my thoughts....

Interior very well built.
Steers well
Handles well - plenty of grip.
Seats superb
Quiet unless pushed.


Thirsty - averages 40mpg - its predecessor Renault managed better than 50.
Dreadful engine when pushed - slow and noisy with a rev range that would be bettered in my Defender - totally awful.
Hangs onto its revs when moving to 1300rpm or will cruise at nearly 45mph in sixth - in snow scary. You actually havee to brake the car where in others it would slow down correctly when you lift the throttle. What folk think behind me I can only guess at.


Could be a good car but simply is not with the 1.7 engine Avoid it at all costs.

The Ford is without doubt the ugliest of the trio.
Am i the onlyone who is sick to death of the frog mouth look?
The Astra is more attractive.
Sadly like Mr Clarkson, the media love to stick the boot in Vauxhall at every opportunity.

What is this about the VW golf being desirable? It is a dull car from a company that doesn't seem to do all that well in reliability surveys
I had a mark 1 focus some years ago and it was a joy to drive and at that time I was driving 30000 miles a year and more. I have driven the current Astra and it is awful dead steering not very comfortable and claustrophobic. The Golf is simply overpriced. I would probably by a Hyundai 130 in preference to any of these

The new Focus is superior to the Golf, I've driven it on a few occasions, It's a technically brilliant car. The Focus excells at many more things than the Golf, more things that matter to an excellent driving experience than the Golf or Astra. AE are in reality quite shocked at how good the Focus is so they've gone to war against it. THE GOLF IS SO DISIREABLE IN THE UK THAT IT HAS NEVER BEEN THE NUMBER 1 SELLER! I think that should tell you something, not everyone falls for the hype. I say, go test drive the Focus for yourselves, see it in the flesh, it's quite a good looking car

I have a focus 1.6 titanium and so wish i purchased a golf. The focus looks like a good choice at first but the closer you look you realise how much of a let down the car is. I had a 1.6 astra sxi before this and it was an excellent car! Next purchase is certainly a golf.