The UK’s best-selling car has been totally updated – and we have driven it first. Ford’s new Focus hits showrooms in January with a restyled body and a more upmarket interior, and we’re the only magazine to give you the definitive verdict on the changes.
READ OUR REVIEW OF THE 2011 FORD FOCUS
On sale since 2004, Ford has decided now is the time for an overhaul. And following in the footsteps of the latest Mondeo, the Focus has been brought into line with its big brother, receiving a stylish new look.
With rivals such as Peugeot’s 308 taking cabin quality forward, the Focus gets better materials and more equipment. Refinement has also been addressed and while the engine line-up is unchanged, a new DSG-style twin-clutch semi-auto gearbox will be available, plus a green Econetic model with emissions of less than 120g/km.
But are these changes enough to keep the Focus on top of the sales charts? We took a test drive in what will be one of the flagship models, the 2.0-litre TDCi Titanium, to find out.
Criticised for being too conservatively styled compared to the original Focus, the Mk II has a fresh new face. It’s the latest instalment of Ford’s ‘kinetic design’ approach, which has seen style become synonymous with the blue oval on models such as the Verve, Kuga and S-MAX. But it’s the Mondeo the Focus resembles most. At the front, Ford’s trademark twin grilles dominate, and these are outlined in chrome on the Titanium version.
Large Mondeo-style, sweptback headlights with neat projector-style bulbs extend towards the top of the wheelarches, and the raised bonnet has ridges running to the A-pillars. But it’s more than just a facelift, with every panel completely revised. The sides are clean and uncluttered – there aren’t any rubbing strips. And at the rear there’s a new tailgate, LED lights and a revised bumper. The Titanium model also gets a body-coloured roof spoiler.
The result is not groundbreaking, and you could hardly describe the new Focus as being as dramatic to look at as the Verve or the Kuga – but the family hatch has certainly been sharp- ened up. While the three-door and five-door models go on sale in January, the estate, Coupé-Cabriolet and ST versions arrive in spring.
Inside, there are new, smoother, soft-touch plastics for the facia and door linings, plus Mondeo-style instruments on the dashboard, with a central information panel. The stereo and ventilation controls have been revised and with lots of red backlighting and contrasting silver trim, the Focus has a classy but sober feel.
It’s not perfect, though. While the plastics in the front are high quality, the door linings in the rear are carried over from the previous version and could be better. New equipment includes a movable centre armrest complete with four litres of storage, a 230V socket and iPod connector. There’s also a tyre-pressure warning system. Every model in the range – which now consists of only Studio, Style, Zetec and Titanium trims – gets four airbags, electric front windows, a CD player, central locking, curtain airbags, ESP and Ford’s Easyfuel filler cap, which prevents misfuelling.
Titanium versions are very well equipped, with automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers and a top-quality Sony stereo with a DAB digital radio.A first for Ford is the firm’s new PowerShift gearbox, which is similar to VW’s DSG semi-automatic transmission. Using twin clutches, it pre-selects the next gear, allowing faster changes. The six-speed ‘box can be used as a full automatic, or with steering wheel-mounted paddles. It goes on sale in spring, costing around £950.
The driving position remains a little high, but with reach and rake-adjustable steering and great seats, it’s easy to get comfortable. Fire up the TDCi and it’s soon clear refinement has been improved. Ford has revised the engine management system and added more sound insulation for the diesels, so there’s less engine noise.
Apart from that, the 136bhp TDCi unit is unchanged and with 320Nm of torque, it goes from 0-60mph in under 10 seconds and hits a top speed of 126mph. With plenty of mid-range punch for overtaking and 50mpg fuel economy, it’s a great all-rounder.
Thanks to new low viscosity transmission oil, the six-speed manual box is slicker, with a much lighter and snappier change. There have been other minor changes to the Focus’ dynamics with revised anti-roll bars, but we couldn’t notice much difference.
The Ford is still the best handling car in its class, with steering that brims with feel, a firm but comfortable ride and great agility. With prices rising around £250 across the range, but balanced out by more kit, the Focus is better than ever. Its place at the top of the sales charts is assured.
Ford’s putting the boot in and going green, too
Following in the footsteps of the hatchback range, this is the first picture of the new Focus saloon (below left). Getting the same Mondeo-style looks as the three and five-door cars, the booted car features a revised tail with a fresh bumper and LED lights. Unlike the hatches, it will only be available with 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0-litre diesel engines, as well as 1.6 and 2.0 petrols.
Just one trim will be offered, too – the range-topping Titanium line. Prices will start at £16,045 when sales start in spring.
Ford will also launch the Focus Econetic (below) – a low-emission 109bhp 1.6-litre TDCi. It gets an aerodynamic bodykit to cut drag, low rolling resistance tyres and taller gearing to improve fuel economy. The results are 66mpg and CO2 emissions of only 115g/km. Ford has also lowered the emissions of the regular 1.6 TDCi to 120g/km (from 127g/km) by updating its electronics. This reduces its annual road tax to only £35. A 1.8-litre engine capable of running on bioethanol will also be available.
Rival: Vauxhall Astra
A competent car which is precise and comfortable on the road, the Astra has a fine range of engines and tidy looks. But the updates to the Focus move it even further ahead of the Vauxhall, which can’t match the Ford when it comes to driver appeal and interior quality.
* Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi Titanium
* Price: £18,295
* Engine: 2.0 turbodiesel 4cyl
* Power: 136bhp
* 0-62mph: 9.3 seconds
* Top speed: 126mph
* Economy: 51.3mpg
* CO2: 144g/km
* Equipment: Curtain airbags, Sony DAB stereo/radio, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, iPod connector, alloy wheels
* On sale: January