In-depth reviews

Ford Focus review - Engines, performance and drive

In either of its two suspension configurations, the Focus is more fun than a family car has any right to be.

The first thing to know is that the Focus gets a couple of different suspension configurations depending on which engine you choose. Opt for the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol or the 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel and you’ll get relatively simple twist-beam rear suspension; go for the 2.0 diesel and your car will feature a multi-link set-up. Picking ST-Line or ST-Line X lowers the set-up by 10mm, incidentally, regardless of which suspension layout is at the back.

It shouldn’t bother you much anyway because, regardless of suspension layout, the Focus is the best-handling family car around. Start your journey in town and you’ll find the car quick to respond when you turn the wheel to cut through traffic. But this doesn’t mean it’s nervous at speed; there’s just about enough play off-centre for the car to remain composed on motorways. It’s comfortable, too, the primary and secondary rides working nicely to soften all but the very sharpest of jolts from the road.

And when you find a twistier bit of road, the Focus trots out its party piece. Don’t expect the steering to chat away to you all the time, but the electrically powered set-up goes down as one of the best we’ve experienced in a family hatch. Suffice it to say that you will very quickly learn to lean on the Focus’ front end.

Of course, none of this front-end bite would matter if the rest of the package felt like it wasn’t playing its part in proceedings. There’s the faintest, fleeting feeling of weight transfer if you ask the Focus to change direction in a hurry, but it passes so quickly that it’s unlikely to ever be an issue. As a handling package, it’s extremely well-judged.

Step up to the more expensive suspension and there isn’t a giant leap forward in terms of agility; that’s testament to the regular set-up, more than it is any explicit criticism of the multi-link arrangement. You do feel the extra complexity when you start trying to change direction quickly over poorer surfaces; the Focus remains just that little bit more composed than its stablemate. 

Ford has also introduced a 1.0-litre mild-hybrid engine - replacing the 148bhp petrol that was previously on offer. The turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost petrol unit is linked to a belt driven starter-generator motor, providing improved fuel economy and emissions.

We’ve tried the most modest of the Focus diesels – the 118bhp 1.5-litre EcoBlue – and it’s a decent option if you know you’re going to rack up big mileages. It’s not quite as sweet and hushed as the EcoBoost when cruising along, but it maintains speed reasonably well.

No matter which version you go for, refinement is strong. This is especially true of the flagship Vignale versions, which come with extra sound insulation – keeping all the worst road and wind noise at bay. We wouldn't step up to this model for that reason alone, but it's a notable advantage of the most expensive Focus on sale.

The standard six-speed manual gearbox is slick enough, although it does prefer a positive throw instead of tentative shifts. The eight-speed automatic, meanwhile, is not without the occasional glitch, but in general it’s a smooth enough performer. We still think that the VW Group’s dual-clutch DSG units are ever so slightly more polished than this torque converter auto, though.

Engines

The Focus has a mix of petrol and diesel engines. The core of the petrol range, badged EcoBoost, is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine that’s offered as a standard 123bhp unit, or with mild-hybrid assistance as 123bhp or 153bhp variants. 0-62mph is completed in 10.0s and 9.2s, respectively.

The 48-volt battery system can provide an extra 24Nm of torque when needed and reduce the load on the combustion motor. It also enables seamless engine shut-off and start up, with the driver able to choose when the new start-stop system kicks in to allow emissions free coasting; at 9mph, 12mph or 16mph.

The diesel options are a 1.5-litre unit, called EcoBlue, offered with 118bhp, and a 2.0-litre version with a punchy 148bhp. We found that the 118bhp engine performs reasonably well, although it does need revving to get the most out of it as there's not much torque below 2,000rpm, and this can be a little frustrating when pulling out of junctions or when overtaking. At least the six-speed manual gearbox has a positive shift to make life easier.

The ST model sits at the top of the range, available with either a 276bhp 2.3-litre petrol engine, or a 187bhp version of the 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel unit. The petrol car sprints from 0-62mph in 5.7s, while the oil-burner takes 7.6s.

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.0 EcoBoost 125 Vignale Edition 5dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £0

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.5 EcoBlue 120 Active Edition 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £23,915

Fastest

  • Name
    2.3 EcoBoost ST 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £32,310

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