VW Golf 1.2 TSI vs Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost

The VW Golf now carries a tiny turbocharged engine. But can it knock out our current favourite, the Ford Focus?

If you want to get ahead in the compact family hatchback sector, you’ve got to downsize. Virtually every major manufacturer now offers a model with a small-capacity turbocharged petrol engine that aims to deliver big-car performance with supermini running costs.

The latest to join the ranks is the new VW Golf, which gets the brand’s tried and tested 1.2-litre TSI engine for the first time. Boasting a respectable 104bhp, and claimed fuel economy of 57.6mpg, the newcomer certainly looks good on paper, while in entry-level S guise it features an eye-catching £18,160 price tag. Factor in top-notch quality and first-class refinement, and the Golf promises to be a strong performer on its road test debut.

However, before it can start celebrating, the VW must face our favourite small-engined hatch: the 1.0-litre Ford Focus EcoBoost. With its sparkling driving experience, strong performance and low running costs, this Focus represents a stern test for any new arrival. And while it’s around £100 more expensive than its opponent in this test, in mid-range Zetec trim it benefits from more power and a longer list of standard equipment.


Does the Golf make as much sense in attractively priced entry-level guise? Well, it doesn’t feel like a bargain-basement special, as it’s every bit as refined, comfortable and solid as more expensive versions.

Elsewhere, the 1.2-litre TSI engine is a real gem, delivering smooth and eager performance, plus remarkably strong fuel returns. And as with other models, you get a spacious and practical interior, a big boot and classy, understated looks. However, the kit list is slightly spartan. Essentials such as Bluetooth and air-con are standard, but that’s about it.

That’s not a criticism you can level at the Ford, which is dripping with showroom appeal – alloy wheels, a leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel and heated windscreen are all included. It also looks bolder than its rival, while the agile handling and keen engine make it more fun to drive. And although it’s hampered by a small boot, the rest of the interior is spacious and robustly built. So is that enough to give the Ford victory? Not quite.

The Focus is better equipped, but can’t match the VW’s extremely strong residuals, great-value servicing pack and diesel-like economy. Factor in the superior practicality, top-notch quality and class-leading refinement, and the Golf takes a narrow win.

Have you considered?

Dacia Sandero Stepway: long-term test review
Dacia Sandero long termer - front
Dacia Sandero Stepway

Dacia Sandero Stepway: long-term test review

Final report: Jacked-up Dacia Sandero hatch wins hearts and minds of Dawn’s family
26 Nov 2021
Citroen e-C4 Sense Plus: long term test review
Citroen e-C4
Citroen C4

Citroen e-C4 Sense Plus: long term test review

Third report: Citroen’s e-C4 EV is proving able to cope with longer trips
11 Nov 2021
Used Volkswagen Golf (Mk7, 2013-2019) review
VW Golf Mk7.5 - front
Volkswagen Golf Hatchback

Used Volkswagen Golf (Mk7, 2013-2019) review

An impressive all-rounder, the evergreen VW Golf is a family hatchback that blends upmarket premium appeal with everyday practicality and affordable r…
13 Oct 2021
New Skoda Fabia 2021 review
Skoda Fabia - front
Skoda Fabia

New Skoda Fabia 2021 review

The new Skoda Fabia has all the credentials to challenge the very best in the supermini class
11 Oct 2021

Most Popular

New seven-seat Dacia Jogger priced from £14,995
Dacia Jogger - Munich front
Dacia Jogger

New seven-seat Dacia Jogger priced from £14,995

Pre-orders open for the new Dacia Jogger ahead of 2022 deliveries, and low prices make it Britain’s cheapest seven-seater
1 Dec 2021
Drivers hit by ‘hidden’ charges in car insurance small print
car insurance

Drivers hit by ‘hidden’ charges in car insurance small print

A new survey shows that Brits are coughing up a third of their car insurance premiums on ‘hidden fees’
1 Dec 2021
Toyota to offer specialized electric car ‘hubs’ for bZ4X sales
Toyota bz4x

Toyota to offer specialized electric car ‘hubs’ for bZ4X sales

Dealers will deliver series of specialized EV retail points to sell Toyota’s first bespoke EV, the bZ4X SUV
2 Dec 2021