Ford Focus

A family hatchback that's fun to drive

8.1
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 40 reviews
  • Great looks
  • Fantastic handling
  • Wide engine choice
  • Small boot
  • Clunky infotainment system
  • Thirsty petrols
 

£16,445 - £31,395 Price range

 

4 - 5 Seats

 

44 - 83 MPG

Review

The Ford Focus is the bestselling model in possibly the toughest market of all: the compact family class. It’s a car that’s earned its reputation as the one to beat, and in the form of the Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf and the Renault Megane, it faces tougher competition than ever.

It gets off to a promising start with smart exterior styling, but this is a car whose true talents are most obvious from behind the wheel. That’s because it’s brilliant fun to drive – you’d need to go a long way to discover a car that corners as well without compromising passenger comfort. Making a run-of-the-mill family car feel so well-sorted is a brilliant achievement.

It’s a shame then, that the dashboard design lags well behind the best that rivals can offer. It’s reasonably well put together, but lacks the soft, squidgy materials of some of the competition. Those in the back will find themselves lacking the headroom of some alternatives, and the boot is tiny by class standards. Generous cubby spaces claw some pride back, though.

The choice of petrol and diesel engines available is vast. The cheapest to run is the 1.5-litre TDCi – in frugal ECOnetic form it promises fuel economy of 83.1mpg – and it has more than enough grunt for most buyers. A 2.0-litre diesel is available on higher trim levels, and mixes strong performance with fuel economy of more than 70mpg. The EcoBoost petrols are smoother units and deliver strong on-paper economy, with the exception of the sporty ST and bonkers RS, which trade fuel efficiency for outright power.

The entry-level Style model lacks many of the niceties that buyers look for in a car, so we’d plump for either the Zetec or the ST-Line trims: they both come with alloy wheels, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, DAB radio and lumbar support for the driver’s seat. The ST-Line is the sportier of the two, so if you’re happy to trade some comfort for a sharper drive, it’s the one to have.

Read our colour and dimensions guides for the Focus.

Put up against some of the newest competition, the Focus is really starting to date badly inside. The dashboard layout – though spruced up in a mid-life refresh – is messy, and it can’t match the best its rivals have to offer from a quality point of view, either. The materials on the top of the dash feel decent enough, but elsewhere there are some hard, cheap-feeling plastics. Overall, it lacks the solid feel you get from a Golf and the modern look you’ll find from the Vauxhall Astra or Renault Megane.

Ford Focus infotainment

All but the basic Style model come equipped with an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system – an improvement on the alternative 4.2-inch display – but even the posher setup is found wanting. The main problem is that the Ford SYNC2 software feels slow to respond, and the recessed screen and small on-screen buttons make it fiddly. It’s just a little irritating to use.

Ford Focus passenger space

It is, however, easy enough to get comfy in the front of a Focus, with both the driver’s seat and steering wheel offering plenty of scope for adjustment – Zetec models and above feature standard lumbar support for the driver, too. If you’ll be carrying around four adults regularly, you’d be best off going for a Golf instead – the shape of the Focus’ roofline harms rear headroom for taller passengers. Otherwise there should be few complaints. Rear legroom is fine, and the transmission tunnel doesn’t intrude into the floor too much either, so squeezing in a third rear passenger isn’t a massive ask. The Focus’ rear doors don’t open as wide as an Astra, so it’s a little trickier to install a child seat. The Isofix points are easy to locate, though.

Ford Focus cubby spaces

Small rear door bins aside, the storage space in the cabin is good. the glovebox is large, and the front door bins are huge.

Ford Focus boot space

The Focus’s 316-litre boot isn’t great by class standards, and the 1,215-litre total capacity when the rear seats are folded away is some way behind the best, too. A couple of curry hooks make the space more useful, but the boot lip is high so it’s a pain to load up heavier items.

Ford has long maintained an uncanny knack of sprinkling magic into the driving experience of even its most ordinary cars. The Focus certainly doesn’t let the side down, offering up arguably the most enjoyable chassis setup in the class. The steering feels sharp through the bends, and there’s far less body roll than you’ll find from some rivals. Overall, it’s more fun to drive than a family hatchback has any right to be.

There is a flipside to this precision though, and it’s that the ride feels a touch firmer than in some rivals. ST-line models with their lower, sportier setup feel bumpiest of all, and if you go for one of the larger alloy wheel designs you’ll be left with a jiggly feel at lower speeds. It can hardly be considered uncomfortable overall though – it’s just not quite as relaxing as a Golf or an Astra.

The biggest criticism is the refinement, which falls some way short of the best in class. There’s a little too much tyre roar – once again it’s made worse with larger wheel options – and wind noise can become a little irritating at motorway speeds. Thick pillars all round means that visibility isn’t great either, so optional extras like a blind spot warning system (£525) and a rear view camera (£250) begin to look like necessary purchases.

The Focus offers buyers a vast choice of engines, with petrol, diesel and even a fully electric option available. The diesel engines are much more frugal than the petrol alternatives in the real world, so they’re the ones to have.

Ford Focus petrol engines

Entry level style models are equipped by an ancient, underpowered 1.6-litre petrol – definitely avoid, but the bulk of the range is filled with 1.0-litre EcoBoost units. Available with 99 or 123hp, the turbocharged motors are smooth and quiet, and low emissions mean that they cost no more than £20 to tax.

The lower-powered version struggles for power when pulling out of junctions, though, and at motorway speeds the five-speed manual gearbox hampers fuel consumption significantly. The 123hp model benefits from a sweeter six-speed gearbox but, in the real world, you’ll still struggle to get anywhere close to the claimed 60.1mpg fuel economy. If you must have a petrol, go for the 1.5 litre model – it’s much more powerful and real-world fuel economy isn’t far off the 1.0-litre.

Ford Focus diesel engines

The diesel engines will likely be a more desirable choice, they’re capable of returning much better mpg figures. The 1.5-litre is offered in three different power outputs, each offering performance that’s more than adequate for most buyers. In frugal ECOnetic trim it’s capable of 83.1mpg in official tests, and we managed more than 62mpg during our time with the car.
A gruntier 2.0-litre diesel is offered on higher trim levels and delivers strong performance, while fuel consumption is still competitive with 70.6mpg claimed.

Will consumers be able to set aside any doubts over such a small engine being put in a car the size of the Focus? Time will tell, but judging by the excellent early reviews they’ll have very little to worry about.

EcoBoost is the term Ford uses to describe its efficient, turbocharged petrol engines, and this 1.0-litre three-cylinder is the smallest yet. Despite the small capacity (and small physical size - apparently, the block can sit within the space of an A4 sheet of paper) there’s still 123bhp on tap, similar to a naturally aspirated 1.6 or 1.8.

While that’s enough for an 11.3-second 0-60mph time and 120mph top speed, the combined 56.5mpg economy rating is more headline-grabbing, and at 99g/km of CO2, free road tax and zero congestion charge will also be attractive to buyers. Even better, testers have found the engine near-silent, easily torquey enough for normal driving, pleasant to work hard, and very refined. It makes every four-cylinder in the Focus range now seem old-tech and inefficient.

Reviews of the 1.6 EcoBoost 150 Focus appear to be very positive. Despite being tuned to offer efficiency, a majority of critics were incredibly pleased with how entertaining it was, stating that it complemented the Focus’ s excellent chassis setup.

As far as all-out efficiency goes, it’s not as economical as the diesels, but the 1.6 turbo petrol does provide substantially more fun for a perfectly reasonable mpg penalty. Testers liked the strong power delivery – many thought that the strength of the 1.6 made it feel like a much larger engine – and the general consensus is that it’s one of the more recommendable petrol engines in the line-up.

The main criticism that quite a few reviewers had for the EcoBoost 150 was its fairly steep asking price, mostly due to it being only available in the top-of-the-range Titanium trim levels.

If you can afford it, you’ll have a very nice and entertaining Focus at your disposal, though more cost conscious buyers may be better off with the cheaper and more efficient diesels.

The reviews of the Focus 1.6 Ecoboost 180 say that it’s an extremely good engine. It’s likely to remain a fairly niche choice, as there are far more fuel efficient engines, but it’s quiet and fast.

Much like the less powerful version of the same engine (the Ecoboost 150), testers are quite satisfied with the 180hp version of the 1.6 EcoBoost engine. Praise was given to the usability of the engine, with a suitable dollop of torque low down yet plenty of punch at higher revs. Many testers thought it was quite a tuneful motor as well.

This engine is also lighter than the diesel engines, which the reviews say improves the handling.

Efficiency is also a plus-point for the EcoBoost, despite the brisk performance on offer. The diesels still have the best fuel economy, but the 1.6 turbo petrol can still achieve a respectable 47 mpg, though only if you resist the temptation to test the limits of the Focus’ admirable grip and handling.

If there is one area where the EcoBoost Focus falters, it’s in the pricing – the 1.6 turbo engine is only available in the expensive Titanium models. It may be a great engine in an accomplished car, but some critics had difficulty deciding whether or not it was worth the steep asking price.

Reviews for the Focus 1.6 TDCi 115 generally say it’s a impressively economical engine that doesn’t compromise on driver enjoyment. It’s fast enough, quiet, come with lots of standard equipment and is good value for money.

Expected to be the most popular choice for Focus buyers, critics were quite pleased with the 1.6 diesel. Despite being slightly heavier than the petrol models, most testers thought that it was still fun to drive whilst still being suitably economical.

Critics were also pleased with its tractability and ease of use – there’s a healthy 199lb/ft of torque, and many testers liked the linearity of the 1.6’s power delivery across the rev range. Efficiency was also a plus point, with a claimed 109g/km of CO2 and up to 67 mpg being possible. Some testers, however, did struggle to match the fuel economy figures in “real world conditions”.

It does come with its flaws – though not a problem all the testers had, there were some complaints about the slightly inert responsiveness of the engine – but many saw it as being yet another good all-round engine in the Focus range.

The Focus 2.0 TDCi 140 reviews are largely positive. The expert say it is quiet when at cruising speeds, economical and good for long distance drivers.

Even though Ford expect most buyers to ignore this model, it doesn’t mean the 2.0 diesel version is the poorest engine in the range. If the critics are anything to go buy, it’s actually quite a peach of an engine. Being one of the largest engines on offer, performance is quite brisk, though it’s also suitably efficient.

Fuel economy is quite good at 56 mpg, though not as brilliant as the smaller 1.6 TDCi. However, the off-shoot is an extra increase in power over the smaller diesel engine. 138 bhp and 236 lb/ft of torque is on offer, so overtaking manoeuvres and gentle blasts down B-roads shouldn’t be too much of an issue. For extra ease of use, a ‘Powershift’ automatic is available as an optional extra.

Most critics, however, did have the problems with the price when compared to similar rivals.

A few critics also recommended the more powerful 2.0 diesel with 163PS as it offers more grunt with similar efficiency figures. Despite this, the new Focus is still one of the top cars in the class, and an especially good choice if you’re looking for a new company car.

The Focus 2.0 TDCi 163 reviews all agree this model is sporty and refined. It’s a responsive engine that boasts amazingly good mpg figures.

As one of the flagship Focus models, the top-of-the-range 2.0 TDCi was seen as a mightily impressive car by the critics. Testers were pleased with the refined and tractable engine, along with the quality of the overall package goes some way to justifying the steep price tag.

Like the lesser 2.0 diesel (the 140), the 161bhp version can achieve a maximum 56 mpg, so it’s quite an efficient engine. However, the extra power over the 140hp version makes it a more satisfying tool when covering ground quickly. However, when you’re not in the mood for fast driving, the healthy torque band and linear power delivery make it a very suitable engine for relaxed motorway cruises.

The experts say it’s quiet when you want it to be and that under acceleration the engine sounds great.

The testers, however, did comment on the rather steep price of this Focus 2.0 TDCI 163 – it may be one of the most accomplished family hatchbacks on sale, but it’s quite an expensive piece of kit, especially when equipped with optional equipment. It’s an incredibly capable engine, but the rather high asking price may be a bit too much for some buyers.

These are general, non-engine specific reviews. They give a nice overview of what the car is like, without focusing on just one engine/version.

The Focus was subjected to Euro NCAP’s scrutiny back in 2012, where it was awarded the maximum five-star rating for safety protection. It offers all of the typical features for the class, with Isofix mounting points standard on the two outer rear seats and airbags all over the place.

A range of optional features aims to prevent accidents from ever occurring, too. Automatic braking is standard on Titanium and Titanium X models, and they also get lane-keep assist, plus a blind-spot warning system helps to make motorway driving less stressful. Traffic sign recognition, a driver-alert monitor and a semi-autonomous parking feature (that reverses into parallel and perpendicular spaces) are optional.

Ford has one of the biggest dealer networks in the UK, servicing costs are cheap, and finding your perfect model is easy. Avoid the entry-level Style model, though – air conditioning comes as standard, but the lack of alloy wheels and the tiny digital display screen make it look cheap inside and out.

Ford Focus Zetec

The Zetec is the model will suit many – it comes with 16″ alloy wheels, Ford’s heated quickclear windscreen – brilliant on a frosty morning – an eight-inch infotainment with DAB and a leather steering wheel. for an extra £700, the appearance pack smartens up the exterior with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights and rear privacy glass.

Ford Focus ST Line

ST Line trim was formerly known as Zetec S – it’s a halfway house between regular models and the sporty ST. it gains a subtle body kit, sportier suspension and LED tail lights. inside, the cabin is treated to some aluminium-faced pedals, sports front seats and a starter button. Otherwise, the equipment levels mirror those of the Zetec.

Ford Focus Titanium

Titanium and Titanium X models are the most luxurious in the range. Climate control, rear parking sensors, cruise control, auto headlights and autonomous emergency braking feature on the Titanium. The X adds to that with heated front seats, a rear-view camera, part leather seats and active park assist.

Conclusion

The third-generation Ford Focus made its debut back in 2012, and since then has found itself coming up against increasingly talented opposition.

Despite this, it remains one of the strongest options – little else in the class is as fun to drive, and the diesel engines in particular promise low running costs. A Golf or an Astra are both more refined and feel better built, though.

It may be showing its age in some areas – the boot is a little pokey and the infotainment system isn’t great, but the Focus remains a force to be reckoned with.

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