Ford Focus Review
The Ford Focus is superb to drive, offers good space and has the latest driving technology onboard. Its infotainment and interior quality are the only downsides.
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
- Superb handling
- Efficient engines
- Competitive prices
What's not so good
- Interior cheap in places
- There are better infotainment systems
- Boot space is average
Ford Focus: what would you like to read next?
If ever there was a reason to shun the SUV craze and drive a family hatchback instead, it’s the Ford Focus. In fact, we love it so much we gave it our Family Award in the 2018 carwow awards. It’s up against a long list of strong alternatives, from the Skoda Octavia and Vauxhall Astra, to the Mercedes A-Class, Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series.
In terms of size, the Ford Focus sits neatly between the smaller Ford Fiesta and large Ford Mondeo. There’s also an estate version of the Ford Focus if you need even more space and practicality, and keen drivers will be catered for later down the line with sporty Focus ST and Focus RS models likely to join the range.
The new Ford Focus’s interior is pleasant to look at, with a central band of shiny trim on the dashboard topped with a soft-touch section that spreads as far as the top of the door cards. The buttons for the Focus’s climate control and other functions are all large and well labelled so are easy to hit.
Entry-level Ford Focus Style models get a modest 4.2-inch colour display, Bluetooth, DAB radio and a couple of USB ports. Next-up Zetec models come with a larger 8-inch screen, and also adds voice recognition technology, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring. The touchscreen is responsive and bright, but the onscreen graphics aren’t quite as sharp as in, say, an Audi or Mercedes and the general menu structure isn’t quite as intuitive, either.
From ST-Line X models all the way to the range-topping Vignale get sat-nav. Also added from ST-Line X is a 4.3-inch colour instrument cluster screen for clearer driving information on the move. A wireless smartphone charging pad can be added to all but entry-level models for relatively little money, too.
Two tall adults will have no problems with the amount of leg room and head room around the Ford Focus’s front seats, while the driver gets a decent amount of manual seat and steering wheel adjustment, as well as manual lumbar adjustment as standard. In terms of practicality, the Focus betters almost all alternatives for space in the back – save an Octavia. Two adults will sit behind the two in the front quite happily.
Ford has done it again: the Focus is superb to drive, is now filled with an impressive level of tech and safety kit and offers good space for families
Surprise, surprise, the Ford Focus’s boot is dwarfed by a Skoda Octavia’s, but then so are the boots of every other family car. However, there is good news. At 375 litres, Focus’s boot space is actually slightly larger than that of an Audi A3 or Mercedes A-Class.
Ford’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine is available in no less than three power outputs (85, 100 and 120hp), while its three-cylinder 1.5 petrol comes in 150 and 182hp forms. Then there’s a four-cylinder 1.5 diesel available in 95 and 120hp power outputs, and lastly, a 2.0-litre diesel engine that produces 150hp.
Our experience of the Ford Focus’s 125hp 1.0-litre petrol suggests that’ll be the engine to go for. It’ll never feel off the pace and will be cheaper to buy and run. That said, if you’re constantly slogging up and down the motorway, then one of the diesels will be a far better bet in the long run. In particular, the 120hp 1.5 diesel will have all the punch you need and comfortably achieve 60mpg.
Driving the Focus is a joy, especially with more advanced rear suspension fitted. In fact, we think it’s the best family car to drive full stop. Its steering feels natural, the car’s body control is great and the car manages to remain composed through corners no matter what you throw at it. ST-Line cars also benefit from sportier suspension that has been lowered slightly for even better control through tight bends, but with no detriment to the Focus’s comfortable ride.
Overall then, the Ford Focus does very little wrong and should be at the top of your shortlist when buying a family hatchback.
The Ford Focus has never been known for a luxurious interior, but this latest model has moved it closer than ever to more premium family cars
Not the roomiest family car on sale, but the Focus, with it’s longer wheelbase, will happily transport four adults and their weekend luggage
This generation of Focus has been stretched 5cm over the old one between its axles for better interior space, although an Octavia is still better at carrying adults in the back
The Ford Focus isn’t quite as roomy as the hugely spacious Skoda Octavia, but it performs well when you compare it to the likes of the VW Golf, Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class.
Tall adults will have no problems with the amount of legroom and headroom in the front seats and you get plenty of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel to help you find your ideal seating position. Even entry-level cars come with adjustable lumbar support to help reduce backache on long drives.
You can also pay extra for upgraded front seats with 18-way manual adjustment for a relatively small fee. Unfortunately, not until ST-Line X trim is the front passenger also treated to height adjustment and lumbar support. These models also come with electric adjustment for the driver.
In the back, the Ford Focus betters almost all alternatives for space – save for the Octavia. Two adults will sit behind two in the front quite happily without their heads touching the roof. Seating three adults side-by-side will be a squeeze on long journeys, but your passengers will have more head- and shoulder room than in either a VW Golf or Kia Ceed. The middle seatback is fairly supportive too, and there’s space for everyone’s feet on the Focus’ mostly flat rear floor.
It’s relatively easy to fit a bulky child seat in the Ford Focus. The back doors open nice and wide and the standard Isofix anchor points come with easy-to-remove plastic covers. But, you will have to stoop down slightly to strap in a child – especially if you’re tall.
Ford hasn’t forgotten about your phone, keys, wallets and purses when it comes to its new Focus. It has provided a generously sized cubby at the base of the Focus’s dashboard for storing such things, as well as a handy two-tiered cubby beneath the central armest that’ll keep the things you want close to hand, and those you don’t stored beneath,
Then there are the door bins that’ll take a 1.5-litre bottle, a decent-sized glovebox that’s good for much more than a pair of gloves and two cupholders located just in front of the gearlever. In fact, there’s room for two cups, and a small bottle of water can be slotted in a third hole between them.
Surprise, surprise, the Ford Focus’s boot is dwarfed by a Skoda Octavia’s, but then so are the boots of almost every other small family car.
However, there is good news. At 375 litres, Focus’s boot space is actually slightly larger than that of an Audi A3 or Mercedes A-Class, and despite a small lip at its entrance, access is good. Good, too, is the fact that the boot is consistently square in shape with no intrusion by the wheel arches.
There’s space for a large suitcase on its side next to a small suitcase with enough room leftover for a couple of soft bags. A set of golf clubs fits easily, but you can’t quite fit a baby buggy under the load cover.
When a trip to the rubbish tip is on the cards and the boot alone just won’t do, all Ford Focus models come with split-folding rear seats that lie almost flat. The rear seat backs split in a 60:40 configuration, too, so you can still have a rear passenger along for the ride as well as longer items that extend beyond the length of the boot.
With all the back seats folded away, the Ford Focus’ boot grows to 1,320 litres – that’s bigger than a Golf, Astra or Ceed and easily large enough to carry a bike with both its wheels attached. You also get a couple of shopping hooks to hold things nice and securely and a good number of tether points if you need to tie luggage down.
The Focus continues to be one of the best-driving family cars on sale
There’s a huge amount of choice when it comes to Focus engines. Don’t be put off by Ford’s modest 1.0-litre three cylinder petrols - they’re fantastic
When it comes to the Ford Focus’s engines, there are three sizes to consider: 1.0, 1.5 or 2.0 litres.
Ford’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine is available in no less than three power outputs (85, 100 and 120hp), while its three-cylinder 1.5 petrol comes in 150 and 182hp forms. Then there’s a four-cylinder 1.5 diesel available in 95 and 120hp power outputs, and lastly, a 2.0-litre diesel engine that produces 150hp. Still with us?
A six speed manual gearbox is standard, but an eight-speed automatic ‘box can be paired with the 1.0 125 and 1.5 150 petrols, and 1.5 120 and 2.0 diesels.
The 1.5 petrol in 150hp form pulls strongly from low revs so you don’t have to keep changing down a gear in search of burst of acceleration. There’s some vibration at idle felt through the steering wheel and pedals, but it smoothes out as the revs rise and never gets too noisy when pushed hard. It should return around 40mpg, too.
We’ve also tried the 1.5 diesel with 120hp, which is the engine to go for if you plan on doing a fair amount of motorway mileage. It’s a bit grumbly on startup but smooths out when accelerating and quietens down at a cruise. It should also return close to 60mpg.
However, our experience of Ford’s 125hp 1.0-litre petrol in other Ford models suggests that’ll be the engine to go for. It never feels off the pace and will be cheaper to buy and run than the 1.5 petrol.
It’s simple: the Ford Focus has for years stood as the benchmark by which other family car manufacturers engineer their cars for ride and handling characteristic. It might never have been the most expensive or premium family car, but the Focus has shown up plusher competition on the road for years.
The same still rings true, but there are better versions of the Focus than others. There was a time when all Focus models had advanced independent rear suspension, but now all Focus models south of the 1.5 petrol and 2.0 diesel get a slightly cheaper set-up.
With this more advanced suspension fitted, the Focus is a joy to drive. In fact, it’s the best family car to drive full stop. Its steering feels natural, the car’s body control is great and the car manages to remain composed through corners no matter what you throw at it.
ST-Line cars also benefit from suspension that has been lowered slightly for even better control through tight bends, but with no detriment to the Ford Focus’s comfortable ride.
Probably even better news is that the Focus’s cheaper suspension doesn’t ruin thing – far from it. It’s still very comfortable over bumps and ruts and feels superb agile for a family hatchback.
Vignale models get a head-up display as standard, while its a cheap option on some lesser models. It doesn’t project onto the windscreen as in some cars, instead projecting onto a plastic screen above the instrument cluster, but it’s clear and works well so is worth adding if you can stretch to it.
A reasonably-priced Driver Assistance Pack can be added to ST-Line X trim and above and brings traffic sign recognition and adaptive cruise control with a system that’ll steer to keep you in your lane, too. However, we found it a little annoying, as it tends to ‘bounce’ the car between the lines every now and then rather than keep you on a constant path.
And, if you really don’t like parking, Ford offers a Park Assist system that’ll take over and steer you into a space.