Ford Focus (2011-2017) review
The Ford Focus is a family car that’s fun to drive and fairly frugal, but its boot is pretty small compared to other similar-sized hatchbacks
What's not so good
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The Ford Focus is getting on a bit these days, but it’s still a decent family car. It’s fun to drive but, unfortunately, it doesn’t feel quite as modern inside as a Vauxhall Astra, nor can it carry as much luggage as a VW Golf.
It’s available in a variety of versions, including a big-booted estate, as well as performance ST and RS models, but if you’re looking for a decent family car then the five-door hatchback reviewed here is the model to go for.
The current Focus was launched in 2011 and updated in 2015. Its bumpers were remodelled, a revised infotainment system was fitted and three new engines – a 1.5-litre petrol engine in 150 and 180hp guises and a 150hp 2.0-litre turbo diesel – were added to the lineup. The current car retains the old model’s reassuring five-star safety rating – awarded to it by Euro NCAP, albeit under 2012’s less stringent testing regime.
Jump in the back seats and things don’t really improve. There are a few handy cubbies on each side but headroom is tight, the narrow door openings make fitting a child seat a pain and you’ll find the lump in the floor limits foot room slightly if you carry three passengers abreast.
It’s not hard to see why the Focus is one of Britain’s most popular cars – it drives well, looks great and and is affordable
The Focus’ 316-litre boot can’t really be called roomy, either – not when a Golf has 380 litres of space. You can expand the Ford’s loadbay to 1,215 litres by folding the rear seats down but the lack of an adjustable boot floor and a sizeable boot lip makes loading large heavy items, such as flat-pack furniture, difficult.
The best engine if you do lots of town driving is the frugal 1.0-litre petrol but it feels slightly overworked on motorways. If you’re a high-mileage driver, you’d be better off with the more powerful 150hp 1.5-litre petrol model or one of the two 1.5-litre diesels – they’ll be quieter at speed and cheaper to run. The most frugal of those – with 95hp – is claimed to return 74.3mpg. In the real world, expect to see a figure in the low sixties, however.
Avoid entry-level Style models – they come with barely any creature comforts and have to make do with steel wheels and plastic hubcaps, as well as a tiny 4.2-inch dashboard display. Zetec cars will set you back around £650 more but it’s worth it because they come with an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, sat nav and alloy wheels as standard.
The Ford Focus is a family car that’s fun to drive and smart looking, but its tight back seats and small boot count against it when compared to similar cars.
The Ford Focus has a great driving position but there’s a shortage of headroom in the back and the boot is too small for a car this size
The Focus just isn’t as practical as a car this size should be
The Focus’ driving position is both comfortable and sporty, with plenty of headroom even if you’re tall. All models – bar Style versions – come with lumbar support for the driver as standard while top-spec Titanium X models offer this feature for your front-seat passenger, too. Titanium X cars also include heated front seats and electric adjustment for the driver’s seat.
The Focus doesn’t feature a small window beside the door mirror like the Golf. As a result, the thick door pillar creates a large blind spot that can make pulling out of busy junctions tricky. The rear window is wide and low, however, and helps make reversing and spotting overtaking traffic on motorways fairly easy.
Your back-seat passengers will be a bit cosier. The Focus’ sloping roofline limits headroom for tall adults – anyone over six-foot will struggle to get comfortable – while shoulder room is tight if you carry three abreast. A noticeable lump in the rear floor eats into the available foot space but knee and legroom are more generous and come close to the space offered by the VW Golf. An Astra is better if you regularly carry three people in the back.
The Focus has plenty of useful cubby spaces dotted about the cabin – more even than the Vauxhall Astra. The Ford’s glovebox is huge and the front door bins can comfortably hold a large bottle of water. A sliding plastic cover hides a pair of cupholders for the driver and front-seat passenger while there’s enough room beneath the armrest for a couple of large smartphones. A slim slot under the dashboard can cater for a few extra odds and ends, too.
There aren’t quite so many cubbies for rear-seat passengers but the rear door pockets are big enough to carry a can of coke each and there are two small trays beside each seat to stop your passengers’ phones sliding under the front seats.
You’ll find it trickier to fit a child seat in a Focus than in an Astra or a Golf. The Isofix anchor points are hidden under the seat upholstery and the narrow rear door openings and low roofline don’t make lifting the seat in and out all that easy, either.
The Focus’ boot is small to say the least. Its 316-litre capacity lags far behind both the 370-litre Vauxhall Astra and 380-litre VW Golf. With the rear seats folded it’ll carry a more usable 1,215 litres of luggage, which is slightly more than the 1,210-litre Astra, but still a touch behind the roomier 1,270-litre Golf.
The boot itself doesn’t have any particularly clever features. There are two elastic luggage straps and a hook to carry shopping bags, but it doesn’t come with an adjustable boot floor and the huge load lip makes heaving bulky items in and out rather difficult.
The rear seats fold down in a 60:40 split – so you can carry something long and a couple of passengers – but, unless you flip the rear seat bases up, they don’t lie completely flat and there’s always a sizeable step in the boot floor to deal with. There’s nowhere to store the parcel shelf if you remove it and Ford hasn’t fitted any useful tie-down hooks or a 12V socket in the boot. There’s no ski hatch to help carry long items either but there is a small tray under the boot floor that’s perfect for hiding away a few small valuables.
The Focus is one of the most fun family cars to drive and comes with a huge range of frugal engines – just avoid the uneconomical 1.6-litre petrols
Don't be tempted to save money by buying one of the 1.6-litre petrols – they're thirsty and incredibly slow
The Focus is offered with a broad selection of petrol and diesel engines and even as a fully electric model. Both manual and automatic gearboxes are available, too, and every Focus comes with start/stop as standard to help you save fuel in traffic jams.
The 1.0-litre EcoBoost models are smooth, fairly fast and efficient – especially around town. Unfortunately, they aren’t perfect. The cheapest 100hp versions rasp rather noisily if you accelerate hard and matching their claimed 65.6mpg fuel economy figure is a near-impossible task.
The 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine is the pick of the petrol range and the best choice if your commute takes in a mix of town and country driving. Even the most basic 150hp model feels far more spritely than its 1.0-litre siblings and, in the real world, can return similar fuel economy.
Entry-level models are fitted with an old-fashioned 1.6-litre petrol engine with either 85 or 105hp. They might be cheap, but they’re certainly not cheerful – neither can return more than 50mpg and accelerating from 0-62mph takes 14.9 and 12.3 seconds respectively. As a result, they are best avoided.
More powerful 125hp versions come with a six-speed manual gearbox in place of the 100hp car’s five-speed ‘box, making them quieter on the motorway and smoother around town. their claimed 60.1mpg figure is still a little far-fetched, however – drive carefully and they’ll return a figure in the mid fifties.
If you do lots of motorway miles then go for one of the Focus’ diesel engines. The entry-level 95hp 1.5-litre diesel model is both fast enough and frugal enough to make it easy to ignore the more powerful 120hp 1.5-litre and larger 2.0-litre versions. In the real world it won’t return Ford’s claimed 74.3mpg figure but you can expect it to manage an impressive 62mpg with relative ease.
Most mid-range Focus models are offered with the choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or a slick twin-clutch automatic that’ll add £1,250 to the price. The manual will eke out a little more fuel economy than its automatic counterpart but the optional auto ‘box really helps take the stress out of long drives and tiring traffic jams.
The Focus feels sportier to drive than any other small family hatchback. It corners sharply and grips well without leaning excessively or bouncing over deep potholes and badly rutted roads.
If you go for the optional 18-inch alloy wheels – offered on sporty ST-Line and range-topping Titanium X models – you’ll find the Focus feels a touch firmer and less able to cope with poorly maintained roads. For a more comfortable ride, stick with the standard 16 or 17-inch wheels.
The reasonably light steering, well-placed pedals and fairly wide rear windscreen help make parking a breeze. If the thought of parallel parking doesn’t fill you with glee then go for a Titanium model with its rear parking sensors, or even a Titanium X model which can park itself.
The Ford Focus received an impressive five-star safety rating in the 2012 Euro NCAP test. It’s worth noting the testing procedures have become significantly stricter since, but the Focus is still a safe small family car. Titanium models have automatic emergency braking that makes them safer than the rest of the range.
The Focus’ dashboard is a sea of fiddly buttons that are tricky to use when driving – even the infotainment system’s a pain. Sadly, build quality also leaves a lot to be desired