Review of the all new 2011 Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi Hatchback. Find out what we thought of the Mk 3 Focus and whether its worth buying one.
We tested the 161bhp 2.0 litre TDCi diesel. Its the most powerful diesel engine on sale, and we thought it was fantastic. Starting up its almost silent, driving off it remains quiet and when you put your foot down on it has a nice growl to it.
On the motorway, travelling in the new Focus is a quiet, smooth and a relaxing way to cover miles. In town its easy to drive and copes well with potholes and speed bumps, there wasnt a lot of wind noise and little road noise on the 17-inch wheels we had.
This engine gets 56.5mpg and emits only 129g/km of CO2, which means road tax of 90 a year. Reading those stats you might think its an engine thats fine for low running costs but that it couldnt possibly put a smile on your face. Youd be wrong. When you put your foot down it really is enjoyable, perfect for the odd country road blast.
Its not only the powerful engine that makes it fun to drive, but also the way it handles. The previous Focus got praised for being so enjoyable behind the wheel, however this new version has been criticised by the majority of the motoring press for not being so exciting to drive. We havent driven the last one, so cant comment on that aspect, all we can say is that we had a great time testing it on twisty Spanish country roads.
The Focus will be bought by a lot of people who want a practical family car and wont care what its like to drive. However, it is important for many buyers. What we would say to them is that the new Focus is definitely fun to drive, its still very capable of putting a smile on your face.
We are slightly disappointed in the styling of the new Focus. It looks smart and almost coupe-like from side on, but it does seem a bit similar to the old Focus.
There are some neat touches though, such as the concealed fuel filler cap and chrome strips running along the sides. The LED daytime running lights definitely help the car look better, but we do think Ford could have been a little more adventurous with the styling.
First impressions when we got inside were reasonably good. The interior looks smart, but were not huge fans of the cluttered centre-console. Throughout the cabin everything felt very well made, with no buttons or switches seeming too cheap or flimsy.
Sitting in the drivers seat we were bemused by the sheer amount of controls on the steering wheel, 23 in total. Its to be expected on a luxury car like a BMW 7 Series or Mercedes S-Class, but the Focus is supposedly a normal family hatchback!
The dashboard is simpler to understand, with a nicely sized LCD screen giving information about the car such as mileage, remaining fuel and any warning lights. We like it when cars can display the speed digitally as well as through the dial, so were slightly disappointed that wasnt an option.
We found the interior to be fairly roomy. When setting the front seat to where it would be for the driver, there was reasonable knee space for a 6ft tall rear passenger. The middle seat would be fine for short journeys, head space is decent and the boot is large, though has quite a high lip.
Were encouraged to see how much emphasis has been put into safety. Every Focus will come with front, rear and curtain airbags, ESP and ABS. There has also been a lot of work put into making the bonnet as safe as possible should you hit a pedestrian.
The cars we spent time in were stuffed with almost every conceivable optional extra. Well go through them briefly and give our verdict on whether theyre worth going for.
Option prices haven’t yet been announced, but as soon as they are we’ll add them in.
Lane Departure Warning/Lane Keeping Aid
This is a system that lets you know when you’re straying too far over to one side, by detecting where the car is in relation to the white lines painted on the road. The steering wheel vibrates and you can set it to auto-correct slightly to bring you back to where you should be.
It does work, but it warns you too late. When testing it we reckon had there been another vehicle alongside you, or a wall, you would most likely have hit it before the system activated. Therefore we really don’t see the benefit.
Verdict: Pretty useless
Forward Alert with Brake Support
This optional extra is designed to reduce or even prevent slow speed impact damage. It works by detecting if there is about to be a crash, then starts beeping to warn you, readies the brakes by pre-tensioning them, and if you still fail to stop will actually apply the brakes.
So its basically a system to brake for you if youre travelling along slowly and arent keeping your eyes on the road.
This was a fun option to test! We were told to drive at about 20kph straight at a barrier with our hands off the wheel and our feet off the brake. It felt incredibly unnatural, but the system did work and we were brought to an abrupt halt with only centimetres between the barrier and the front bumper.
Personally we wouldnt bother going for it, as it only works below 19mph and wont detect pedestrians, only large solid objects. Plus you should be paying attention to whats ahead anyway!
Verdict: Definitely works, but will be expensive.
Sony Preimum Radio
The Sony Radio on the new Ford Focus is loud, ear bleedingly loud. Well freely admit we are no experts when it comes to sound systems, but the CDs we listened to sounded great, far better than in many executive cars weve tried.
Verdict: Worth going for if you enjoy your music
Traffic Sign Recognition
This is a clever system that displays what the speed limit is, using a camera that detects traffic signs.
If you take you frequently take your car abroad then wed say this is an essential option. In countries such as Spain and France the speed limit can change every 50 metres, so its often difficult to know what speed you should be going. The system works flawlessly, and also indicates whether its a no-overtaking stretch of road.
Perhaps not so useful in the UK, as we have less variable limits, but we can see why buyers would choose this option.
Verdict: Good for the continent
Adaptive Cruise Control
Not especially new technology, but it works very well in the new Ford. When activated it can detect a vehicle ahead and match the speed to that vehicle. If the car ahead slows down, so will you and youll keep the same distance. If the car turns off, or you want to overtake, it will automatically speed up to whatever limit you set.
Verdict: Fans of cruise control will love it
Blind Spot Information System
This is designed to warn the driver when a vehicle is detected in the blind spot. It does this by flashing up a little yellow light in your wing mirror. Again, the system works, but the blind spot isnt too bad so we personally wouldnt go for it.
Verdict: Works well, handy for some
There are a range of other options, including automatic parking, automatic headlight dimming and driver alert (which warns you if you need a rest from driving), but unfortunately we didnt get to test them this time round.
The Bluetooth hands free connection which comes as standard on every model is one of the best weve tried. It connected seamlessly and was easy to control through the steering wheel.
We also spent some time with a model which had the standard stereo; all versions come with a CD player and DAB (digital) radio. There were no complaints about the sound it produced at all, it was far better than most weve tried in similar cars, but it isnt the easiest to operate. However after living with it for a few days youd have no issues working the various functions.
We applaud Ford for making it simpler for buyers to decide which models to go for. There are four option models, in ascending price; Edge, Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X.
For the engine we drove, the 2.0 TDCi 163, you can only get the Titanium X model. Which gives foldable door mirrors, dual zone climate control, LED ambient lighting, auto windscreen wipers, keyless ignition, hill start assist and Bi-Xenon headlights.
The new Ford Focus is undoubtedly a very good car. The only downsides are the price of the car we tested (around 25k with all the toys) and that were not huge fans of the styling.
We really cant see anyone buying one and then being disappointed with it. The model we tested was comfortable, quiet, economical and fast enough, which is exactly what people want.
However, having read other reviews of the Focus, you should also consider the excellent Volkswagen Golf. Many reviews say its better to drive and that theyd choose it over this Focus. Well leave you to decide, you can see compiled expert reviews of both cars here:
Model tested: 2.0 TDCi 163 PS Manual Titanium X
0-60mph: 8.6 secs
Top Speed: 135mph
CO2: 129 g/km