Ford Focus road test
Straight to the top of the class for its driving calibre.
What is it?
One of Britain’s top-selling cars fresh from a total makeover. The fourth generation of the hugely popular family hatchback that celebrates its 20th anniversary this summer.
How green is it?
Pretty fair. There are 1.5 litre diesels, both hatchback and estate, with CO2 outputs below 100g/km. The lowest is 91g/km, while petrol models range from 107 to 138 g/km.
Who should buy one?
Anyone who wants a mainstream, mid-size five-door hatchback or estate car and who would like to have the best driving experience available in its category.
Road test by Sue Baker, August 2018
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
Ford has carved itself a reputation over recent years for the driving calibre of its cars, and this substantially re-engineered Focus amply maintains that. With a new chassis and longer wheelbase, the clear target of this car is to go to the top of the mid-size family hatch class as the best one to drive. That’s a bold aim, in a fourth-generation model that arrives just as the Focus celebrates having been around for two decades. Not a wasted one, though.
Behind the wheel it has a very engaging feel, with commendable poise and precision on a driver-pleasing twisty route. The solidly assured feel of the car’s handling is not achieved at the expense of ride quality either, because that has a supple absorption that deals commendably with bumpy surfaces.
That’s true with either suspension set-up. The Focus range starts with standard twist-beam rear suspension in the lower models, similar to its rivals, but has the greater sophistication of multi-link rear suspension for the higher-powered cars. A clever asset is the car’s pothole detection system, that monitors the road surface and reacts to variations with minor suspension adjustment to help smooth the bumps. It’s effective – ride comfort is generally very good.
The Focus steers with good accuracy and informative feel. It has a very grown-up demeanour, smooth and civilised on a motorway, slick and responsive across country. It’s impressive for refinement too, and surprisingly so in the diesel models. Unless you knew what was under the bonnet, the engine sound really wouldn’t tell you.
The choice of engines is 1.0-litre or 1.5, three-cylinder petrol engines, and 1.5 or 2.0-litre diesels. Combined fuel economy ranges from 46.3 to 80.7mpg. One criticism of the left-hand-drive launch cars was the way the pedals are off-set to the right, out of line with the steering wheel, and so causing you to twist slightly in the driving seat. It remains to be seen whether that flaw will be as pronounced in UK right-hand-drive cars.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
This fourth-generation Focus is very slightly wider and lower than its predecessor, but a similar overall length. It has been repackaged on a new chassis though, with the wheels pushed further out to the corners, which has helped to expand cabin space. So it feels quite roomy inside for its overall size.
It has decent elbow and headroom all round, and rear seat kneeroom is okay. Cabin stowage is reasonably well catered for, including door pockets with a long space and a short opening, so you might get items lost at the back of them.
The hatchback version’s boot space at 375 litres is comparable with rival Vauxhall Astra’s 370 and a VW Golf’s 380 litres, though well short of a Skoda Octavia’s cavernous 590 litres. When the rear seats are folded down, the Focus boasts two-seater cargo capacity at 1,354 litres, more than both the Astra (1,210) and Golf (1,270) but again beaten by the Octavia (1,580).
Safety is well catered for in the Focus, which has a good range of driver assistance features available. You can specify it with blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, pre-collision assist, traffic sign recognition, and adaptive lighting. It has partial autonomous driving features with adaptive cruise control that features traffic jam stop and go and lane centring assist. The Focus has yet to be tested by Euro NCAP, but recent Fords have performed well.
Every new Focus has standard air conditioning, Bluetooth, and a package of electronic safety aids. Most have a 6.5-inch touchscreen and Ford’s well-regarded SYNC3 infotainment system, compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus cruise control and a heated windscreen. Higher up the range you get a larger colour touchscreen, satnav, heated seats, and a head-up display. It’s the first Ford in Europe to be available with one, and it’s compatible with polarised sunglasses.
On-the-road prices for the new Focus range kick off at £17,930 for a five-door hatch in base Style trim, with a 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine and six-speed manual gearbox. Ford has realigned its pricing, so that is more than £2,000 below the equivalent model in the outgoing third-generation Focus line-up. The estate starts from £20,380. The dearest version is a 2.0-litre diesel estate in top-spec Vignale trim with an eight-speed auto transmission, at £30,340.
WE SAY Straight to the top of the class for its driving calibre.
AT A GLANCE:
Performance: 0-62 in 8.3 secs
Figures for the Focus 1.5 EcoBoost 182PS