We Review the Ford Focus

We Review the Ford Focus
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The Car.co.uk verdict:

4.2

It was 20-years ago that we waved goodbye to the Escort and welcomed the Focus onto our roads. Since then, the family-sized Ford hatchback has been a favourite with UK drivers; the question is, does this completely overhauled car continue an impressive legacy?

In actual fact, the 2019 Focus isn’t just more of a good thing; it’s better than ever. New styling puts the Focus toe-to-toe with German rivals, and the drive quality, comfort, and practicality are very difficult to fault. Expect to see a lot of these superb cars gracing our roads soon – but don’t let that put you off; there are plenty of high-spec trim levels that’ll still make you stand out from a crowd.

Pros

  • Drive quality that’s unmatched by virtually any other hatchback
  • Tons of space and comfort for rear seat passengers
  • Some great trim options that won’t send prices through the roof

Cons

  • With the new car’s reliability unproven, Ford’s overall reputation is just average
  • A small handful of cheap feeling parts dotted around the cabin
  • There are bigger boots out there if practicality is at the top of your wish list

At a glance

  • Looks
  • Practicality
  • Engine and Power
  • Reliability
  • Equipment and options
  • Interior
  • The drive
  • Cost
  • Safety
  • Why buy

Looks

4 out of 5

A totally new silhouette that competes with the most stylish cars on the market

For a long time, the Focus has been the benchmark of driving quality and value – but it’s never really been a car that stands out for the way it looks. With the new Ford Focus, this changes significantly. Gone is the generic hatchback outline – replaced with a car that bears more of a resemblance to the profile of a 1 Series or Mercedes A-Class.

While you can appreciate some of the changes from pictures, there’s no substitute for getting up close to a Focus in the flesh. The lines are sleek and elegant, the bumper design and various grille inserts give each model its own personality – and ST models look like genuinely aggressive sports cars.

The Focus has always felt like a car that needs to be everyone’s friend; never really reaching its full potential for fear of dividing opinion. With this new Focus, Ford seems to have taken more of a chance – and the shot of confidence has paid off; you’re now looking at a car that’s every bit as attractive as a VW Golf. In fact, if you’re feeling bold, you might even say the Focus is now the better-looking hatchback.

Practicality

4.5 out of 5

A decent boot and one of the best rear passenger compartments in the class

The last Focus wasn’t a great place to be if you were an adult back seat passenger – but a whole new set of Ford Focus dimensions see to it that there’s plenty of room in the back. In fact, there’s virtually nothing in the class that can touch this leg-room – it’s not far off what you’d expect from a good size saloon.  

The added space is largely down to a wheelbase that’s been extended by 53mm – and that extra length also opens up the rear doors, so there’s plenty of room for manoeuvre; whether you’re getting in yourself or getting a baby seat clicked into position. 

This new Focus adds 50-litres of boot space when compared to its predecessor too – creating 375-litres; virtually the same as the Golf. Drop the seats and you boot space benefits from that extra passenger space – over-taking the Golf with 1,350-litres. While there are better cargo-carrying hatches out there, the Focus strikes a great balance of passenger comfort and reasonable load-lugging capacity.   

Engine and Power

4 out of 5

Solid performing economical engines with some speed if you’d like it

Even at entry-level, Ford provides great engines for the Focus. If you’d like petrol, you can choose between 85bhp and 100bhp variants of the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine with a 6-speed manual gearbox; or a 125bhp variant with the 8-speed auto gearbox. If you’re a higher mileage driver, you’re catered for with a 1.5-litre, EcoBlue unit; available in a 95bhp state of tune with the manual gearbox, or 120bhp with the auto gearbox.

If you have any reservations about engine size or power output, it’s worth driving the Focus – as even the lower powered, lower-torque petrol units feel like they can cope with the car when you get beyond 1,800-2,000rpm. That said, if you’d like a beefier 150bhp 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol unit, you can get it with Titanium X spec, and the lively 182bhp turbo-charged version of the same engine is available in ST-Line X cars and above. 

It’s not just petrol drivers that can have a bit of extra power though; at St-Line X spec you can have a good fun 150bhp 2.0-litre EcoBlue powerplant that Ford claims will return 55mpg combined too. While the extra power from the 2.0-litre diesel gives an extra shove for motorway overtaking, the 120bhp 1.5-litre would be our choice – performing superbly and delivering a claimed 63mpg combined. 

In truth, there isn’t a bad engine in the Focus range. Each delivers power smoothly and feel just as happy attached to the 8-speed auto as they do to the 6-speed manual transmission. 

Reliability

3.5 out of 5

Reasonably dependable Ford reliability – but limited data for this new car

Since this Focus is a completely new vehicle from the ground up, there’s not a huge amount of driver data available to give us a feel for how it’ll perform. That said, Ford has opted for engines that can be found in plenty of their other cars – so you’re getting tried and tested technology, albeit wrapped in a stylish new body.

With data lacking, we can only really turn to Ford’s reputation overall for an indication as to how the Focus will perform in the reliability stakes. Generally, you’ll find Ford somewhere around the middle of most industry and consumer studies – level-pegging with VW and Audi. The outgoing Focus was a reliable car in its final years – so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that the new Focus lives up to this standard.

Equipment and options

4 out of 5

Plenty of very cost-effective well-spec’d trim levels

Ford Focus spec levels begin with ‘Style’ cars; boasting 16-inch alloys, LED daytime lights, plenty of body-coloured bits, and a comprehensive safety assistance package that includes lane keeping assist, and auto emergency braking. 

In truth, the smaller infotainment screen in the Style doesn’t really do the car justice, so ‘Zetec’ represents better value for money, offering an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. As well as the infotainment boost, Zetec also means a sportier leather steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, a beefier centre console and front fog lamps.  
 
‘ST-Line’ cars get the Zetec upgrades with a lattice grille, body styling kit, firmer suspension, flat-bottomed wheel, twin exhaust pipes, a tasteful spoiler, and a handful of interior additions; including the red trim stitching that Ford seems compelled to put in every sporty cabin. ‘ST-Line X’ kicks the spec up another notch with half-leather, painted calipers, heated and powered seats, and a smart looking digital dial cluster display. 

If you’d like a top-of-the-range Focus, Vignale spec is where you’ll be best suited. A different, semi-chrome grille features this time – in between LED headlights and LED fog lamps. Active parking assist will help you into tight spaces (and is virtually fully automatic if you’ve got an automatic gearbox) – although a rear-view camera is also there to help if you want to park the old-fashioned way. Inside, Vignale cars get a B&O 10 speaker audio system, a heated wheel, and full plush leather. 

There are plenty of options if you’d like to add to your standard Focus trim levels, with the handsfree tailgate, and active cruise control options being stand-out choices for cars that don’t already come with them included.

While the Style trim level leaves a little to be desired, it does keep the cost of the Focus right down – and doesn’t miss and important safety kit. If you’d like a few more creature comforts without breaking the bank, Zetec or Titanium will do the trick perfectly.

Interior

4 out of 5

Comfy, well-built, and well-designed – the Focus is massively improved

The Ford Focus interior is another area where the car benefits enormously from this redesign. The old car was dull and uninspiring – whereas this new model follows the Fiesta’s lead; resulting in an interior that’s attractive and practical. 

Generally, everything you can see in the Focus is well-made and sturdy. Sure, the console could be a bit beefier, and it doesn’t have quite the same positive clunk you get from an Audi when you close the door – but the Focus is significantly cheaper, so it’s only fair to assume the build quality isn’t going to be quite the same as premium hatches. 

As a driver, your left hands falls quite naturally on the infotainment touchscreen – and the other controls are intuitively placed. There’s plenty of adjustment too, so you’ll easily find a combination of seat and steering wheel position to suit you. 

The infotainment system itself isn’t going to win any awards, but it does everything it needs to do reliably and it’s at a height that doesn’t take your eyes away from the road. On that same subject, the top-spec Vignale actually comes with a Head-Up Display (HUD), the likes of which were originally created to display important flight information in a jet pilot’s field of vision. The HUD is great, projecting important driving info onto a small glass display that’s noticeable – but doesn’t distract you from the road. 

There are no complaints at all about the inside of the Focus. From entry-level upwards, it’s a nice place to spend your time – whether you’re whiling away motorway miles in the comfy seats – or having them grip you tight as you contend with some bendy country roads. 

The drive

4.5 out of 5

Truly outstanding drive quality; re-establishing the Focus as best in class

The Ford Focus has always been a good choice if you’re looking for a family hatch that can hold its own in the comfort and handling departments. The great news is, this new Focus builds on that already gold-standard drive quality. 

To start with, the drive position is great. Even in low-slung models like the ST, you’ve got plenty of visibility over the dash, so you can see where your corners are as you decide where to point the Focus. The steering feels just right for that job too; heavy enough to make you feel connected to the car, but light enough to make pottering around town a doddle. Manual gear changes are crisp, auto changes are lovely and smooth – and when you need to slow down, the brakes are predictable and responsive.

If you’d like a slightly taller car, the Active sits 30mm higher than the standard vehicle – whereas the ST models go the other way; dropping ride height by 10mm to give sportier versions an edge in the handling department. Whichever variant you’re considering, the Active Suspension upgrade is a winner for comfort: the system reacts to lost grip in 2-milliseconds, stopping your wheel dropping into potholes and the like. The result? A smooth ride – rather than a thud.

It’s very hard to find any fault with the drive quality in the Focus. It’ll eat up motorway miles with plenty of comfort – and it’ll offer endless grip and fantastic handling if you find yourself on clear country roads. If we’re forced to level any criticism at the car, it would be toward the torsion bar suspension set-up at the rear of lower-spec models. Ford has actually isolated the full suspension system from the body of the car, so the jittery ride you sometimes get with a torsion bar is reduced – but the independent suspension you get on higher-spec models is definitely better. 

To say that this new Focus drives well would be an understatement; it drives fantastically – setting a new standard for mainstream hatchbacks. In fact, it’ll teach most premium hatchbacks a thing or two as well.

Cost

4.5 out of 5

A cost-effective small family car, whichever trim level you choose

On the road Ford Focus prices begin at £18,305 for the entry-level Style with an 85bhp 1.0-Litre EcoBoost matched to a 6-speed manual gearbox. If you’re expecting above-average miles, a 1.5-litre 95bhp EcoBlue diesel engine Style will bump your price up to £19,605. 

Although the Style trim is cost-effective, its lack of equipment means the majority of buyers will lean towards the Zetec, and the good news is, if you choose the same 1.0-Litre EcoBoost engine, you’ll just about keep things on the frugal side of £20,000. Diesel takes the price up to £20,605 – and represents a very cost-effective and comfortable high-mileage vehicle - returning around 64mpg.

For added comfort and luxury, the Titanium X trim is a nice balance of equipment and cost – tipping the scales at £23,135, or, if you want peak Focus luxury, Vignale spec will start at £25,805. If you’d prefer your Focus to lean toward performance style and speed, ST-Line will cost £22,405 with the sprightly 150bhp turbo engine under the bonnet, or the ST-Line X comes in at £25,655 with the spicy 182bhp engine providing power. 

Whichever way you cut it; the Focus is great value for money. While sheer performance will have to wait for the RS car, there’s plenty of spec to keep up with premium manufacturers offerings – but with a substantially smaller impact on your finances. 

Safety

4.5 out of 5

Plenty of safety kit as standard – and plenty of great optional tech to bolster safety even more

Even considering the newer, tougher Euro NCAP tests, the Focus still emerges with a maximum five stars – so even if an accident occurs, you’re going to be surrounded by a tough exterior. Part of the Focus’s success comes from a redesigned body – Ford claims they’ve increased stiffness through the body by 20% - and, as a result, the car can withstand 40% more front impact force than before. 

Of course, there’s plenty of kit that’ll help you avoid accidents too, including ‘Evasive Steering Assist’ – which uses front-facing cameras to spot obstacles as you approach them – then apply steering to avoid them if a gap’s available. Twinned with emergency braking assist, this ESA system represents industry-leading steps forward. If you want to beef safety up even more, you can add Ford’s ‘Co-Pilot 360’ package, which adds lane-keeping tech, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, and driver awareness monitoring too. As if all that weren’t enough, a brake booster can also be added, knocking around 1-meter off stopping distances at 60mph. 

When it comes to safety, Ford is leading the field – meaning the Focus isn’t just a fantastic car to drive; it’s one that’ll keep you and your family as safe as possible too.
 

Why buy

4 out of 5

An outstanding new Focus that’s genuinely hard to fault

The new Ford Focus is a brilliant car. In fact, it stands out all the way through the family hatchback class; we’re not just talking mainstream Astras, Ceeds, and Civics here; it’ll perform well even when it’s compared to the 1 Series, A-Class, Golf or A3.

If you’re already a Focus driver and you’re looking to buy Ford again, you’re going to be delighted with your upgrade. That said, if you’re a premium hatch driver and you’ve been exploring German-made options for your next car, we strongly suggest you drive the Focus before you decide. 

There really is something for everyone in the Focus range. The more modestly trimmed cars are well spec’d and drive superbly; the Active comes with lots of SUV styling; the ST-Line cars will appeal to performance fans, and the level of luxury at the top of the range easily stands up to premium cars that cost £5,000 or £10,000 more. The Focus is truly reinvented – and its on-going popularity with UK drivers is very well deserved.