June Neary tries out the latest version of Britain's best seller, Ford's Focus
The Ford Focus has always been regarded as a sensible set of wheels, with the added bonus of being rather good to drive. You'd certainly know that Ford's current MK4 Focus is, well, a Focus. The styling is familiar and this is a car that I've always liked. This latest evolution has sharpened the whole package visually.
Ford says the design makes the car look as if it's moving, even when it's standing still. Judge for yourself, but I think it's clear that while this is a volume product, it's far from bland and an even more interesting car to look than the previous model. As before, there's a body style choice between the five-door hatchback models and a smart estate. In all, it's a package that has the looks and the features to suit me.
Will It Suit Me?
I remember the original Focus as suiting drivers of all sizes with wider opening doors and more headroom than the class norm. The latest model expands on this theme, offering an optional electrically adjustable pedal set. The multi-adjustable steering column helps in ensuring a comfortable driving position and Ford have integrated a number of practical aspects from the C-MAX mini-MPV including a glove box big enough to house a 1.5-litre bottle, a sunglasses holder, a dash-top cubby and class-leading luggage space.
The elephant in the room when it comes to the Focus is always its bootspace. You get around 341-litres, which is better than used to be the case with a Focus but is still significantly less than some competitors. Fortunately, most potential owners don't seem to mind and I certainly had no issues during the families duties undertaken in my time with the car. Buggies, shopping and one expensive IKEA trip all were dealt with in untroubled fashion. For the flat-pack stuff, I had to fold the rear bench, which freed up a 1,320-litre space.
For passengers, the curved rear roofline suggests that headroom might be a little compromised in the rear where you sit high-ishly positioned for a good view of the road ahead. In fact though, the extra length and a longer wheelbase of this design have enabled the designers to pull a rabbit out of the hat and create perfectly acceptable levels of head and legroom, even for taller folk. Provided, of course, there are only two of them. As usual in this class of car, three large adults are going to need to be very friendly to share rear seat space together.
When it comes to gadgets, I just can't get enough of them. After all, they really do increase the 'feel good factor' when you spend so much of your day behind the wheel. The plush variant I tested had features such as a heated windscreen, keyless start, hill start assist, a premium stereo, 17-inch alloys, active park assist and heated leather seats. Some of the options offered on the Focus are the sort of thing only seen on flagship super saloons not so long ago. The park assist system, which guides you into a parking space, is one and then there are five systems that use a set of inbuilt cameras. These comprise Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Aid, Driver Alert, Traffic Sign Recognition and Auto High Beam.
Behind the Wheel
Behind the wheel, the quality really is quite impressive and there's a driver-orientated positioning of seat and controls. The engine range initially looks familiar, but closer inspection reveals that it's been heavily revised. As before, the range primarily hinges around Ford's familiar three cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol unit, which gets a new turbocharger and cylinder head and is available in 100 and 125PS guises, plus it can also be had in mHEV mild hybrid form. There's also a new 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine with 150 or 182PS. Plus a fresh 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel with 95 and 120PS. And a 2.0-litre EcoBlue unit with 150PS.
As for the suspension, well a little disappointingly, Ford has followed Volkswagen's lead in equipping lower-powered 1.0-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel Hatch variants with a cruder twist-beam set-up. If you want the more sophisticated independent rear double wishbone suspension system that's supposed to improve ride comfort, you'll need an estate, the 'Active' crossover version, top-spec 'Vignale' trim or a hatch with 1.5-litre petrol or 2.0-litre diesel power. The top 'ST' high performance version gets stiffer, lowered suspension and a choice of either 280PS 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol power or a 190PS version of the 2.0 EcoBlue diesel engine.
Value For Money
Prices start at around £21,000 with a trim line-up starting with 'Zetec', before progressing through 'ST-Line', 'ST-Line X', 'Titanium', 'Titanium X' and 'Vignale' variants. An SUV-style 'Active' version and an 'ST' hot hatch are also available. Equipment levels reflect the fact that most customers will be paying getting on for £25,000 for this once very affordable family hatch.
Even the base Focus 'Zetec' comes as standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, alomng with an 8-inch SYNC3 touchscreen incorporating a DAB digital radio with Bluetooth and Emergency Assist. Plus there's an electronic parking brake, autonomous emergency braking, tyre pressure monitoring, Hill Start Assist and a Lane-Keeping Aid. Whatever your budget, you'll find the Focus cheap to run: there are major components throughout the vehicle, which are designed to require minimal or even no maintenance.
Could I Live With One?
If I needed reminding just how good the Focus still is, this fourth generation model does just that. The smart styling is attractive and distinctive and the cabin now feels a more appealing place to be. There's no doubt the new Focus is brilliantly adapted to the cut and thrust of daily life.