The common or garden hatchback has had a bit of a rough time of late. With everyone and their dog all after a high-riding SUV like the Nissan Juke or a ‘premium’ hatch like the BMW 1-Series, mass market offerings such as the Focus can be overlooked. The question is, should you ignore the current trends and give one of the old favourites a chance?
First impressions are very good, the new corporate Ford grille has been criticised for looking a little bit too Aston Martinish (is that really a problem?) but here it’s handsome with just the right amount of aggression.
Our test car was also painted a striking metallic blue and shod with some tasty 18” alloys wrapped in low profile rubber. Climbing inside this top spec Titanium X model, you are welcomed by a chunky leather steering wheel, half leather seats and Ford’s Sync 2 combined navigation and infotainment system, something you can read more about in June’s tech special issue of The Gay UK Magazine. There’s plenty of nice squishy plastic although premium car fans won’t be impressed by some of the cheaper plastics on the centre console and lower reaches of the dashboard. You can tell the range starts at less than £14k that’s for sure. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of space, everything is clearly laid out and not unattractive either.
Keyless go means you don’t have to insert a key, just have the fob on you and thumb the starter button.
The 2.0 diesel fires quickly and settles into a subdued idle, you still know it’s an oil burner but refinement has come a long way even in the last 5 years. Our test car came with Ford’s Powershift dual clutch automatic gearbox, similar to VWs DSG system and promising similar benefits. In almost all situations it smoothly shuffles between ratios with a noticeable shortening of shift speed in sport mode. There’s a built in ‘creep’ mode like an old school auto which makes manoeuvring easy with the car even holding you on the brakes for a hill start. Economy should be as good if not better than the manual too.
The only fly in the ointment is if you go from pottering about to suddenly needing a burst of acceleration, something that can make the gearbox hesitate for a moment before delivering the performance you need. It never actually caused me an issue but does knock your confidence in pulling out onto a busy roundabout or carrying out an overtake. Sport mode helps but does tend to leave the car in too low a gear while the manual control buttons on the shifter don’t feel particularly intuitive. I get the feeling the optional wheel mounted paddles would be the ideal solution and make you feel like Lewis Hamilton to boot.
The Focus has always been renowned for its handling so I had high hopes for this latest model even as a diesel estate. As with most new cars these days, the steering is electrically assisted. It’s nicely weighted and gives some feedback of what the road is doing but does feel a little gloopy just off the straight ahead like the wheels are turning in treacle. It’s a minor gripe however and one that most people wouldn’t even notice. In terms of fun and balance, I found the car hampered by having too much grip. This may seem like an odd thing to say but you have to be going seriously quickly to feel the inherent balance of the chassis.
Once I had found my testicles and chucked it into a bend at speed you could feel the chassis working hard at both ends, resisting the urge to plough straight on and putting a very big grin on my face. I think smaller wheels would not only mean you can have more fun more of the time but you’ll also save a few quid replacing tyres and get a comfier ride. Although the Focus coped well with larger bumps and undulations, sharper ridges could thump through the cabin thanks to those skinny sidewalls. For the majority of people on the majority of journeys though, the Focus would prove to be a safe companion that you’d have to do something very stupid in to get out of shape round a bend.
Overall the Focus made a compelling case for itself. It looks good, handles well and was very well equipped. It was also incredibly practical with plenty of room for 4 passengers and luggage with even more space if you folded the seats down.
It did disappoint slightly with regards to economy though, being sensible I averaged around 43 mpg with a mixture of A-road, dual carriageway and town driving. Although this would no doubt improve as the engine loosened up (it was delivered to me with less than 1000 miles), I was still hoping to see better fuel consumption. My biggest complaint however was price. Admittedly I did ask for a fully loaded test car for the tech issue but even still, £29,615 for a Ford Focus diesel did surprise me.
Personally, I’d be tempted by a lower spec model with a few choice options to bring the price down. At around £20-£22k and optioned with the adaptive headlights, Sync 2 and with less bling the Focus would be very tempting.
Punchy yet refined diesel
Low rent interior plastics
Worse than expected economy