What is it?

It’s the new, prettified version of Ford’s best-selling hatchback. Not a single body panel is carried over from the previous model (although some of the changes are minor, to put it mildly), but underneath it’s more of the same.

Ford’s engineering team concentrated on improving refinement and interior quality instead of mucking around with a chassis that is, let’s be honest, still the class benchmark.

What’s it like?

Impressive. All of the basics that have made the Focus such a great car for British roads are still in place; it steers with beautiful precision and retains its fantastic blend of pliable ride and lateral grip.

Better still, the boggo 1.6 Zetec engine – which used to make itself heard when asked to hit motorway speeds in fifth gear – is now a further layer of noise insulation away from the driver’s seat. So all that you hear at 70mph is a bit of wind noise, some road thrum (worse on the optional 17in wheels fitted to our test car) and a distant rev or three.

The interior represents a moderate gain over the old car; the Mondeo-esque centre dash looks reasonably posh (it brightens up the various shades of grey that dominate everywhere else), the Sony stereo sounds good and build quality seems tight all round.

Downsides? Somehow I doubt the Focus has been lightened by the quest for NVH improvements, and occasionally the 99bhp lump is found wanting at low revs. You’ll want to change down to fourth on motorway hills, or when traffic levels cost you momentum. But then, that’s a characteristic of all Focus-sized cars with 1.6-litre petrol engines.

Should I buy one?

If you want the best-driving car in the class, then the Focus is the automatic choice, just as it has been since its debut a decade ago.

But the decision is not as clear cut as it used to be. In particular, Hyundai’s i30 undercuts the Ford on price and while it can’t match its dynamics, it offers considerably more raw power and a five-year warranty instead.

The Focus is the best family hatchback, then, a car that should still sit atop your list of candidates to test drive. But it can no longer claim to mix that attribute with unbeatable value for money.

John McIlroy

Join the debate

Comments
12

Re: Ford Focus 1.6 Zetec

6 years 9 weeks ago

Gosh, another review highlighting how the press car's optional wheels spoil the magic of an otherwise fine everyday car.

The sad truth is of course that supersized alloys look best in print, whereas boring regular wheels are for those of us who actually own the car...

Re: Ford Focus 1.6 Zetec

6 years 9 weeks ago

ThwartedEfforts wrote:

The sad truth is of course that supersized alloys look best in print, whereas boring regular wheels are for those of us who actually own the car...

which would you go for though? would you tick that "supersize me" option?

personally the improvement in looks more than offsets the deterioration in ride/ handling.

call me shallow, but i like looking at my car and being seen in my car just as much as i enjoy driving it. largely because i don't actually get to drive it as much as i look at it.

Re: Ford Focus 1.6 Zetec

6 years 9 weeks ago

I'm with you on this Kee Law, but my 159 has the standard 17's on it, although the salesman did say he would try and get me a set of 18's, this has not happened.

Can't have everything.

Re: Ford Focus 1.6 Zetec

6 years 9 weeks ago

I run a one year old Focus (diesel version) and it's a fine car. Kudos to Ford for the effort.

But you know what? I don't think it's the best car in it's class. I did an extended back to back driving of my Focus with a friend's Golf (on more than one occassion), expecting my Focus to have the upper hand, certainly in terms of dynamics (and feeling smugg in the process), but as it turned out I found the Golf's handling was every bit as accomplished with a markedly better ride into the bargain. And despite Ford's obvious improvements in quality of materials and build again the Gold is that bit better.

So, as much as it pains me to say this, becuase I really like my Focus, I think the best in the class is the VW Golf. At least in my experience.

Re: Ford Focus 1.6 Zetec

6 years 9 weeks ago

Overdrive wrote:

But you know what? I don't think it's the best car in it's class. I did an extended back to back driving of my Focus with a friend's Golf (on more than one occassion), expecting my Focus to have the upper hand, certainly in terms of dynamics (and feeling smugg in the process), but as it turned out I found the Golf's handling was every bit as accomplished with a markedly better ride into the bargain. And despite Ford's obvious improvements in quality of materials and build again the Gold is that bit better.

So, as much as it pains me to say this, becuase I really like my Focus, I think the best in the class is the VW Golf. At least in my experience.

An honest review, but I will have to come down on the side of the Ford. Good as the Golf is in terms of build and finish, it's just oh so dull.

Re: Ford Focus 1.6 Zetec

6 years 8 weeks ago

The standard of pretty much all lower medium hatches - Golf, Focus, Astra, C4, i30 - is just superb nowadays. While this tends to be a very conventional class of car, what the average motorist can get nearly new for £10K at a car supermarket in 2008 is something we might take for granted but which is worth giving thanks for once in a while.

Re: Ford Focus 1.6 Zetec

6 years 8 weeks ago

Simon Wells wrote:

The standard of pretty much all lower medium hatches - Golf, Focus, Astra, C4, i30 - is just superb nowadays. While this tends to be a very conventional class of car, what the average motorist can get nearly new for £10K at a car supermarket in 2008 is something we might take for granted but which is worth giving thanks for once in a while.

hear hear! the used car market is full of excellent choices, hard to think why anyone would buy new ever.

unless it was a certain sports car from nissan :)

Re: Ford Focus 1.6 Zetec

4 years 19 weeks ago

Overdrive wrote:

I run a one year old Focus (diesel version) and it's a fine car. Kudos to Ford for the effort.

But you know what? I don't think it's the best car in it's class. I did an extended back to back driving of my Focus with a friend's Golf (on more than one occassion), expecting my Focus to have the upper hand, certainly in terms of dynamics (and feeling smugg in the process), but as it turned out I found the Golf's handling was every bit as accomplished with a markedly better ride into the bargain. And despite Ford's obvious improvements in quality of materials and build again the Gold is that bit better.

So, as much as it pains me to say this, becuase I really like my Focus, I think the best in the class is the VW Golf. At least in my experience.

Sorry to drag up an old thread, but I just had a very similar experience running a Focus back to back against a Golf over a variety of roads, from motorways to rough twisty ones. While I do feel the Ford was a bit more involving, I felt the interior was way to cheap, it was far less comfortable over bumps, (despite the VW having larger wheels), and that the seating position and general refinement of the Ford was a good deal short of the Golfs standard. For a quick blast down the road, I'd choose the Ford. To actually own, (surely the measure of the better car), I would choose the Golf with no hesitation. This is before the residuals and reliability are brought into the equation, (I had no cause to experience these factors in either car).

Re: Ford Focus 1.6 Zetec

3 years 48 weeks ago

some of the versions of ford do need a bit of a refinement. was in a f250 diesel some weeks back and thought that it required some minor changes.

Re: Ford Focus 1.6 Zetec

3 years 46 weeks ago

ryaner wrote:

Overdrive wrote:

I run a one year old Focus (diesel version) and it's a fine car. Kudos to Ford for the effort.

But you know what? I don't think it's the best car in it's class. I did an extended back to back driving of my Focus with a friend's Golf (on more than one occassion), expecting my Focus to have the upper hand, certainly in terms of dynamics (and feeling smugg in the process), but as it turned out I found the Golf's handling was every bit as accomplished with a markedly better ride into the bargain. And despite Ford's obvious improvements in quality of materials and build again the Gold is that bit better.

So, as much as it pains me to say this, becuase I really like my Focus, I think the best in the class is the VW Golf. At least in my experience.

Sorry to drag up an old thread, but I just had a very similar experience running a Focus back to back against a Golf over a variety of roads, from motorways to rough twisty ones. While I do feel the Ford was a bit more involving, I felt the interior was way to cheap, it was far less comfortable over bumps, (despite the VW having larger wheels), and that the seating position and general refinement of the Ford was a good deal short of the Golfs standard. For a quick blast down the road, I'd choose the Ford. To actually own, (surely the measure of the better car), I would choose the Golf with no hesitation. This is before the residuals and reliability are brought into the equation, (I had no cause to experience these factors in either car).

Yeah, in terms of mecanical refinement the Golf is amazing.
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Can the Ford Focus capture the hearts and minds of hatchback buyers?

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