Nic Cackett
17 November 2011

What is it?

With the fire-breathing versions of the Ford Focus ST and Ford Fiesta ST not destined to arrive until next year, fast Ford fans have had to endure a lull in blue oval-badged objects of lust since the final Ford Focus RS found a home.

Unable to turn the product tap all the way up to hot, Britain’s best-selling manufacturer has resolutely settled for warm. The Ford Fiesta Zetec-S has been the range’s peak performer (special editions aside) for years, and the trim level has taken less than a year to migrate to the new Ford Focus Zetec-S, tested here.

With it comes the more powerful version of the 1.6-litre Ecoboost engine already at the heart of the petrol line-up. Producing 180bhp and 199lb ft of torque in overboost mode, it improves the Focus’s 0-62mph time to 7.9 seconds, but retains the capacity for 47mpg fuel economy.

Around the beefier powerplant, Ford has hung all the usual Zetec-S trinkets. A bodykit is the obvious addition, but underneath the car has been treated to stiffened springs and dampers, while the cabin gains sportier front seats and a slightly better standard of trim.

What’s it like?

Perhaps inevitably, the shortcomings of the standard Focus make the dynamic alterations made here feel irresistibly superior. The discernable inertia in the chassis has been partly alleviated by the firmer setup, and the Zetec-S’s tauter turn in and proddable rear end now encourage enthusiastic driving rather than competently enduring it.

The newfound vibrancy is still marred by less-than-brilliant steering (the Focus’s previous incarnations have arguably set the bar too high for current model) but it more than lives up to any expectations you might have had of the new badge.

Impressively (or, perhaps in Ford’s case, unsurprisingly) the enhancements have not entailed a dramatic loss of comfort. There’s the occasional abrupt shiver that wouldn’t have previously filtered through, but otherwise the tighter body control barely hinders the Focus’s class-leading ride quality.

The extra power is similarly well absorbed. With a five-door hatchback to shift away from the lights the 1.6-litre lump doesn’t feel especially potent from a standstill, but up into its linear stride, it adds sufficient brio to complement the revamped handling.

Arguably, it’s only the styling that strikes the wrong note. The Focus already appears like it may have had too many chefs contributing to its design broth, and one more to add the protruding front splitter, large rear spoiler and bulbous black diffuser has not delivered the athletic profile doubtless intended.

Should I buy one?

It depends which end of the blue oval you intend on buying from. Lukewarm hatchbacks always seem disappointing if you’re secretly hankering after the gratifying pace of something hot, and even armed with the perkier Ecoboost, the Zetec-S is unlikely to set your pulse racing.

Conversely, if you prefer to buy with your head and not your heart, the sum of the latest Focus’s parts really do add up to a greater whole. Cars capable of bashing a B road, satisfying the tax band and economising comfortably on a motorway are not common, but the Zetec-S does it all in some style.

If you can live with Ford’s idea of what the package should look like, and don’t mind the marginally firmer ride, this might just be the best Focus you can buy.

Ford Focus Zetec-S 1.6-litre Ecoboost

Price: £20,495; Top speed: 138mph; 0-62mph: 7.9 seconds; Economy: 47.1mpg; CO2: 139g/km; Kerbweight: 1333kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1596cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power: 180bhp at 5700rpm; Torque: 177lb ft (199lb ft on overboost) at 1900rpm to 4000rpm; Gearbox: Six-speed manual

Join the debate

Comments
20

Re: Ford Focus Zetec S

2 years 35 weeks ago

I have to agree, the body kit on this is not very good.

The rest of the package looks very attractive and certainly seems to strike the right compromise. For me this now has to be the sweet spot in the Focus range.

Considering we are due to get an estate version of the new ST, are we getting an estate version of this model?

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

Re: Ford Focus Zetec S

2 years 35 weeks ago

The standard Focus looks very 'off the pace' in comparison with this, if it drives better, rides as well, and uses no more fuel. It doesnt seem there is anything to be done about the poor effort of exterior and interior style, but if you can live with it and want a Focus this sounds like a decent compromise within the range.

I am still not convinced by these small capacity turbos, but there is very little alternative these days, and at least they give the tax man a hard time with their 'official' but optomistic CO2 figures.

Re: Ford Focus Zetec S

2 years 35 weeks ago

I remember driving a Fiesta Zetec S a few years ago. It was the 1.6 petrol, but the suspension, bodykit and alloys made it look and feel like a hot hatch. It looked very good in black too.

This Focus Zetec-S appears to be a very capable car, striking a great balance between power and economy for a petrol engine. Does anyone know if this 180bhp 1.6 engine will be available in the Focus estate? I know that the Focus estate will be available as an ST, so it would be foolish not to, leaving such a large gap in the market.

Re: Ford Focus Zetec S

2 years 35 weeks ago

Is there any chance that the suspension tewaks will be made available without the body kit?

Re: Ford Focus Zetec S

2 years 35 weeks ago

Can't polish a turd Ford, still looks like a piece of shit. I love the way they have put a ZR shark fin spoiler on it lol.

Re: Ford Focus Zetec S

2 years 35 weeks ago

steven211 wrote:
Can't polish a turd Ford

Work for Vauxhall or just going for dumb comment of the year award?

I like the chunky look of the Zetec S would be my choice if I couldn't afford the ST or RS. The Focus has matured but still looks good compared to the opposition, I mean a Golf... yawn!

Re: Ford Focus Zetec S

2 years 35 weeks ago

jerry99 wrote:

Is there any chance that the suspension tewaks will be made available without the body kit?

I think that the whole package is very convincing, and both the bodykit and suspension tweaks compliment one another, like on the Fiesta Zetec S I borrowed for a while.

Re: Ford Focus Zetec S

2 years 35 weeks ago

I remember when the last Focus came out and it got a pasting for looking disappointing compared to the mk1. But having seen a few of this new model around I'm really struggling to like the looks. It's not ugly, just not attractive. I actually like the mk2 model now so hopefully this new one's a grower.

Re: Ford Focus Zetec S

2 years 35 weeks ago

Evo_ermine wrote:
I remember when the last Focus came out and it got a pasting for looking disappointing compared to the mk1. But having seen a few of this new model around I'm really struggling to like the looks. It's not ugly, just not attractive. I actually like the mk2 model now so hopefully this new one's a grower.

I agree. I find the Mk 3 Focus just looks uncohesive and ill-proportioned and while the Mk 2 is blander, it looked better balanced and more sophisticated, particularly when it was facelifted. The Mk 3 just reminds me of the original 1990 Escort which at the time also looked a mess, cheap and unbalanced - especially alongside the Rover 200.

Kinetic styling has not been Ford's finest moment. Bring back New Edge!

Re: Ford Focus Zetec S

2 years 35 weeks ago

Smurf Yeah wrote:

steven211 wrote:
Can't polish a turd Ford

Work for Vauxhall or just going for dumb comment of the year award?

I like the chunky look of the Zetec S would be my choice if I couldn't afford the ST or RS. The Focus has matured but still looks good compared to the opposition, I mean a Golf... yawn!

So what, do you work for Ford?

New Focus good looking, don't make me laugh!

That front end just looks cheap and nasty.

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Our Verdict

Can the Ford Focus capture the hearts and minds of hatchback buyers?

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