From £16,2359
The dynamic best just got better, thanks to a significantly improved interior, revised engine line-up and minor handling tweaks

Our Verdict

Ford Focus

Britain's biggest-selling family hatchback gets a mid-life refresh, but can the Ford Focus hold off the likes of the Volkswagen Golf and the Seat Leon?

Matt Prior
8 September 2014

What is it?

The latest incarnation of Ford’s family hatchback, the Focus. Since it was first introduced in 1997, bringing with it a new age of Ford dynamic excellence, there hasn’t been much wrong with the way the Focus has driven.

But, in this mid-life facelift, prompted by the car’s three year age and necessitated by the bruising competence of the Volkswagen Golf, the Focus’s dynamics have been tweaked anyway. We’ll come back to those.

More notable, though, are a raft of interior amendments, including more storage cubbies, softer-touch plastics with tasteful chrome-effect highlights and a cleaner, easier-to-operate set of centre console workings. 

Also different are the powertrains; the 1.6-litre turbo, in either petrol or diesel flavour, has become a 1.5-litre turbo. Our test car’s an EcoBoost 150 petrol with 148bhp, but there’s also a 180bhp variant. The 1.0-litre three-cylinder, with 124bhp, stays.

The downsized diesels can be had with either 94bhp or 119bhp, giving a 10 per cent improvement in economy over the ones they replace. The 2.0-litre TDCi , also with 148bhp, now makes 10bhp more while emitting 15 per cent less.

What's it like?

The new cabin’s pleasing. I’m still not convinced the controls for the entertainment and information systems are quite as intuitive as, say, Audi’s MMI or BMW’s iDrive, but they – and the graphics they use – are a big improvement.

Left largely unchanged is cabin space and a driving position that some drivers will find is set too high. Rear accommodation is fine, mind, as is the boot. Same as before.

In a while, the 1.5-litre petrol will be offered mated to an auto gearbox, but for now the unit, which is acceptably quiet and reasonably brisk, comes with the six-speed manual we’ve got here. 

It changes slickly, with little bump and lots of positivity. And Ford doesn’t mind asking that you put in a bit more effort moving it around the gate than some rivals would. Likewise with pedal feel. Not so much though with steering weight, which is reduced this time around.

Reduced steering effort is an increasing customer demand – especially given that Ford isn’t only selling this car for European consumption. But at 2.6 turns between locks it’s still quick, and is also responsive and accurate. Still the most pleasing and engaging in the class, in fact.

Ditto the rest of the ride and handling – away from warm/hot variants. Ford accepts a tighter, slightly firmer ride over high-frequency bumps, surface imperfections and the like, than most of its rivals would - that means that the body remains better tied-down over longer undulations. 

Consistently – and it’s true here – the trade-off is worth it. Bump absorption is still good, with deft wheel control meaning most lumps are cast aside easily. And the flipside is a car in which you don’t mind taking the longer route home.

It’s agile, responsive, and retains the trademark tuck of its nose if you lift into a corner. Ford values the fact that customers appreciate a car that’s pleasant to drive; that does what they ask of it, tells them what it’s up to, and is quicker to respond than the norm.

Should I buy one?

The Focus still makes an extremely strong case for itself; particularly dynamically, as you’d expect.

The rest brings it closer to the Volkswagen. A back-to-back test with a Golf awaits, but my bet is that the material improvements mean you won’t have to prioritise dynamics quite so highly as before to pick the Ford over the Volkswagen.

Ford Focus 1.5 150 EcoBoost Titanium

Price £20,795; 0-62mph 8.2sec; Top speed 131mph; Economy 51.4mpg; CO2 127g/km; Kerb weight 1325kg; Engine 4cyls in line, 1499cc, turbo petrol; Power 148bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 177lb ft at 1600-4000rpm; Gearbox six-speed manual

8 September 2014
..... it's the Scorpio reborn!!

Dynamically it may be great but, from the front, that is one ugly ugly car

8 September 2014
...the transformeresque centre console, with its huge array of normally unused buttons has gone. That was the good news, now for the bad. The looks for me are not an improvement.

8 September 2014
I've always found the current Focus' styling fussy, clumsy and and just cheap and unsophisticated looking, just like the 1990 Escort was. This revised model, while not a looker, certainly looks more cohesive and sophisticated at the front but it's a shame about the rest of the car, but then there's only so much a facelift can achieve. After the S-Max/Galaxy, Mondeo and Fiesta, the Focus' looks was a massive let down IMO. The interior looks better for being decluttered, but it still looks fussy, tacky and too forced in its styling. Just as well the car had, and still has, brilliant dynamics and is refined to redeem itself otherwise it'd be the 1990 Escort fiasco rebooted for the Focus.

8 September 2014
Ford may have improved the interior but has lost the plot with the exterior styling, to these eyes it looks sad and could have been from the 60's.

 Offence can only be taken not given- so give it back!

8 September 2014
I seem to recall that in Autocar's origins roadtest of the current iteration, they found the dynamics slightly disappointing, and second to the golf, which has since been replaced by an improved model. However it seems to have crept up in autocar's estimations over time.
Also, the boot is described as 'fine', but at only 316 litres it is far and away the smallest in the class.
I try not to subscribe to any notions of bias with motoring journalists, but I suspect Vauxhall or a French manufacturer would not have escaped criticism for this.
As for the looks, I seem to be in the minority in thinking the focus looks ok when it was launched, outside and in. Cant say I'm a fan of the gopping facelift though. Doesn't match the rest of the car. Bit then I think the same of the facelifted Fiesta.

8 September 2014
Something not quite right about the front-end. Can't put my finger on it but that fender drops away too much from the bonnet. Whatever, it looks a little weird-beard.

8 September 2014
Judging by the amount of negative posts here towards what has consistently been the most talked about affordable cars on the road is looking sort of predetermined and in some case expose some posters as paid up complainers or rival manufacturers posing as Joe public.

I am aware that there are services like rent a mob so I am not surprise if there is a rent a post?

I owned Fords in the past and would own them again if they address the
cheap plastics issue which they somehow seem to ignore from the general customer.

I would suggest before faulting something without proper facts do your own research as I intend to do. Rent a new Focus then a Golf and drive them, it is the only way to compare for yourself- If not just don't criticise a good report based on facts

8 September 2014
I keep reading on here the dynamics of the Focus is bettered by the Golf, I don't where this has come from but reviews I have read this is not the case. Certainly is with a review I have just read from another site.

This facelift looks brilliant - comparisons to the 1990 Escort? Really? That car was a renowned flop when launched. The pre facelift MK3 was a class leader when launched and better rated than the then current Golf.

8 September 2014
autocar wrote:

Left largely unchanged is cabin space and a driving position that some drivers will find is set too high. Rear accommodation is fine, mind, as is the boot. Same as before.

You've got to be joking me. I run both a current Focus Titanium and Golf GT. The driving position in the Focus can be LOW! too low for me and I like low! (passenger seat is another story altogether). Rear accommodation is not 'fine', there can't be many cars in the Focus class who's rear knee room is less. And as for Focus getting near quality of the Golf - how many times have we heard that one? NO it isn't! The Focus is a very good car, has many strong points, the first being value for money (as long as you buy it at the right price). But exclude the purchase price, the Golf has it well and truly licked in just about every single department.

8 September 2014
The facelift looks very good but the major failing in the Mk3 Focus was the 1.6 diesel. Unresponsive and thirsty, I hope the new diesel sorts this out.

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