What's it like?
The Zetec S chassis is a known quantity, and a seriously good one at that. It turns in with the sort of zealous precision missing from just about every other family hatch, while the damping remains impressively pliant, making this the perfect illustration of why the Focus has such a towering reputation for ride and handling in this class.
It’s a shame that the steering is a little odd, being a bit to keen to self-centre and without the intuitive, progressive build of weight and sense of feedback that comes with a really excellent set-up. Still, it’s good enough to make the most of the Ford’s responsive chassis while making life easy in more mundane situations.
The engine is a high point. It revs smoothly and with real gusto once you’ve got past the fairly flat sub-2000rpm zone, carrying right on to its power peak at 6000rpm and making for easy and rapid progress. However, it doesn’t feel very hot hatch-like. You do have to rev it quite hard to get the best from it, and even then it never feels exciting, just impressively refined and muscular.
It’s standard Focus fare inside, other than some red contrast stitching on the steering wheel, handbrake and floor mats. You do get the 8.0in colour touchscreen, complete with DAB and every other sort of audio function you could want, along with hefty bolsters to the comfortable seat, and air-con. Sat-nav is a cheap option, although it seems a bit cynical that cruise control and rear parking sensors cost extra.
Should I buy one?
Only if you want the extrovert styling enough to be willing to spend four figures on it, because there’s little incentive otherwise. Clearly this 1.5 engine is going to appeal to those who like a decent level of petrol performance but don’t want the expense of buying and running the ST, and that makes a lot of sense. Problem is, in reality the 148bhp 1.5 Focus Zetec S feels almost as fast, has identical ride and handling and is usefully cheaper to buy and insure, so we’d settle for that. Alternatively, we’d find the extra for the ST-1 and enjoy the full-on hot hatch experience, despite the lack of the 8.0in colour touchscreen in that car's fairly basic specification.
If you do feel that this higher-powered 1.5 suits your purposes, have a careful look at what else you can get for similar money – specifically the faster, better equipped and slightly cheaper Leon 1.8 TSI FR – before making the final decision.
Ford Focus Zetec S 1.5 Ecoboost 182 Black Edition
Location: Surrey; On sale: Now; Price £22,520; Engine 4 cyls, 1499cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 180bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 177lb ft at 1600rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1325kg; Top speed 138mph; 0 62mph 8.6sec; Economy 51.4mpg (combined); CO2 rating & BIK tax band 127g/km, 20%