It’s remarkable how quickly things are changing in the car industry. When the fourth-generation Ford Focus came out in 2019, it seemed a significant event, yet not even three years later, the car feels like a bit of an anachronism – an impression only strengthened by confirmation that Cologne will in 2025 end production of what for decades has been the definitive affordable family hatchback.
In another sign of the times, the traditional mid-life facelift is, in this instance, far more focused on the digital than the mechanical side. Where the Focus used to have an 8.0in infotainment touchscreen stuck atop the centre of the dashboard and running Ford's Sync3 software, there’s now a 13.2in one running the latest evolution, surprisingly named Sync4.
The key feature of this is the introduction of over-the-air software updates, allowing your Focus to stay current long after it has left the showroom; plus cloud-connected features such as live traffic information for the sat-nav and Alexa-style voice control via natural speech.
As for the actual car stuff, the front end has gained a new-look bumper, grille and headlights and the 48V mild hybridisation of the Ecoboost 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine has gone from being niche to mainstream. Meanwhile, its 1.5-litre four-cylinder relation has been quietly deleted. That means petrol buyers can now choose a non-MHEV 99bhp unit or a 123bhp or 153bhp one without or with the MHEV, which costs an extra £1400. Of course, there also remains the 276bhp 2.3-litre four-cylinder Focus ST hot hatch.
The wider roll-out of Ford’s efficiency-boosting technology is partly thanks to it having been made compatible with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox (DCT). Previously, MHEV buyers were restricted to a six-speed manual, while one-foot cars used an eight-speed torque-converter. Ford claims the new driveline pairing also makes the Focus more efficient and fun to drive.
More active safety technologies have also been introduced to the Focus, presumably at the behest of Euro NCAP: blindspot assistance, intersection assistance, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, traffic sign recognition and lane keeping assistance.
There’s very little to differentiate the driving experience of the Focus from what went before – which could hardly be further from criticism. It has that distinctly European Ford feeling of being a normal, affordable car that can sensibly, comfortably and practically transport the family around at the weekend, but always with cheeky, tacit hints that when you’re driving to work alone on Monday, it will enjoy letting loose just as much as you might.