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Fourth-generation Focus is bigger and better, but the 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine has to work hard to deliver proper pace

Our Verdict

Ford Focus 2018 road test review hero front

Focus retains its position as the best-in-class to drive – spec dependent – while adding extra space, functionality and connectivity

29 August 2018

What is it?

Our first chance to see how the fourth-generation Focus copes with the challenge of UK roads after previously driving it on the international launch.

We've been given a thoroughly representative example, powered by the 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost engine in the 123bhp tune Ford predicts will make up the majority of UK sales. Being one of the lower-powered versions, it also uses a rear torsion beam axle in place of the more advanced multi-link system that has now been reserved for the brawnier members of the range.

The question of how well the car deals with low-rent British Tarmac is key to whether it will be able to maintain the dynamic superiority that marked its predecessors out from the chasing pack.

Titanium X trim brings plenty of standard equipment and a £22,820 price tag, but Ford had also given our test car a comprehensive options workout, with LED headlights (£750), a head-up display (£400), Assistance Pack including radar cruise (£500), the Convenience Pack that brings auto park and those natty pop-out door protectors (£500) and a B&O Play speaker upgrade (£350) — plus a few other bits — taking the total to an altitudinous £26,495.

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What's it like?

Fears about the torsion beam back end lacking dynamism are soon dispelled. In this mid-spec version, the new hardware is a non-issue; over a 570-mile drive that included some of the most demanding roads in Scotland, England and Wales, the new Focus proved to be both refined and agile, handling corners with vim and verve and rough surfaces with assurance. Springs and dampers feel soft in slower turns, but the relationship between them is always collaborative.

The electric power steering is short on feel, but yields immediate and precise responses from the front end, with the rear axle helping out under higher loadings. This Focus can carry speed along a flowing road as well as any of its antecedents.

Refinement is generally good, although our test car had some wind whistle from the top of the driver's door at motorway speeds; the lack of any from the passenger side suggests an ill-fitting seal. The suspension copes well with higher speeds, but even on smooth surfaces there's a very slight busyness to it, a not-quite settling down that is reported by the backside and lower back. Like a dripping tap, it's hard to ignore once noticed, although the independent rear axle might not suffer from it.

The Ecoboost engine remains a characterful powerplant, pulling with a determination that belies its lack of size once on boost and with a pleasing offbeat soundtrack that's evident when worked hard. But it's a slugger rather than a puncher, with the turbo taking time to spool if lots of acceleration is requested at short notice — for instance, to take advantage of an overtaking opportunity.

The shift action for the six-speed manual gearbox seems to have grown slightly longer than that of the last car, and the selector itself doesn't have the same hand-filling mass of the last one, but the 'box itself remains one of the sweetest-shifting in the business. Driven respectfully, it's impressively economical, with fuel economy of the mid-to-high 40s seemingly achievable under everyday use.

Of course, there was never much wrong with the way the last Focus drove, and more effort has been expended to give this one more of an upmarket feel. Hard-feeling plastics in the cabin have been relegated far from where fingers are likely to regularly patrol. The new Sync 3 infotainment system covers all the basics well and is addressed through a crisply rendered 8.0in touchscreen; a mild irritation is that, when a device is connected through Android Auto, it prioritises the phone's navigation system over the car's native set-up; a problem if you're in an area with no signal.

There's impressive space for both front and rear occupants, although during our mammoth drive the front occupants noticed a lack of under-thigh support during longer stints.

Should I buy one?

Group test rivals are being assembled pretty much as you read this, but on first impressions we will be very surprised if the Focus didn't end up on top of the hill and in possession of the castle.

The 1.0-litre Ecoboost remains an impressive engine, but when asked to haul around a car of this size it is not a fast one, and we suspect the less powerful 100bhp and 85bhp versions will feel pretty leisurely. Anybody looking for a level of performance more in keeping with the chassis’ abilities will be likely to go for one of the punchier 1.5-litre three-cylinder options.

But while the Focus is a great car, it does not seem a particularly distinctive one. During our time with the car, nobody seemed to recognise the fact that it was new, and we drove most of the length of the country and stopped numerous times without fielding any of the enquiries normally directed at even mainstream fresh metal. But it is the role of Fords to be generic, of course, and it is not a quality that needs to diminish their excellence.

Ford Focus specification

Tested UK Price £26,495 On sale now Engine 998cc, 3cyl, turbocharged petrol Power 123bhp at 6000rpm Torque 147lb ft at 1400rpm Gearbox six-speed manual Kerb weight tbc Top speed 124mph 0-62mph 10.0 sec Fuel economy 57.6mpg CO2 111g/km Rivals Volkswagen Golf, Kia Ceed

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Comments
36

29 August 2018

Had it been another ( higher ) spec i believe there would have been more interest. The ST-Line and Vignale look much more appealing.

 

 

29 August 2018
I think the LED lights help a lot. But it seems awfully expensive for a 1.0 3 cylinder hatch. I'd probably take a Civic or Mazda 3.

29 August 2018

If only this Ford had developed the revolutionary design of the Focus 1 or adopted the evolutionary classic styling of the Golf 7 ... 

As it is, this 'design by commitee' is a huge let down. It is as if one group of designers was responsible for the overall shape (generic, failure of imagination), another group for incidental details (too many, poorly resolved), and they never met, either across the groups or withing each group.

The Focus shares the distinction with Mini of each genertion looking worse.

29 August 2018

The torsion beam is a ‘non issue’, you say, yet then go on to admit it ‘may’ affect the ride. So perhaps it is an issue?

Testing the rear seat comfort for passengers would be worthwhile. I understand journalists are often paired up for these kind of tests, so it should have been possible.

29 August 2018
scrap wrote:

The torsion beam is a ‘non issue’, you say, yet then go on to admit it ‘may’ affect the ride. So perhaps it is an issue?

Testing the rear seat comfort for passengers would be worthwhile. I understand journalists are often paired up for these kind of tests, so it should have been possible.

The torsion beamed Focus may not be as good as the multi link Focus, but its still highly likely, it will be as good or better than anything in its class with a similar setup, and probably better than some with multi link.  

jer

29 August 2018

A quashqui with 115 hp 1.2. Pretty surprised again how good these little turbos are but there are limits up hills and on slip roads. So expect similar from this ford.

29 August 2018

I too recently was given one of these as a hire car. I thought that there was something wrong with it, until I opened the bonnet and looked up the engine in the handbook, and realised it was the Renault 1.2 petrol engine. Incidentally, I also thought that a previous hirer had stolen the plastic engine cover. The underbonnet makes an old XJS V12 look tidy, by comparison!

The Qashqai had no power or torque at any revs. It was frankly dangerous. Overtaking was either impossible or a suicide mission. There was insufficient torque even to defeat the auto-hold electric handbrake, causing the car to stall. And the final insult was 36 mpg. A Mazda CX5 2.2 diesel automatic achieved 40 mpg and had power and torque everywhere. A Skoda Octavia 1.4 tsi petrol has power and torque everywhere and returned 50 mpg. That VW group engine is the best current engine for average family motoring.

 

 

29 August 2018

thanks

29 August 2018

£26k as tested for a 1.0 Ford. You couldn't burn fast enough to keep up with it's depreciation.

Has Ford changed their warranty yet? The norm for manufacturers in this country is 3yr - 2yr manufacturer + 1yr dealer but according to my last Ford dealer, the warranty was 1yr manufacturer and 2yr dealer, in other words when the dealer has to use his own money to fix problems you can bet they try to wriggle out of it. Previous alloys on my Focus started to rust after only 14mth (due to manufacturing defect) - neither Ford or dealer interested. Shocking quality on a £10k car let alone a £26k.

29 August 2018
scotty5 wrote:

£26k as tested for a 1.0 Ford. You couldn't burn fast enough to keep up with it's depreciation.

Has Ford changed their warranty yet? The norm for manufacturers in this country is 3yr - 2yr manufacturer + 1yr dealer but according to my last Ford dealer, the warranty was 1yr manufacturer and 2yr dealer, in other words when the dealer has to use his own money to fix problems you can bet they try to wriggle out of it. Previous alloys on my Focus started to rust after only 14mth (due to manufacturing defect) - neither Ford or dealer interested. Shocking quality on a £10k car let alone a £26k.

I agree, the quality and build of current Fords is frankly rubbish nowadays, although not as bad as the German brands it has to be said. Most Fords from the Mk 1 Focus to the mid 2000s were reliable while the likes of the Mk 2 Mondeo and Focus also felt like high quality cars too, especially inside. However, since the previous Firsta was launched there has been a notable reduction in the quality and reliability of Fords. They’re now miles behind the Japanese and Koreans in this respect. As long as Ford continues to ask, for example, over £20k for a Focus without the quality, reliability or waraantybto match, I’d stay well clear and plump for the much more reliable i30 or Ceed instead.

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