Petrol powered Focus is lighter and more enjoyable to drive than the diesel

What is it?

Our first taste of a petrol version of the all-new Focus, powered by Ford's turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder Ecoboost engine.

Although this engine will be sold in the UK, not initially with the 180bhp power output tested here. For the time being the most powerful version offered to UK buyers has 148bhp.

What's it like?

To recap our initial impressions of the Focus, based on the 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel reviewed last week. Now in its third-generation the Focus has grown up; it is now more comfortable, refined and upmarket than before, but in the process has sacrificed some of the dynamic magic that has won it such favour over the years. It is also not quite as cleverly packaged as we had hoped.

The petrol powered Focus is quieter still, and with an adequate spread of torque (the lower powered Ecoboost engine produces the same peak torque only over a slightly narrower rpm), for the majority of the time you rarely need to exercise the engine much beyond the mid-range.

That you may choose to is a different matter, because the Ecoboost engine is pleasantly keen to rev, and in the higher state of tune here, usefully brisk. Both Ecoboost versions will, on paper, also return a combined 47.1mpg, unfortunately, on this occasion, our test route was not long enough to produce a real world average.

One significant benefit of opting for a petrol motor, is that it saves 88kg over the 2.0-litre diesel. Furthermore, switching from the Powershift dual clutch automatic (optional on the diesel) to the Ecoboost's mandatory six-speed manual saves a further 40kg. From one extreme to the other (an automatic diesel to a manual petrol) that's 128kg fewer kilos over the front axle – and on the road it feels it.

While the petrol car doesn't address all our dynamic criticism of the new Focus – it still is less communicative than the previous generation, and not so inherently well balanced - compared to the diesel it turns in more keenly and resists understeer for longer.

Should I buy one?

As we say you can't buy this exact model, which in itself is a shame, but our experience here bodes well for the lower powered Ecoboost model. If you can live with the marginally increased consumption the petrol Focus is a more enjoyable car to drive than the diesel.

Jamie Corstorphine

Ford Focus 1.6 Ecoboost 180 

Price: NA; 0-62mph: 7.9sec; Top speed: 138mph; Co2: 139g/km; Economy: 47.1mpg (combined); Kerbweight: 1333kg; Engine: 4cyls in line, 1596cc, turbocharged; Installation: Front, transverse, fwd; Power: 180bhp at 5700rpm; Torque: 199lbft (overboost) at 1900-4000rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

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Join the debate

Add a comment…
jelly7961 23 January 2011

Re: Ford Focus 1.6 Ecoboost 180

Are you referring to the 2.3 litre turbo of the MPS version

Nope. The NA 2.5 found in the Mazda 6 is also available in many markets.
jerry99 22 January 2011

Re: Ford Focus 1.6 Ecoboost 180

jerry99 wrote:
I doubt that a modern 1.6 petrol diesel would improve on that..

That should read 1.6 petrol turbo.

jerry99 22 January 2011

Re: Ford Focus 1.6 Ecoboost 180

Adrian987 wrote:
private buyers may look at running costs slightly differently from the fleet manager i.e. they look at what it costs to fill the tank and how far they can go on it and in those circumstances diesel will seem cheaper

This is true but for the buyer who buys a three year old car that they intend to keep for three or four years any turbo may not be such a good idea. Turbos eventually wear and lead to some large maintenance bills. Modern turbo diesels have some very expensive injection systems that are easily damaged by a mechanic. A cynic might say that this is what the manufactures want, as it shortens the life of the car.

The old zetec E was rough but very tough and driven by anyone thinking ahead had no trouble keeping up with the traffic. I think the issue is gearing - Ford spread the gears wide to aid economy and the driver needs to know which gear is right for the particular situation (factoring in the gradient) whereas with a modern turbo diesel often the driver can get away without changing gear.

This summer we took a 10 year old Mondeo 2.0 to France and had no difficulty averaging 65 mph (including stops) up and down the Autoroute de Soleil, as did many newer cheap French hatchbacks with petrol engines. We also got 33 mpg with a large roof box, which is not bad on a uncongested motorway with a deadline for collecting the keys to meet. I doubt that a modern 1.6 petrol diesel would improve on that..