By Steve Berry
The new Ford Focus has a lot riding on it – and I don’t just mean for the men in suits at Ford Motor Company.
The Focus has always been a favourite here in Britain, outselling everything except the Volkswagen Golf and its own smaller, cheekier sibling, the Ford Fiesta. So, when an all-new Focus arrives, we put down our copy of ‘SUV Today’ and sit up to take note.
Fear not as the initial signs are good. Very good, actually. From the moment I saw the new fourth-generation Focus in the flesh I thought the proportions looked just right. Sleeker, and with a longer bonnet than previously, the new Focus makes the Volkswagen Golf look decidedly plain.
Admittedly, my first introduction was with the sporty ST-Line X model in Desert Island Blue and it looks fabulous.
Speaking of trim levels, there are many – from the entry-level Style, to Zetec then ST-Line, ST-Line X, Titanium, Titanium X and, of course, the Vignale. As well as the five-door there is also a smart-looking Estate too. Later in the year there will be an ‘Active’ version which is more SUV-looking.
On-the-road prices for a five-door Focus start at £17,930 and rise to £29,240.
Engine choice is also varied, with the well-proven 1.0-litre, three-cylinder EcoBoost petrol unit probably being the number one choice for most. It’s available with either 100 PS or 120 PS – although there is an 85 PS version available on the lowly Style model.
For those wanting more oomph there’s the 1.5 EcoBoost engine with either 150 PS or 182 PS. There’s also a brand-new 1.5 EcoBlue Diesel engine available with 95 PS or 120 PS on tap. For those who need more pulling-power there’s also a 2.0-litre EcoBlue unit with 150 PS.
Transmission choices are simpler – a six-speed manual or (on the more powerful models) an eight-speed automatic.
Where you will certainly notice a difference is between the old interior and the new. My Focus ST-Line X model came with part-leather upholstery and red stitching with an 8in tablet-style infotainment screen mounted atop the dash that included Sat Nav as standard. Lower models get a 6.4in screen and no Sat Nav, although an upgrade doesn’t cost too much and I would say is worth the extra money.
What all trim-levels benefit from is a great driving position with both seat height and lumbar adjustment. For those who take regular long journeys I recommend the Comfort seat option which gives you 18-way manual adjustment.
The steering wheel has plenty of scope in both reach and rake and overall. The dash layout itself is smart and uncluttered with the main dials being so clear I didn’t really need the optional heads-up display. There’s also a smart 4.2in TFT colour screen between the main dials.
Climate controls are easily reached in the lower half of the central dash with chunky, tactile dials for adjustment.
Generally, the fit and quality of materials is very good with soft-touch plastics everywhere except lower down in the cabin, although the door bins are now felt-lined to prevent your knick-knacks rattling around.
A striking feature on the automatic models is the large, knurled rotary controller for gear-selection. However, unlike the Jaguar version, this one doesn’t rise up from the centre console on start-up.
It feels airier in the front than the previous model too, thanks to the dash being pushed forward a little. The electronic handbrake also frees up space for a couple of cupholders and more cubby-space.
Rear passengers benefit too with the Focus now offering as much leg room as the spacious Skoda Octavia which means six-footers should be happy even on the longest of journeys.
The middle seat is a little raised but the shallow central tunnel means there’s enough room to comfortably place your feet. Overall, I would say the Focus is class-leading when it comes to carrying five adults.
The boot, at 273 litres, is better than the VW Golf but not quite as voluminous as the Octavia. It does come with a moveable boot floor though to make lifting those shopping bags in and out a little easier.
But is the new Ford Focus still worthy of the people’s award for driving satisfaction? Well, it’s certainly worth a nomination as the new platform gives a slightly wider track and loses around a whopping 1,300kg in weight – depending on the engine choice – to make the new Focus not only a breeze around town but a bit of an A-road stormer when you want to have a little fun.
The automatic 1.5 EcoBlue is very capable indeed. Steering is very direct with good feedback and the lowered ST-Line X remains fairly flat through corners but doesn’t feel at all skitish over pock-marked roads.
The new Focus is quiet too; easily as quiet as the equivalent VW Golf with only some wind noise from around the wing-mirrors getting through.
Generously, all new Focus models come with pre-collision assist and autonomous emergency braking. There’s also lane-keeping and lane departure warning systems to keep you in the white lines – something you won’t find on rivals at this price.
All models from Zetec and above get a heated front screen, climate control, the SYNC 3 DAB radio with touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Choosing the right model should be a doddle too as the price range is wide and there are a plethora of trim-levels and options. You just need to Focus on what you want…
Ford Focus 1.5 EcoBlue ST-Line X Auto
OTR Price: £26,410
Engine: 1.5 turbo diesel
Power: 120 PS
Transmission: 8-speed Automatic
0-62mph: 10.2 secs
Top Speed: 127 mph
Combined Economy: 64.2 mpg
C02: 116 g/km