Review

Ford Focus hatchback

Price  £13,995 - £33,580

Ford Focus hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Fantastic to drive
  • Brilliant range of engines
  • Plenty of gadgets
Cons
  • Looks anonymous
  • Boot could be bigger
  • High price for top-spec models

At a glance

The greenest
142PS Electric 5dr £33,580
The cheapest
Studio 1.6 Ti-VCT 85 PS 5dr £13,995
The fastest
Titanium X Navigator 1.6 EcoBoost 182PS 5dr £23,350
Top of the range
142PS Electric 5dr £33,580

"The latest Ford Focus proves that family hatchbacks can be fun to drive and is definitely the best to date."

The Ford Focus continues to rule the small family hatchback market for Ford in the UK, making it one of the manufacturer's biggest success stories. The latest, third-generation Focus has become as popular as its predecessors while also simultaneously taking a major step forward in reliability, efficiency and safety to offer the best Focus yet. Its biggest competition still comes from the latest Volkswagen Golf, especially in terms of that car's supreme quality, but the Focus easily knocks it for six for handling and comfort.

The standard Ford Focus comes in six main specifications – entry-level Studio and Edge models being competitively priced and great fun to drive. Mid-range Zetec and Zetec S models add quite significantly more equipment and accessories, while the S offers better handling and a sportier ride. The top-of-the-range Titanium and Titanium X cars start to become a bit more expensive than a Focus really should be (it is still a Ford, after all) but they are very well equipped for the money. If you feel the need for speed and have your heart set on a Focus, then the excellent ST undoubtedly provides good value for money (it's cheaper than the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Renaultsport Megane for a start), while also putting a big smile on your face. For boosted practicality, you can get also an estate model that offers a much bigger boot than the standard hatchback.

MPG, running costs & CO2

3.4 / 5

Engines are efficient and cheap to run

With the exception of the super-performing ST, every car in the Focus line-up manages to emit less than 140g/km of CO2, which is pretty incredible if you consider the sheer range of engine options to choose from. So, whichever Focus you do pick, it will definitely be a cheap car to run. Ford has made sure that every model in the Focus family comes fitted with the latest technology and equipment to make them as efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. We recommend looking at the 1.6-litre TDCi five-door, which emits only 88g/km of CO2 and returns a superb 83mpg in combined fuel economy. But then, the remaining three ECOnetic engines also manage to come below the 99g/km CO2 emissions mark, making them road tax exempt, too, and returning more than 70mpg at the same time. This reflects Ford's continued commitment to producing fun but efficient cars. 

Interior & comfort

4.1 / 5

Suspension is firm but comfortable

The latest Focus is without doubt more comfortable than previous models, in particular its ability to iron out the bumps and potholes in the UK's uneven road surfaces. Even bigger potholes are dealt with without juddering the passengers around the inside of the car (too much, anyway). Unless, of course, you insist on having the 17-inch or 18-inch alloy wheels from the options list installed, in which case some of the ride comfort is inevitably lost simply because the suspension is quite a lot stiffer even though handling is improved. But it never becomes uncomfortable. Even the ST, the hot hatchback of the range with significantly harder suspension, still manages to be comfortable over long distances and proves cushioned enough to drive around the city without any discernible loss of comfort.

Inside, all the seats are comfy and provide a decent level of back support, with the driver able to adjust their seat and the steering wheel for reach and rake in a number of directions to find that ideal driving position. This extra ability to absorb the bumps and calmly cruise along the motorway with hardly any wind or road noise to disturb, makes the Focus feels like a much larger and more luxurious car than it actually is. Thinner pillars at the front and the rear also make sure that visibility is great all around the car, and the high-quality premium-feel interior is logically laid out and easy to use, with a mobile phone-inspired console that does lean towards the cluttered but is still not difficult to use. We do think that high-spec models have too many buttons, though.

Practicality & boot space

2.5 / 5

The boot isn't much bigger than a Fiesta's

The dimensions of the current generation of Focus are noticeably larger than the car it replaced, which does make it more practical than it's ever been. However, that doesn’t make it best in class in comparison to some of the inventive interiors and boots offered by newer pretenders to the family hatchback throne. That is best reflected by the 316 litres offered by the boot, which is less than the class average and only a paltry 17 litres more than its sister car, the Ford Fiesta supermini, which itself falls below the supermini class average. The Focus’ main competitor, the Vauxhall Astra, offers a full 54 litres extra than the Focus, with a figure that is much nearer to what you’d expect to get from this kind of car. The Focus’ greatest assets are its standard-fit split-folding rear seats, which fold flat very easily to allow easy loading of big and bulky objects. But if you really do want practically, you have to look at the estate model instead, which is much more practical. Beyond the boot, space in the rear of the standard car is also reasonable, even for any taller passengers, with just enough knee room for a six-footer in the back to sit behind another six-footer in the front. 

Reliability & safety

3.8 / 5

Extensively tested, with a five-star safety rating

The Focus’ main competitor has always been the Volkswagen Golf, and the Focus has consistently come second best to it in terms of reliability. That's still holds true, but the gap has never been closer, with Ford's entire current wave of cars making significant improvements in this area. The Focus itself has had somewhat mixed fortunes, with a tendency to yo-yo up and down the Driver Power customer satisfaction survey in recent years. The 2013 survey saw it drop 51 places down to 70th place in the top 100 list of cars. That's especially disappointing given that the Focus actually pulled off the very unusual feat of climbing 59 places up the chart to come 19th in 2012. In reality, it probably just puts the Focus about where it probably would have been if it had never reversed the usual downward trend of the survey in the first place. Ford itself doesn’t perform as well as you might think, given its status as the UK's biggest car manufacturer. It did actually improve in the 2013 survey by two places, to rank 23rd out of 32 car makers in the manufacturers rankings. 

When you get inside the Focus, the interior is much better quality than its predecessors, constructed with superior plastics and studier switchgear that really do help make it feel quite a lot more premium. Ford has also been on a big safety push – along with all the major manufacturers – and the Focus earned the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, with every model coming fitted with front, side and curtain airbags, lane-departure warning and a tiredness monitor as standard. Overall, the Focus isn’t perfect but it is a comfortable, safe place for families to travel in.

Engines, drive & performance

4.5 / 5

Best in class for driving, with fantastic engines

For a car that has clearly been designed more with comfort and efficiency in mind rather than focused driver enjoyment, it is still remarkably fun to drive. Ford's trend of softening its models over successive generations seemingly hasn’t hurt their overall quality – and you’ve always got the ST versions if you’re after pure driver enjoyment and performance. The Focus remains more exciting to drive than the rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf of Vauxhall Astra thanks to its agility and the sense of fun that Ford has managed to bring over from the first two generations of the car. In the small family hatchback class, it remains the first choice of those who really enjoy driving. You get best-in-class electric power steering and superb grip in all driving conditions that you can encounter in the UK, thanks to a technology system that redirects the power to whichever wheel needs it most to maintain grip and keep the car on track, which gives the driver greater confidence behind the wheel. There's plenty of performance on offer from the whole range of engines, with even the 1.0-litre ECOboost engine offering excellent acceleration as well as its frankly amazing fuel economy. The broad line-up also includes 1.6-litre petrol engines ranging from 104bhp to 180bhp, plus 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre diesels that span 95bhp to 161bhp – but please be aware that the diesel is only the best buy if you regularly clock up a lot of miles across long distances. 

The Focus ST obviously occupies the sporty end of the range and is by far one of the best hot hatchbacks available on the UK market, with its powerful engine and a firm-but-comfortable ride making it more fun than an affordable family car has a right to be.

Price, value for money & options

3.7 / 5

Prices are high but equipment is generous

It's genuinely surprising that the Focus is as expensive as it is, with most models in the range actually costing more than those in the equivalent section of the Volkswagen Golf range. Admittedly, you do get more equipment and accessories for that extra money in the Focus, even in the base Studio entry-level model. Ignoring the performance-focused Ford Focus ST hot hatchback – which has a range of specifications all its own – you can get the Focus in six main specifications – the Studio, then Edge, which comes fitted with digital radio, air-conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, electric windows and central locking as standard, followed by mid-range Zetec models that include 16-inch alloys, a quick-clear windscreen and heated door mirrors, and the top-of-the-range Titanium and Titanium X models, which are fitted with automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, keyless go, cruise control and hill start assist. Arguably the best value for money is offered by the truly marvellous Focus ST, with its highest-spec ST3 model costing nearly £1,000 less that the equivalent Golf GTI, and including more technology for that price tag, too. The Focus won’t hold its resale value on the used car market as well as the more desirable Golf, but you should still get a pretty decent second-hand deal for it. Plus, this is offset by reasonable servicing and insurance costs across the range.

What the others say

4 / 5
based on 3 reviews
  • 4.0 / 5

    "For the first time, the Focus gets electric power-steering and torque vectoring. The former is more efficient than a regular hydraulic set-up and helps to save fuel, while the latter subtly brakes the driven wheels to mimic a limited-slip differential."

  • 4.0 / 5

    "This, the third-generation Focus shouldn’t really be any different, and although the design is a fairly sizeable departure from its predecessor, it is easily recognisable as a Focus: Ford has played it pretty safe. The engine line-up remains much the same, except for the addition of a 1.6-litre Ecoboost unit offering 147bhp and 180bhp outputs. The new car's longer, but it is lower, which helps to keep CO2 emissions down and there's also a long list of new active safety features available."

  • 4.0 / 5

    "The latest Focus only enhances Ford's reputation for building brilliant driving motorcars. All models are well equipped and competitively priced."

Last updated 
25 Mar 2014

Disqus - noscript

These reviews are almost useless. What about the expensive failures from Diesel Particulate Filtres (DPF) that can and have put unburnt fuel into the sump oil? What are the DPF maintenance costs if all is well? The Dual Plate Clutch failures and maintenance costs? These reviews are for those who lease, rent or have company cars and not much help for ownership. Honest John told me more...

Latest focus is a nice car

I do not back Honest John's view of the new Focus. I have owned a new Focus Titanium X 2.0 Diesel Powershift for a year. It has an amazing range of electronic accessories and is a great drive. I think it looks great - much better than the Golf I turned down to buy my Focus. It was also cheaper to buy than the Golf, despite what is being written as you will get way more off a Focus by careful shopping than a Golf.

The main criticism I have is fuel consumption. It is hard to get better than 40mpg unless you drive like an old lady! Even then you are more likely to get 37mpg. On long journeys with cruise control in at 75mph you will get about 44mpg. All the stuff about 60 mpg is simply not true under any circumstances. Also the electronic bluetooth connections between my iPhone 5 and the car does not really work properly. I have overcome the problem by having an iPod Nano attached in the glovebox by wire and just having my iPhone sat there on Bluetooth which seems to work ok. It is not ideal but is a good work around. The main criticism I would have of Ford is that their mechanics are not properly trained (way below the standard of their VW equivalents). They had no idea even how to turn an iPod or sat nav on in the car, let alone fix problems with it.

Overall, however, it is a great car.

This car is brilliant, much better to drive than the boring & overpriced Golf, interesting to note that the Park Assist works perfecty, but VW couldn't make it work & withdrew it....

My new Focus is the Titanium with the 1.0 125 bhp ecoboost engine. The engine is amazing. Quiet, smooth and enough power to satisfy most people. It's only done a few hundred miles and I'm getting 40 mpg with mixed driving. I expect a long motorway run should give near 50 mpg. A brilliant car. I'm well satisfied with the luxury ride and comfort.
The thing you notice most when driving, is it's so quiet . The engine is a gem. Try one.

You say the focus has only 316 litre of bootspace, yet in the report on the Auris, you say the Focus has 380 litre.

I saw a Focus on a car lift at the local MOT centre. To my amazement the brakes looked very similar to those that I had on a greatly despised Cortina 1600 many years ago i.e. non vented "bacon slicer" discs at the front and drums at the rear.

An old colleague worked on his uncles Focus some years ago (the problem was a very stiff or seized window winder on the drivers door) To the blokes amazement there was no paint inside the door just that black chemical coating same as on the Cortina!

The trouble is that cut-throat competition in motor manufacture is resulting in things being built down to a price and there is also the "less is more" philosophy.

Personally after having worked in electrical and electronic maintenance for several decades I abhor cars that are stuffed-full of electric gadgets. Possibly the golden age was the late nineties where one could still have air-bags and seat-belt tensioners but Common Rail and CANBUS had not yet arrived.

Recently I heard about a man whose car had an electric handbrake. Allegedly the brake went on then the motor burnt-out. Result - the handbrake could not be released! It was a garage job costing six hundred pounds! How can this be progress?

totally agree with algy cst of DPF is £1000-00 aprox......

Dynamically, the Focus is excellent. I recently drove one over long distances in Sweden, including during a prolonged downpour on motorway, and the car was as surefooted as anyone could wish. And despite having to keep the aircon on to keep windows mist free, it was very frugal on fuel. But it was not at all comfortable to drive using cruise control – there is so little room in the footwell that there is no place for the foot to rest except the pedal, which is way less than ideal if like me you use cruise control a lot. So give me a Skoda Octavia or a Hyundai i30 or a Volvo V60 instead of a Ford Focus any day.

The Focus just isn’t in the same class as the Golf. Beware
of massive depreciation on the Focus. And those who need Park Assist shouldn’t
be driving! Fuel consumption and emissions are significantly better on the Golf.
Interior remains cheap plastic in the Focus. Focus reliability remains standard
Ford “Fix Or Repair Daily”. Ford will never be in the same class as VW.

The way to check cost of ownership is to compare extended warranty prices from a decent insurer like Warranty Wise. The Focus is one of the cheapest because people don't claim that often. I've done 80k miles and had one problem (alternator failure). Corrosion proofing is better than most cars - it hardly matters if they use sealant rather than paint on the inside of a door panel and it might even be a special concision resistant coating.

What Focus were you driving. Ok it's not bad to drive, mpg not too bad, has DAB and thats all the goods bits. As for getting a teenager in the back with a 6ft driver....no chance. Both front seats on mine are pretty much all the way back and my 7yr has to sit in the middle part of the back seat as she has no leg room other wise. The dashboard is massive and takes up way to much space. No need for it could have made it smaller and given people more room. One door mirror doesn't always unfold and the Ford garage have never found the problem (problem started when car was bout 2wks old, just over 2yrs old now). Only reason we had this car was coz the Mondeo we order was written off before it was even registered. Won't be having another one ever. Going back to VW.

Both Ford Focus and WV Golf are expensive cars to buy for what really there are. There has been and still there is excessive positive bias, both in the motoring media and amongst motorists, towards these models that has encouraged ,Ford and WV to overprice these models.

I assure you the brakes on modern cars are vastly superior to anything from decades ago regardless if the front discs are solid and there are drums in the rear. With ABS and superior tyres on everything these days you could stop a modern focus from 70mph quicker than you could said cortina from 55...

You have a point about electric handbrakes, they seem much more trouble than they are worth but that's just a case of over enthusiasm from the engineers.

Maybe you don't like all technology but the example of ABS indicates how even everyday hatches like the focus offer so much more than anything from 40 years ago particularly on the safety front but also standard equipment.

Frankly the best cars built are usually the newest ones. Looking at older cars usually occurs via some heavily tinted rose glasses. The latest focus isn't exactly awe inspiring but even compared to the family hatches being built just 15 years ago it is ridiculously far ahead in crucial areas like build quality and aforementioned safety and standard equipment, service intervals and typical performance, engine refinement and reliability, noise insulation yadda yadda.

Honestly we consider the build quality of the 2013 focus to be fairly middling but compared to a mid nineties BMW or Audi or Japanese whatever it comes out head held high such is the progression of the industry. Surely I'm not the only one who remembers what pieces of tat astras and escorts and Rover 400s and meganes were in 1998 and yet in the UK we bought zillions of them simply because at the time there was nothing better for the money.

If you sold this Focus range against any Cortina of the time it would seem like alien technology to average Joe just as your smartphone would. Don't underestimate the advances made.

more roomy in the back of the mk1 focus, despite being smaller on the outside, that really was a car that was outstanding in its time.

I got 38mpg with mixed driving on the mk1 1.6 petrol focus, and 44 on moterway run. If my car had a 6th gear, low rolling resistance tyres, stop start and generally lowered a bit, it would match or exceed the new car. The engine technology hasn't really moved on, its just lots of small tweaks over the whole car.

Fair comment Jon. But you must try the 1.0 ecoboost 125 3 cyl engine. It's an amazing engine. So quiet. Nil road tax for first year, then £30 after that.

£30 quid road tax, that is amazing. Why would anyone bother with the diesel. When its time to upgrade I would choose that ecoboost engine focus. I'm hoping they work on its styling a little more and take inspiration for the german rivals rather than the koreans. The interior is lovely though and seats are great.

They will miss out on my custom because of the number one priority on my list. .... I don't like four doors ... I only buy two door cars but a Fiesta is too small (and looks hideous). BTW, I class the rear arpeture as a hatch, NOT a door.

Surely there is a reason for that...If motorists find the cars worthy of praise then the reason is because they deserve it.

I just actually crabbed a bargain from Honda and I am replacing my 1.4 petrol with a 1.6 diesel with no road tax. I had a test drive and for the average driver with no sports aspirations it is a really good choice. I will not mention reliability. I had my Honda for the past 4 years and not a single glitch. I was once tempted by a Ford Focus, I have driven a few in the past and I loved the performance. But in terms of liablility - I would not trust them at all. Sorry....

I've been driving a 1.6 TDCi 115 Zetec for 6 months. I've heard a lot about poor (or not as promised) MPG figures, but regardless of how I drive, this model always returns minimum 50, maximum 58-60 each time I fill up. Which is coolness.

Terrible build quality nearer that of a French car. Just about everything that is only clipped on falls off when a door is shut or over speed bumps. Seat belts are nowhere near long enough to safely strap a childs carseat without buying an extender. The published fuel consumption figures are absolute nonsense and finally the paint work is so thin in places it's getting washed off. I am thoughly disappointed.

Why worry? Just buy it run it and sell it. Simple! Some folk just love to pick cars to pieces, no one could really care less, especially so the dealer - they've sold it, it's off the forecourt, and they've had their bonus to put meat on the plate. That's it. Enjoy and don't worry about it.

I own a 2011 focus zetec 1.6 petrol 104bhp having previously had a 2007 LX focus 1.6 petrol I am very disappointed with the performance when hill climbing as against the previous car. As an old duffer I find it difficult to get in and out of the drivers seat my wife claims she has none but she would as it was her that insisted we changed the car. Once in it is comfortable and nice to drive perhaps I am to picky as it is the most expensive car I have owned and my daughter bought the other car at well below the part ex.

I find the seatbelts more than long enough to strap a childs car seat in. All published fuel consumption figures should be taken with a pinch of salt.

The battery/electrics in winter are useless. Parked up at Southampton for cruise , twice have had to call out AA to jumpstart,. Simply if its raining and using wipers then arrive and switch off for two weeks,battery will be flat Ford Garage (Harrisons) said nothing wrong - bothy times I've driven a Vauxhall Astra ever since - brilliant

There is nothing special about VW quality and reliability. I have owned both a Polo and a Golf from new and found them to be about average. Volvo and Toyota are both far superior in my experience. Go and study a range of reliability/owner satisfaction data and you will discover that VW is bog standard. The illusion that they are anything more is just clever marketing.

I had a ford focus only 25k on clock 2 years old written of by a drunk driver been to brothers funeral I was hit approaching a round about was hit on front wheel on drivers side walked away had sore knee cap as long legs 6ft 1 and sore lower back strain had thick jacket on and red marks made by seat belt good job had a bit of belly fat on returning from gym and was a cold January stuck in middle of Epping forest outside a pub man was trying to get onto m25 if he had there would have been a MORE serious accident for sure had gap insurance but never thought I would need it

Every driver I have met and spoken to cannot get anywhere near the manufacture mpg claims, it is impossible. I would love to see how they conduct these mpg tests as I think they are bordering on fraud!

I have mk2 1.6 tdci 90 style and get 60-70 mpg and I don't drive like a granny. Simple things like planning ahead at lights, using the highest gear possible and changing up early can save an awful lot of fuel. Also taking your foot off of the accelerator when going down hills and trying not to brake and accelerate up hills when roads are empty can give a good return. Buying tyres that have good grip and fuel savings may cost a few pounds extra but can make a difference.

Having driven a rental for a month, it doesn't stand up to my mild handling tuned Mk1 '02 Focus hatchback. It's purely a family car, nothing more, nothing less. It does have some power, but runs out of steam early in 1st and 2nd! The current model does not inspire confidence in some enthusiastic driving! I also drove the Fiesta ST and that is one exciting vehicle!

Sponsored Links

Own this car? Leave your review.