Ford Focus hatchback review
“The Ford Focus is as great to drive as ever, plus it’s spacious, well-equipped and comfortable”
- Attractive looks
- Entertaining drive
- Spacious interior
- Indifferent image
- Lacklustre residuals
- Average after-sales record
The Ford Focus is one of the most familiar car names in the UK, as, along with the Fiesta it’s one of the bestselling cars. This family hatchback is well known for being good to drive but it has plenty of other positive traits as well. Its rivals are models such as the Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf, SEAT Leon and Kia Ceed.
Some buyers are moving into more upmarket models such as the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class, so the latest fourth-generation Focus got a posher interior to help it compete. A new Active version with off-road styling was even added to the range in the hope of preventing some buyers jumping ship to an SUV like the Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008 or SEAT Ateca.
The Focus has been updated, so it’s more handsome than before but it still struggles to stand out in many ways. It’s not as trendy as an SUV or as eye-catching as, for example, the latest Peugeot 308 but the Focus is still a smart-looking family car. Whatever you think of its looks, the appeal of the Focus has always been under the skin.
The Ford Focus has built a reputation on fun handling and this new model is very much in keeping with that; it’s among the best cars of its type to drive. Its suspension is sophisticated and manages to control the car’s body nicely when on a twisty road, yet it’s also comfortable and smooth on bumpy surfaces. Its sharp steering means it’s fun no matter what kind of road you’re on, plus there’s a good selection of petrol and diesel engines and even a fast ST model (reviewed separately).
Those engines are familiar from other Ford models, but have been developed further for better response and economy. The 1.0-litre, three-cylinder EcoBoost features a cylinder-deactivation system that Ford claims is the first offered on a three-cylinder engine – it can run on two cylinders when full power isn't required. A four-cylinder EcoBlue diesel is available in 1.5 or 2.0-litre guises, and an eight-speed automatic gearbox is offered, with control via a rotary gear selector.
The more distinctive style of the latest Focus' exterior is matched inside, where Ford boasts big improvements in interior quality. There's loads of space inside, too, and the boot is almost on a par with that of the Volkswagen Golf. Standard equipment is comprehensive on the entry-level Zetec Edition, generous on the mid-range Titanium Edition and you get a different look on sporty ST Line versions and rugged Active versions.
A convincing five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP means the Focus is one of the safest cars in its class, with more safety technology than any Ford before it. Ford's 25th-place finish out of 29 manufacturers in our 2021 Driver Power survey isn't particularly impressive, however.
And that really would seal the deal, because the fourth-generation Focus really is the best yet. It looks fresh and up to date inside and out, drives brilliantly and has all the technology most buyers will need. Some rivals may be more practical or upmarket – the latest Volkswagen Golf is still the class-leader for interior quality – but the latest Ford Focus is a brilliantly talented all-rounder and far more than just a competent family car.