Ford Focus 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
- No full hybrid powertrain
Verdict - is the Ford Focus a good car?
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 but the latest Ford Focus is a brilliantly talented all-rounder and far more than just a competent family car.
Ford Focus range
The Focus is Ford’s entry in the family hatchback class and has been a hugely popular model down the years. It has traditionally sat between the smaller Fiesta and the larger Mondeo as the brand’s mid-size family car offering but the Mondeo was discontinued in 2021 and the Fiesta will soon go the same way. Just like the majority of mainstream car brands today, Ford’s family car range has become increasingly geared towards SUVs and this fourth-generation Focus launched in 2019 uses the same ‘C2’ platform as the Kuga mid-size SUV.
The Focus was facelifted in autumn of 2021, gaining a new look front end with updated LED running lights and the much improved SYNC 4 infotainment and navigation system, among other upgrades.
The Focus is available either as a five-door hatchback or a five-door estate that provides extra boot space; there are no three-door models. There is, however, a Focus ST hot hatch at the top of the range which uses a powerful 2.3-litre Ecoboost petrol engine.
The standard Focus models are now available with just two versions of the 1.0-litre Ecoboost turbo petrol engine with mild-hybrid assistance. There’s a six-speed manual version with 123bhp and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic version with 153bhp – the 1.5-litre diesel has been discontinued.
The Focus range now opens with the well-specified Titanium model. With the entry-level Trend cars no longer offered, even the most basic Focus gets 16-inch alloy wheels, Ford SYNC4 infotainment via a 13.2-inch touchscreen and an impressive roster of other technology features. In our view, there’s no real reason to venture higher up the range unless you really want the slightly increased off-road ability and tougher looks of an Active model or the sporty add-ons of an ST-Line.
Ford is offering ‘X’ variants of each of its main trim levels which bundle together a useful package of extras including larger alloy wheels and a wireless charging area. There are also ‘Style’ badged versions of all the main trim levels available from stock but these have the older SYNC 2.5 infotainment without built-in navigation. Our advice would be to try this system before you buy as it is significantly inferior but if you’re happy to connect your smartphone and rely on Android Auto or Apple Car Play, the Focus Style range could be worth considering.
Ford Focus alternatives
The Ford Focus is not short of rivals that car buyers might also want to consider. Its direct rivals are other family hatchbacks from mainstream brands but there are also more expensive premium-badged hatchbacks and, of course, a large number of mid-size SUVS that can fulfil a similar family car role.
The leading family hatchbacks offer similar levels of space inside but the Focus is more enjoyable to drive than any of them and its SYNC4 infotainment is up with the very best systems in the class.
The Focus is let down a little by its interior quality in this company and it’s certainly a level below the best premium hatchbacks in that respect. You’ll pay more for the likes of the Audi A3 but it will hold onto its value better and feel like a classier product generally.
The mid-size SUVs are more practical thanks to their taller shapes and elevated ride heights but also more expensive model for model. They don’t handle as well as the Focus, which steers and changes direction with greater precision and there’s always the option of the Focus Estate bodystyle if you want extra luggage space.
What about buying a used or nearly new Ford Focus?
The current Ford Focus (Mk4) arrived in 2018, so more recently purchased used models will still have some of Ford’s three-year factory warranty left. That means you can make a decent saving on the list price without losing the peace of mind that a newer car brings. It’s a great choice as a used car, too, because there are loads for sale at various price points and there are a good number of engines to choose from as well.
What’s its history?
The Ford Focus arrived in 1998 to huge fanfare from critics – it was a brilliant all-round family car, with fantastic handling, good comfort and plenty of space inside. This first-generation model is still often seen on the roads now, as it was a huge seller when new.
The second-generation model arrived in 2004, and it brought an improved cabin and more equipment without blunting the fine handling the Focus had become famous for. It was another big seller and it was updated in 2007 with a new look and more engines.
The third-generation car came out in 2011 and was updated in 2014. It was the first model to use the popular EcoBoost 1.0-litre petrol engine, although most buyers chose diesel at this time, since it offered low running costs and tax.
The current car arrived in 2018 and it’s the best yet, thanks to a high-quality interior, more practicality than before and lots of hi-tech equipment. It’s still one of the best cars in its class to drive and the engine range is great.
Used Ford Focus (Mk3 2011-2018)
The third-generation Ford Focus is a great used buy, especially the post-2014 facelift version. It’s not the most spacious family car, but the balance of handling, comfort, equipment and value for money means it’s a great option if you have a middling budget for a used family car.
Used Ford Focus (Mk2 2004-2011)
If your budget is a bit tighter, the Mk2 model is widely available at really low prices – just a few thousand pounds will get you into a decent one. It’s not going to be as economical or well-equipped as a Mk3, but the Mk2 is great to drive and the naturally aspirated engines should be pretty reliable.
Other used Ford Focus models
The first-generation Ford Focus is getting quite old now, because the first models came out in 1998. It’s starting to get hard to find good-condition cars on the used market, so values are rising slightly, but if you want a fun-to-drive hatchback at a bargain price you could still keep the Mk1 Focus in mind.