In-depth reviews

Ford Focus hatchback - Engines, drive & performance

The latest Ford Focus jumps straight to the head of the family hatchback pack for handling

Carbuyer Rating

4.1 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.3 out of 5

Read owner reviews
Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.5 out of 5

We begin this section by totting up the changes that Ford has made to the latest Focus with a view to re-establishing the 'fun-to-drive' reputation of its predecessors.

The company started with a clean sheet of paper when developing the latest Focus – it's the first Ford to use the company's 'C2' platform, which will form the basis for a range of future cars, including the next-generation Ford Kuga SUV. It's lighter and 20% stiffer than before, as well as up to 50% more rigid where the suspension components are attached.

On top of this, Ford also claims the latest Focus' power-steering system offers greater feel than before, while a sophisticated traction-control system incorporates torque-vectoring control and torque-steer compensation, helping to send power where it's needed and rein it in where it's not. But does all this technology result in genuine driving pleasure?

The answer is an unreserved yes. Any doubts evaporate when you encounter a twisty road, where the Focus is far more composed than you'd expect a family hatchback to be. The steering lives up to Ford's claims and is among the most communicative power-assisted systems around. There's loads of bite from the front tyres, too – it eagerly locks onto your chosen line around a corner, and there's no drama if you lift off the accelerator sharply. And this is only a 1.0-litre car we're talking about.

Before May 2019, the 1.5-litre ST-Line came with upgraded suspension that sits 10mm lower and improves the car’s handling further – but it’s no longer offered on this version.

A six-speed manual gearbox is now only available on two of the 1.0-litre petrol models. It feels slick, if a little weighty in use, and the smooth clutch makes up for the fact that the gearlever moves quite a long way across the gate. If you'd rather an automatic, you can choose a seven-speed PowerShift auto if you opt for a mild-hybrid version of the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine. As part of the 2021 facelift, the manual version of EcoBlue diesel was phased out, with an eight-speed automatic now fitted as standard.

The automatic is controlled by a rotary gear selector, which is simple to use, and there are steering-wheel-mounted paddles at hand to enable manual gearchanges. It's generally a smooth gearbox, but prone to the occasional jerky shift. There's also a sense that the gearbox doesn't make full use of the Focus' entire power band. As automatic gearboxes go, it does a good enough job, but isn't as responsive as the seven-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox used by the VW Group.

Ford Focus hatchback diesel engines

The only diesel engine available is a 118bhp 1.5-litre, four-cylinder EcoBlue. It’s now only available with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and takes 10.6 seconds to reach 62mph from rest. This engine is a little noisy on start up – perhaps a little noisier than equivalent diesels in rivals. The clatter dies down quickly, though, and there's a plentiful response when you demand power. There's also barely any difference between the petrol and heavier diesel engines when it comes to handling.

The 148bhp 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel was dropped as part of the facelift in late 2021. It was only available in higher trim levels with a six-speed manual gearbox, and could sprint from 0-62mph in 9.3 seconds. That time that puts it close to the more powerful diesel versions of the Peugeot 308 and Vauxhall Astra.

Petrol engine

We've been impressed by 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol in the latest Ford Fiesta and it's no disappointment in the Focus, either. In its basic 123bhp guise, both the manual and mild-hybrid-equipped automatic model take 10.2 seconds to get from 0-62mph. A more potent 153bhp version is also available with the same mild hybrid technology, with the automatic being the quickest, taking 8.4 seconds from 0-62mph. Opt for the manual version, and the same benchmark sprint takes nine seconds.

All versions of the 1.0-litre make a 'thrummy' noise but not in an unpleasant way. You can tell it's a small engine by its slight hesitation to accelerate under heavy load, but this lethargy evaporates once there's 2,000rpm or more on the rev counter.

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