In-depth reviews

Ford Focus hatchback review

“The Ford Focus is as great to drive as ever, plus it’s spacious, well-equipped and comfortable”

Carbuyer Rating

4.1 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.3 out of 5

Read owner reviews

Pros

  • Attractive looks
  • Entertaining drive
  • Spacious interior

Cons

  • Indifferent image
  • No full hybrid powertrain
  • 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.

Top 10 best hatchbacks 2022

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.

In late 2021, the Focus received a midlife update with a subtle exterior redesign and a sizable upgrade to the in-car technology with the arrival of Ford’s latest SYNC 4 infotainment on more expensive models. The most noticeable change is the nose, with a larger Ford badge now mounted in the centre of a new-look grille. Elsewhere, a new LED daytime running light signature was also introduced, which also contains the fog lights to give it a cleaner-looking front bumper. Every trim level now gets a more unique look, with distinctly different front grilles and colours.

The redesign makes the Focus look 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 engines and an efficient diesel option. At the top of the range, the fast ST model continues to be a formidable hot hatch, with an excellent blend of power and top notch driving dynamics.

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 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel is also available, 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 Trend model, generous on the mid-range Titanium and you get a different look on sporty ST Line versions and rugged Active versions. For those wanting a more premium Focus, there are also Vignale versions of the Titanium, ST Line and Active models with added luxury features.

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.

What about buying a used or nearly new Ford Focus?

The current Ford Focus (Mk4) arrived in 2018, so many 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 of 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. You can check out the latest used Ford Focus prices on Buyacar.

What’s its history?

The Ford Focus arrived in 1998 to a 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)

Ford Focus Zetec

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.

Read the full Focus Mk3 review...

Used Ford Focus (Mk2 2004-2011)

2010 Ford Focus

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.

Read the full Focus Mk2 review...

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.

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