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Ford Focus hatchback (2011-2014) - Engines, drive & performance

The Ford Focus is, as ever, the most fun car to drive in its class.

Carbuyer Rating

4.4 out of 5

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Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.6 out of 5

If you want a hatchback that’s fun to drive, look no further than the Ford Focus. While this third-generation model isn’t as sharp as its predecessors, it’s still the best-handling car in its class, and all models feel lively in corners. They’re helped by responsive controls, including sharp steering and positive gearboxes, although the latter can feel a bit notchy on occasion. Automatic models come with Ford’s Powershift transmission, which is more efficient than a conventional automatic.

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For the late-2014 facelift, Ford sharpened up the steering even further and tweaked the suspension slightly to improve cornering. It’s a very subtle change, but cements the Focus as the car to choose in this class for those that enjoy driving.

The engine range complements the entertaining handling, with decent performance from all engines, apart from the sluggish entry-level 1.6-litre petrol. Particular highlights include the 123bhp version of the 1.0-litre EcoBoost three-cylinder turbo petrol, which feels powerful and responsive despite being so small. A 0-62mph time of 11.3 seconds and top speed of 120mph isn’t anything to write home about, but there’s decent mid-range power for overtaking. The 1.5-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol is surprisingly quick, too, with the 148bhp model going from 0-62mph in around eight seconds.

In town, the Focus is relatively comfortable, although if you go for the larger 17 or 18-inch alloy wheels, the ride gets harsher, with bumps making their presence felt in the cabin. On the motorway, cars with six-speed gearboxes are quiet and refined, while five-speed models are less so. Only the entry-level 1.6 and 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrols get really noisy, however.

If you’re tempted by the sporty looks of the largest 18-inch wheels offered on the Focus, a word of warning: their larger size reduces the amount of steering lock available, so parking in tight spaces may take longer than you anticipate.

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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