There was a time when the Ford Focus was a comfortably simple selection within the mainstream household hatchback market. All it needed to do was fend off the Vauxhall Astra on dealing with and undercut the Volkswagen Golf on worth and, properly, the gross sales saved on rolling in; Ford has shifted greater than two million Focuses within the UK over the previous 20 years.
However not too long ago, Ford’s star automotive has been feeling the squeeze. The Golf is extra inexpensive than ever (and no much less good), whereas the Astra has been remodeled because it shed a number of kilos. Greater than ever, the likes of Kia and Hyundai are snapping on the heels of the Give attention to practicality, inside end and value of possession, too. Heck, even the forthcoming Toyota Auris appears good.
So Ford actually has pulled out all of the stops for the fourth era of Focus, pushed right here for the primary time forward of first deliveries in September. The automotive sits on an all-new platform, referred to as C2, and plenty of variations function unbiased rear suspension and the choice of repeatedly variable damping.
The engine line-up is maybe essentially the most acquainted little bit of the package deal. There’s the 1.Zero-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost petrol in three states of tune – 84bhp, 99bhp and 123bhp – with CO2 emissions as little as 108g/km. In order for you extra poke out of your petrol then there’s the three-cylinder 1.5-litre EcoBoost, with 148bhp or 180bhp.
Ford is pushing forward with diesel, too, so the Focus will get a variety of recent EcoBlue engines: 1.5-litre models with 94bhp or 118bhp, and a 2.Zero with 148bhp. The usual gearbox is a six-speed guide however you possibly can have a brand new eight-speed automated (full with a Jaguar-style rotary gear selector) on the 123bhp 1.Zero and 148bhp 1.5 petrols, together with the 118bhp 1.5 and a pair of.Zero diesels. A gentle hybrid powertrain is within the pipeline too, by the way, nevertheless it gained’t attain market till 2020.
The vary begins with a Fashion version at a smidgen below £18,000 – considerably decreasing the Focus’s entry worth level, albeit with out a lot in the way in which of infotainment past a DAB radio. To get higher connectivity you’ll have to step as much as mainstream Zetec, which is adopted within the line-up by sport-focused ST-Line and ST-Line X, and the extra luxurious Titanium, Titanium X and Vignale. There’s an Property, naturally, and there may also be a jacked-up pseudo-SUV referred to as the Focus Energetic, though we’ll have to attend a number of extra months earlier than we get an opportunity to attempt it.
The common five-door’s styling is clearly an evolution of what’s gone earlier than – notably across the entrance finish, which appears very very similar to the Fiesta’s large brother (because it ought to, you possibly can argue). However look down the flanks and the transformation rapidly turns into obvious; there are 53 further millimetres within the Focus’s wheelbase, in a transparent bid to enhance one of many Mk3’s greatest drawbacks: restricted rear cabin area.
The view from behind the wheel has a definite whiff of ‘newest Fiesta’ about it – however that’s not essentially a foul factor. All however Fashion editions get a SYNC three infotainment system, full with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Its accessed both by means of a 6.5-inch touchscreen on Zetec and ST-Line fashions or an eight-inch show on ST-Line X, Titanium, Titanium X and Vignale. The bigger show was current on the vehicles we examined, mounted excessive up in entrance of the facia; it’s crisp, clear and blessed with a robust processor for speedy jumps between capabilities.
The remainder of the sprint is a mix of soft-touch and higher-quality metallic-finish supplies up excessive the place you’re more likely to contact them, and tougher, textured plastics down low the place you’re not. It’s sufficient to get the Focus proper again into the sport on inside high quality – although even now, it nonetheless doesn’t actually look any smarter than a mid-spec Golf.
Along with extending the wheelbase, Ford’s engineers have additionally pushed the dashboard as far forwards as potential, serving to to ship extra space for passengers within the entrance and extra knee and shoulder room for these within the again. There’s a flat ground, too, so anybody restricted to the center spot within the second row shouldn’t have an issue inserting their toes. It’s actually an enormous enchancment on what’s gone earlier than – to the purpose the place it feels proper up there with the most effective in school for rear lodging. 4 six-footers might journey in actual consolation on this automotive.
There must be nearly sufficient baggage area on provide to them, too. At 375 litres, the capability is simply a few decent-sized cartons of milk off the present Golf’s and somewhat bit additional behind the newest Kia Ceed’s, nevertheless it’s most likely ample to deal with most on a regular basis wants. There’s a little bit of a lip to load heavier objects over, thoughts.
Ford is piling on the protection equipment – eager, little doubt, to nail a five-star EuroNCAP ranking for this most ubiquitous of household transport. You’ll be capable to order Co-Pilot360, which brings adaptive cruise management with cease & go, visitors signal recognition and lane centring. Different equipment on provide contains evasive steering help, blind spot monitoring with cross visitors alert, inflatable seatbelts and pre-collision help with pedestrian and bicycle owner detection.
The massive query the Focus has to reply is whether or not its agility and dealing with have been compromised by the expansion in wheelbase. And the reply, fortunately, is not any; fairly the other, in actual fact. We spent most time within the 123bhp EcoBoost, which will get a twist-beam rear suspension configuration as a substitute of the extra refined multi-link association that options on the 1.5 petrol and a pair of.Zero diesel.
Begin your journey on the town, as so many people do, and also you’ll discover the Focus fast to reply whenever you flip the wheel to chop by means of visitors. However this doesn’t imply it’s nervous at velocity; there’s nearly sufficient play off centre for the automotive to stay composed on motorways. It’s snug, too, the first and secondary rides working properly collectively to melt all however the very sharpest of jolts from the highway beneath.
And then you definitely discover a twistier little bit of highway, and the Focus trots out its celebration piece. As a result of it’s right here that the automotive actually stands out from the pack – and, fact be instructed, its rapid predecessor. Don’t count on the steering to talk away to you on a regular basis, however the electrically powered set-up goes down as top-of-the-line we’ve skilled in a household hatch.
Suffice to say, you’ll in a short time be taught to lean on the Focus’s entrance finish.
In fact, none of this front-end chunk would matter if the remainder of the package deal felt prefer it had been being dragged, kicking and screaming, by means of speedy modifications of path. But it surely doesn’t. There’s the faintest, fleeting feeling of weight switch, nevertheless it passes so rapidly that it’s unlikely to ever be a difficulty. On the best highway it’s extra enjoyable than a household automotive has any proper to be.
Step as much as a 1.5-litre ST Line on the dearer suspension (it is also lowered by 10mm) and there isn’t a large leap ahead by way of agility; that’s testomony to the common set-up, greater than it’s any specific criticism of the multi-link association. You do really feel the additional complexity whenever you begin making an attempt to vary path rapidly over poorer surfaces; the quicker Focus stays simply that little bit extra composed than its much less highly effective stablemate. However on this expertise, we actually wouldn’t select the 1.5 over the 1.Zero simply to get the totally different chassis set-up.
The caveat right here is that Ford’s launch happened in southern France, the place the roads are usually a bit smoother and quieter than these within the UK. However must you take a check drive out of your native seller (you all the time ought to), and head in direction of the roads that your native council has lengthy since forgotten about repairing, we’d be very shocked if the Focus had been to be discovered wanting. It’s an especially achieved bit of labor, whether or not you’re after agility or consolation.
The best-powered 1.Zero has greater than sufficient to make a Fiesta really feel fast, nevertheless it’s coping with an altogether larger automobile right here. It’ll be effective for many, and when you’re in control any three-cylinder grumbles from the engine fade away, making it a wonderful cruiser.
The 1.5 is quicker than the 1.Zero, in fact – not simply due to the headline energy and torque figures, but additionally due to how this further shove and grunt are delivered. There’s a wider band, so whereas the 123bhp 1.Zero is happiest from about 2,250rpm onwards, the 180bhp 1.5 will pull strongly from lower than 2,000rpm. It’s quick and enjoyable sufficient to rely as a heat hatch, we’d argue – though Ford has but to verify any pricing particulars for this mixture within the UK.