June Neary tries out the latest version of Britain's best seller, Ford's Focus
The Ford Focus has always been regarded as a sensible set of wheels, with the added bonus of being rather good to drive. You'd certainly know that Ford's latest Focus is, well, a Focus. The styling is a further development of the MK3 model that's been on sale here since 2011, a car that I've always liked. This latest evolution has sharpened the whole package visually. The swooping, coupe-style looks help it stand out from the crowd. Ford says the design makes the car look as if it's moving, even when it's standing still. Judge for yourself, but I think it's clear that while this is a volume product, it's far from bland and an even more interesting car to look than the outgoing model. As before, there's a bodystyle choice between three and five-door hatchback models, plus a smart estate. In all, it's a package that has the looks and the features to suit me.
Will It Suit Me?
I remember the original Focus as suiting drivers of all sizes with wider opening doors and more headroom than the class norm. The latest model expands on this theme, offering an optional electrically adjustable pedal set. The multi-adjustable steering column helps in ensuring a comfortable driving position and Ford have integrated a number of practical aspects from the C-MAX mini-MPV including a glove box big enough to house a 1.5-litre bottle, a sunglasses holder, a dash-top cubby and class-leading luggage space.
The elephant in the room when it comes to the Focus is always its bootspace. You get around 300-litres, which is significantly less than some competitors. Ford couldn't correct that here because this updated model is just that - merely an update. Fortunately, most potential owners don't seem to mind and I certainly had no issues during the families duties undertaken in my time with the car. Buggies, shopping and one expensive IKEA trip all were dealt with in untroubled fashion. For the flat-pack stuff, I had to fold the rear bench, which freed up a 1,062-litre space. For passengers, the curved rear roofline suggests that headroom might be a little compromised in the rear where you sit high-ishly positioned for a good view of the road ahead. In fact though, the extra length and a longer wheelbase of this design have enabled the designers to pull a rabbit out of the hat and create perfectly acceptable levels of head and legroom, even for taller folk. Provided, of course, there are only two of them. As usual in this class of car, three large adults are going to need to be very friendly to share rear seat space together. When it comes to gadgets, I just can't get enough of them. After all, they really do increase the 'feel good factor' when you spend so much of your day behind the wheel. The plush variant I tested had features such as torque vectoring, a heated windscreen, keyless start, hill start assist, a premium Sony stereo, 17-inch alloys, active park assist, bi-xenon lamps and heated half-leather seats. Some of the options offered on the Focus are the sort of thing only seen on flagship supersaloons not so long ago. The park assist system, which guides you into a parking space, is one and then there are five systems that use a set of inbuilt cameras. These comprise Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Aid, Driver Alert, Traffic Sign Recognition and Auto High Beam.
Behind the Wheel
Behind the wheel, the quality really is impressive. The tall, narrow air vents are a particularly striking feature of a facia that doesn't just give the impression of wrapping round the driver but has the soft-touch tactility that once set the German competition apart. It really is a world removed from the interior of the previous Focus. It all helps to create the illusion of being in a more expensive car, a feeling enhanced by trim levels that can include a full leather interior. With this revised model, the interior has been given a serious once-over. The fascia design is more intuitive, the previous button-strewn centre stack and steering wheel being tidied up considerably. The black satin trim and chrome detailing contribute to a cleaner aesthetic too. Many of the controls are now marshalled by the SYNC 2 high-resolution, 8-inch colour touch screen system. This includes voice control for 'easier' access to audio, navigation, climate control and compatible mobile phones. We'll reserve judgment on that one. One thing that's undoubtedly an improvement is practicality. The centre storage console offers more space as well as a new sliding, integrated armrest, accommodating a variety of bottles and cups with the capacity to simultaneously hold a litre water bottle and a 400ml cup. The engine range has also been revised. The Focus petrol engine line-up now largely hinges around an efficient 1.5-litre EcoBoost unit available in either 150 or 180PS outputs. Buyers can though, continue to opt for the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol powerplant in 100 and 120PS guises that was chosen by a third of customers in the pre-facelift model - and a sub-100g/km version has also been developed. Diesel drivers are catered for with a 1.5-litre TDCi powerplant available in 95 or 120PS outputs. The hot ST version should build on the brilliance of its junior sibling, the livewire Fiesta ST.
Value For Money
Prices start at around £14,000 with a trim line-up starting with 'Studio', then ranging up through 'Style' and 'Zetec' to 'Zetec S'. 'Titanium' and 'Titanium X'. Whatever your budget, you'll find the Focus cheap to run: there are major components throughout the vehicle, which are designed to require minimal or even no maintenance.
Could I Live With One?
If I needed reminding just how good the Focus still is, this improved third generation model does just that. The smart styling is attractive and distinctive and the cabin now feels a more appealing place to be. There's no doubt the new Focus is brilliantly adapted to the cut and thrust of daily life.