1.5TDCI (EcoBlue) ST-LINE X 5DR 120PS AUTO 8S
I remember driving the first Ford Focus after it replaced the Escort in 1998 & really liking it. Back then, it was good looking, offered more space, a great range of engines & was a vast improvement on the Escorts that came before. Subsequent models were introduced in 2004 & 2011 & although both were big sellers & drove well, neither of these models were as great as the first.
Fast forward to 2018 & Ford launched the fourth generation Focus & from it’s looks alone, it’s clear that Ford’s designer’s have tipped their hat to the Mk 1. This is a good looking five-door family hatchback & thanks to the all-new chassis architecture, which increase’s the car’s wheelbase, the Mk3’s poor rear cabin space has been addressed. Back in 1998, the Focus was mostly competing with the Golf & Astra but in 2018, the sector has been squeezed with the like’s of the KIA Ceed, Hyundai i30 &Peugeot 308 all offering something different.
The latest Focus is being offered as a five-door hatchback & an estate, with each version available with something called Active, which offers both with a raised body height to give a kind of SUV look
The engine line-up comprises 1.0 & 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol motors & 1.5 & 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesels. All manual-gearbox cars get a six-speed transmission, while a new torque-converter eight-speed automatic is available on the EcoBoost 125 & 150 petrols & the EcoBlue 120 & 150 diesels.
The range comes in a number of trims; There’s entry level Style, then Zetec, ST-Line, ST-Line X, Titanium, Titanium X & Vignale. All versions bar Style, get at least a 6.5″ display with Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system, which includes Android Auto & Apple CarPlay.
Running through each model, Style offers a DAB radio, 16″ alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, automatic headlights, electric windows all round, remote central locking & air conditioning.
Zetec brings Ford’s Quickclear heated windscreen, cruise control, SYNC3 & leather trim on the steering wheel & armrest.
ST-Line has 17″ alloys, a keyless start button, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, sportier front & rear bumpers & alloy pedals.
ST-Line X increases the SYNC 3 screen size to 8″, offers 18″ wheels, rain-sensing wipers, electric adjustment on the driver’s seat, privacy glass, front & rear parking sensors & an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
Titanium is specced to offer a non-sporty equipment list & comes with 16″ alloys, dual-zone climate control & powered folding door mirrors with puddle lights.
Range-topping Vignale features 18″ wheels, LED headlights, a head-up display, a heated steering wheel, full leather seat trim & a Bang & Olufsen stereo with active noise cancellation. The Focus Vignale offer’s the same ‘special Ford relationship’ as the other models with that trim level.
The Focus gets a couple of different suspension configurations. Opt for the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol or the 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel & you’ll get a twist-beam rear suspension. Choose the 1.5 petrol or the 2.0 diesel & you’ll get a multi-link set-up. Picking ST-Line or ST-Line X lowers the set-up by 10mm regardless of what the layout is at the back.
Ford supplied us with the 1.5TDCI EcoBlue ST-LINE X 5DR 120PS AUTO 8S. This model reaches a top speed of 120mph & will hit 60mph from a standing start in 10 seconds. Standard equipment includes ABS, electronic traction control, brake assist system, energy recuperation engine, stability control system, front & rear radar parking distance sensors, automatic air con with two climate control zones, cruise control, alloy & leather multi-function steering wheel with tilt adjustment and telescopic adjustment, SatNav with colour, 8.0″ touch screen, 3D & voice, maps updated via internet & traffic information 20.3 & Bluetooth which includes phone connection & music streaming.
The cabin itself is a step up from anything Ford has had in this sector before. There’s soft touch plastics on the top of the dash, padding on the doors, lined door pockets & storage areas with just a hint of cheaper harder plastics on the centre console between the front seats.
The on-board tech works well with Ford’s SYNC 3 system one of the easiest out there to grasp. Android Auto & Apple CarPlay are available & with my i-Phone I connected vis USB to CarPlay to wind way the miles listening to my podcasts & to utilise Google Maps.
Cabin space is excellent. Ford has extended the wheelbase over the previous model by more than five centimetres & this is really noticeable in the rear, with plenty of leg & head room for taller passengers & even more space for the third rear occupant in the middle rear seat, as there’s no transmission tunnel. The Focus is also 12cm longer than a VW Golf & it’s wider than the Golf & Astra as well.
Our test car came fitted with Ford’s optional door protectors, which extend around the edge of the door as you open it, protecting the metal from scrapes against walls & other cars. When you close the doors, you’ll soon get use to the click that these make.
The boot offers up 375 litres of space with the rear seats in place. Fold the back row down & this goes up to a really useful 1,354 litres, which is more than in the Golf & something I utilised with our 2018 Xmas tree.
All previous Ford Focus models have been good to drive & the Mk4 is no different. Whilst our 8-speed auto box allowed for lazy driving, it did enable us to enjoy the ride, with the electrically powered set-up a shining light. On B-roads & the like, the Focus handles brilliantly, throwing done the gauntlet for the opposition. It’s much more engaging than the Golf & the latest Ceed & even beats the fun to drive Peugeot 308 for driving enjoyment.
The 120PS EcoBlue 1.5 8-speed auto box works well & offers a claimed combined fuel economy of 64mpg & CO2 emissions of 115g/km, both respectable. Our real-world driving saw us average only 35.9mpg around town & 48.7mpg on the motorway, some way shy of the official figures. We think that the auto box was the main cause.
For frugality, the manual 1.0 litre petrol Ecoboost works much better in town & over short distances, than the diesel auto, but if you do motorway miles, stay clear of the smaller underpowered 84bhp version & go for the 99bhp or 123bhp versions which shine on the motorway as well. Alternatively, look at the manual 120bhp diesel.
In a shrinking sector, Ford need the Focus to sell well & after a week in the latest version, I can see no reason why it won’t. As customers can’t get enough of SUV’s of all sizes, any new C-Sector competitor needs to offer buyers more practicality than ever before & this is exactly what the Focus does. Ford have combined increased cabin space with a high quality interior, up to date on board safety & tech, without losing the Focus’s drivability, which is well ahead of what you’ll find in a similar sized crossover, such as our Small Car of the Year for 2019, the VW T-Roc. Whilst the Golf may offer better quality, the Focus packs a driving punch across the range, that the Volkswagen can’t match.
If you want a family car that’s fun to drive, practical & comes well equipped the Focus will tick your box. 4.25/5