Ford played safe. Some might say they ‘bottled it’ with the styling of the last Focus, but the new one puts some punch back into its looks. So, do its driving manners match its newly energised exterior? Sue Baker took the 1.8 TDCi on a gallop across Sussex to deliver her verdict
You have to be a bit of an anorak to instantly notice the difference between the previous Ford Focus and this new one. At first glance the two models look confusingly similar, but when you stand them side by side, the subtle changes become apparent. Every body panel, except for the roof, has changed and been given a bit more curve and visual meat. It is as if the Focus has shed a sedentary lifestyle, gone to the gym and acquired a few rippling muscles.
There wasn’t much wrong with the previous model, apart from its slightly bland styling. Dynamically it has been the benchmark among cars its size. But as part of a general freshening up to keep the Focus ahead of the pack, there are lots of small changes that all add up to a much improved package. The driving position has been modified to lower it slightly. Not by much, there’s just 10mm extra downward travel, but enough to make you feel more tucked down and part of the car. A useful new option available with the Titanium spec, though not on our Zetec specified test car, is adjustable pedals. Combine those with the two-way adjustable steering wheel and multiple adjustment on the driving seat, and a just-aboutperfect seating position is achievable for any size of driver, from exceptionally small to unusually tall. Even without that option, Ford’s engineers have sought to stretch the parameters of driving comfort with the Focus. Most other models are designed to fit a range of drivers from 5th to 95th percentile – in other words, covering 90 per cent of the population other than the tiniest five per cent of women and largest five per cent among men. In the new Focus, unusually, the coverage is 95 per cent, from 2.5 to 97.5 percentile.
There is a high quality feel to the cabin, with instruments that mimic the style of those on an upmarket motorcycle, and a strongly driver-orientated cockpit feel. Even the now ubiquitous faux-aluminium plastic trim that adorns so many recent car interiors is nicely done in the new Focus, in a darkish shade that enhances rather than cheapens the decor.
The test car was a mid-range Zetec spec model, which features electric front windows, manual air conditioning, body coloured rear spoiler and door handles, Quickclear heated front windscreen, front fog lamps and a leather steering wheel. It also had the Sport Pack (£500) that upgrades the alloy wheels to 17-inch and adds privacy glass, as well as the option of red seats.
The engine in this car is the familiar 1.8 litre TDCi Duratorq unit, built at Dagenham in Essex, and carried over from the previous Focus. Its power output is a decent 113bhp, and it’s mated with a five-speed manual gearbox. This does a very adequate job, but delivers fuel consumption only 2 mpg better than a two-litre TDCi powered model, because that comes with a six-speed box that optimises motorway cruising economy. With its 1.8 engine delivering 207lb ft of torque, the Focus is a more than adequate performer with a long-legged feel that makes it a very satisfying drive. Dynamically, it is still at the very top of its class. Steering feel is pretty good, and the brakes are progressive with a good firm bite when you need to step hard on the pedal.
The engine revs freely round to the red line at around 4,500rpm, and if you’re a bit slow on upchanges, there’s a little red arrow that lights in the middle of the dial as a polite reminder. At a gallop, the engine sounds pleasant enough and is not unduly noisy. It’s a bit disappointing, though, in the low rev ranges, with a distinct diesel-y rattle that cuts through the car’s general refinement. In that respect, the larger 2.0 TDCi engine, sourced as part of the PSA/Ford joint venture, is an altogether smoother and more refined choice. In its latest guise, the Focus is still the model to be reckoned with. Overall you feel that Ford’s updating of the Focus has kept the car at the top of its game, still the benchmark model in the most fiercely contested arena of the car market. Now with refreshed styling – it looks as good as it drives.
On Sale: Now // Price from: £16,795
- Price: £16,795
- Engine: 1753cc, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 5-speed manual
- Max Power: 113bhp at 3,700rpm
- Max Torque: 207lb ft at 1,900rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 1,500kg
- Combined Consumption: 54.2mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 137g/km (C)
- 0-62mph: 10.8secs
- Max speed: 118mph
- Insurance group: 10
Gutsy performance and great handling in a car that now looks much more the part to match its class-leading driving dynamics. Classie interior
Slightly unrefined engine note in the lower rev ranges, with a bit of that old-fashioned clatter we’d rather not hear in a modern diesel