We'd avoid the Focus's entry-level 1.6-litre petrol engine and go straight for the 99bhp 1.0-litre Ecoboost version, which is ideal around town. If you regularly venture onto the motorway, then a more powerful 123bhp version is also available. We'd avoid the two turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engines completely.
Of the diesel options, the 1.5 is the best bet – it has a bit more power and is more efficient than the fractionally cheaper (and older) 1.6 diesel, so it’s a no-brainer for company and private buyers. The 2.0 TDCi 150 is also satisfyingly swift. Bad news if you need an automatic gearbox, though, because Ford’s dual-clutch Powershift automatic gearbox is available on only the 1.6 petrol and 2.0-litre diesel models.
If you really want proper performance then the manual-only ST models - which come in 181bhp or 247bhp forms - are what you’re after.
Ford Focus ride comfort
Most Ford Focus models are well-damped, so take the sting out of big bumps and don’t thump too harshly even over mid-corner road imperfections. The car is mostly settled over scruffy town roads, too, although it can be a bit fidgety over bad surfaces, particularly when bigger alloys are fitted. We'd steer clear of ST-Line trim if you value comfort, as it brings firmer sports suspension that doesn’t help the ride quality.
Body control is good on all models, so there’s no untoward wallowing over undulations, but ultimately there are smoother-riding cars available, notably the VW Golf.
Ford Focus handling
Ford has a knack for producing sweet-handling cars, and it has done the business again with the Focus. Even on standard models, strong grip and solid body control make it feel wonderfully agile in bends, while the super-accurate steering weights up progressively the faster you go.
There is a niggle with that steering, though. While impressively precise, it’s so keen around the straight-ahead that you may find it feels overly aggressive as you turn in to fast corners, and it also returns to centre a little too hastily.
This is less of problem with ST-Line models, as the quick steering feels more in tune with the ‘warm’ hatch’s sharper chassis. Reasonable power outputs also mean that the front wheels are rarely overwhelmed.
Unfortunately, this cannot be said of the range-topping ST models. With 247bhp on tap, it’s all too easy to get the front wheels spinning in dry conditions. Combined with the overly sensitive steering, this can make the steering wheel writhe around as the wheels struggle to transfer the power to the road.
Ford Focus refinement
The Focus’s engines are generally all quite refined; the 1.0 and 1.5 Ecoboost petrol engines are particularly impressive in terms of how hushed they are, and they’re also the smoothest motors in the line-up. The 1.5 diesel is very good by class standards, too; in fact, it is only the 1.6 petrol that’s particularly coarse.
Suspension noise is also well suppressed in the Focus, but wind and road noise are more intrusive than they should be at higher speeds.
The shift of the manual gearbox is light and precise, although it is a bit notchy, and the clutch biting point on many models is a bit vague and can cause you to accidentally over-rev the engine when you pull away. The six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, called Powershift, is fairly slow-shifting and can be a bit dim-witted in hard driving.
This is a bigger engine than most other petrols in the Focus range, but the 1.6 doesn’t have a turbocharger, so it needs to be worked much harder through its five-speed manual gearbox. It scores poorly on refinement and it also emits more CO2 than the Ecoboost units, so we think it’s best avoided.
This is no more easy to recommend than the lower-powered 1.6; it still comes with a five-speed gearbox, and the Ecoboost petrol models are still going to be faster, more efficient, more refined and generally much more enjoyable to drive. Avoid.
This is the only engine apart from the 2.0-litre diesel that you can have with an automatic gearbox. Even so, there are much better options if you can live with a manual ’box.
1.0T Ecoboost 100
A great choice if you mostly cover urban miles. This turbocharged three-cylinder engine picks up keenly and smoothly, and the absence of a sixth gear isn’t a problem. It’s just a shame there’s no automatic gearbox available.
Our pick 1.0T Ecoboost 125
This is the best petrol engine in the range – punchy, quiet, free-revving, and a pleasure to use, whether on the motorway or in town. Just be aware that its real-world fuel economy figures are likely to be substantially off the figures you’ll see in the brochure.
1.5T Ecoboost 150
Entertainingly punchy, but a bit pricey and only worth the premium over the 1.0 Ecoboost if you’re want something that’s inching towards hot-hatch pace
1.5T Ecoboost 182
Very pricey, and disappointingly lacklustre; you have to rev it hard to get decent pace from it, and even then it’s not as fast as you might hope. So, while it’s quiet and smooth-revving, it’s not worth the extra over the lower powered 1.5 or 1.0-litre engines.
2.0 Ecoboost 250
The range-topping ST model, with mad-cap performance delivers the full fast-Ford experience. It’s a lovely, free-revving engine that suffers from noticeable surge as the turbo kicks in, but is still easy to drive smoothly. If you’re after a proper hot hatch and are willing to pay for it, this is worth a look.
1.6 TDCi 95
This is the most basic diesel in the Focus line-up, and it feels like it. The 1.6-litre unit is offered only with the relatively basic Style trim, and while it does at least get a six-speed manual gearbox, the engine itself is a clear generation behind the 1.5. We think it’s worth spending the extra few hundred quid to get the 1.5 TDCi 120, which is much smoother and more capable.
1.5 TDCi 95
This version of the 1.5 TDCi is offered only with the relatively basic Style trim. It’s certainly worth the tiny price premium that it commands over the older and less efficient 1.6, not least because it dips under the magic 100g/km mark of CO2 emissions. We’d try to find the extra cash to get the 1.5 TDCi 120, though.
1.6 TDCi 115
Confusingly, this 1.6 diesel is fractionally cheaper and slightly less powerful than the 1.5 diesel, because it’s the older and slightly less efficient engine. This makes it more expensive for company car buyers who make up a huge portion of the Focus’s target audience. Given the small price difference between the two, the smoother-revving, more efficient and more refined 1.5 is the better bet for private and business motorists.
1.5 TDCi 120
The best diesel in the range, and the pick of the line-up if you’re a company car chooser obsessed with CO2 emissions and BIK rates. The 1.5 TDCi is fast enough to offer good overtaking potential within reason, and it’ll pull cleanly from low revs. It makes the extra cost of the 2.0 TDCi hard to justify.
2.0 TDCi 150
This 2.0 diesel has strong performance that makes fast-paced progress seem easy, and it’s happy to sit in a high gear around town without feeling choked. It’s only worth the extra cash over the 1.5 if you really value punchy acceleration, though.
2.0 TDCi 184
Available only in the ST hot-hatch model, this hot diesel makes the otherwise fairly innocuous Focus into something remarkably entertaining. However, extracting this sort of power from a diesel has meant some compromises, so there’s a big surge of power as the turbo kicks in, making the car prone to spinning its front wheels. It’s great fun, but is harder to drive smoothly than lesser diesel Focuses.