What's the used Ford Focus hatchback like?
Family cars have long been the staple of the used car market, and none more so than the Ford Focus, which has provided sensible, low-cost motoring to millions over the years while still being able to stand out from its rivals by being really nice to drive.
However, there's now a larger threat from the SUV market and competitors with ever more connected technology, which is why this fourth-generation Focus is the most practical iteration yet, comes with lots of extra technology and even offers an SUV-style Active trim.
One of the benefits of the Focus is that there are myriad engine options. If you mostly do urban driving, go for the surprisingly capable 1.0-litre turbo petrol, in either Ecoboost 99bhp or 123bhp guises. Need something with a bit more muscle? Take a look at the 1.5-litre petrol with either 148bhp or 180bhp in ST-Line X form, or the 276bhp 2.3-litre found in the Focus ST hot hatch. Or if you rack up a lot of miles, you should concentrate your search on either the 118bhp 1.5-litre or more brawny 148bhp 2.0-litre diesels. All models get a six-speed manual as standard, and everything other than the 99bhp 1.0 petrol can be had as an automatic.
Studio cars come without an infotainment touchscreen, but the others get an 8.0in system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Titanium adds automatic wipers, power-folding mirrors, sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control and passenger seat lumbar support.
ST-Line models get sports-inspired trim pieces and sports suspension, but it's the bigger wheels on ST-Line X that contribute to the fidgety ride. Titanium X versions come with a heated steering wheel and an electric driver’s seat, while Vignale cars are loaded up with leather seats, adaptive LED headlights, a Bang & Olufsen stereo and a head-up display.
All the on-road qualities of the previous Focus were carried over, including precise steering, a slick manual gearshift, a positive clutch action and taut body control. The two 1.0-litre Ecoboost engines are smooth and reasonably punchy, but if you regularly carry lots of people or simply want more oomph the more powerful 1.5 petrols are worth considering. The 1.5-litre (Ecoblue 120) represents the sweet spot of the diesel range, providing a good spread of shove once you get past some initial low-end turbo lag. The 2.0-litre version (Ecoblue 150) doesn't feel that much faster.
The only major departure from the previous Focus under the skin is that 1.5-litre diesel, 1.0-litre petrol and 1.5-litre petrol models have a less sophisticated rear suspension setup than the 2.0-litre diesel. This matters little apart from when you hit a mid-corner bump at speed, resulting in a less composed ride.
Space is plentiful in the new Focus in order to compete with the hugely practical Skoda Octavia. You’ll have little trouble loading a child’s pushchair in the boot or five carry-on suitcases. Rear leg room is very generous and a noticeable improvement on what went before, although three people across the bench will still be a tight squeeze. Driver and front passenger will have plenty of head and leg room, and there’s standard lumbar adjustment for the driver’s seat. You’ll need ST-Line X, Titanium, Titanium X or Vignale trim to also get this for the front passenger, though.
Perhaps the most disappointing part of the Focus is the interior design. Aside from being logically laid out, there isn’t the quality feel you might have hoped for in a car that in some cases costs a similar amount to the Audi A3 when new. There’s lots of cheap plastic on show, especially on the doors. ST-Line cars improve matters with sportier touches such as red stitching, metal pedals and a different gearknob, while Vignale models have wood grain trim.
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