What's the used Ford Focus hatchback like?
When the Ford Focus was first launched in 1998, it rapidly established itself as the family car of choice for keen drivers. It was practical and well equipped, too, and in combination with Ford’s reputation for building cars that are good value for money and generally reliable, it soon became a firm fixture in the UK best-sellers list.
And there it's remained ever since. Subsequent versions of the car have added a little weight and a dash more complexity but they have still managed to hold on to the sporty element.
This third-generation model, launched in 2011 and on-sale right up to 2018, is still considered a good car to drive, despite the increased competition from a number of excellent rivals in the family car class, but its efficiency and in-car tech are at levels that the earlier models couldn't hope to match.
Engines: It comes with a huge choice of engines, too. The petrol engine line-up starts with a 1.6-litre that has to be worked hard and isn’t particularly efficient. The 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost might sound like a small engine but it comes in either lively 99bhp or 123bhp versions and is in fact a capable and refined choice. There are also two 1.5-litre four-cylinder Ecoboost engines to choose from, both with more punch than the smaller engines but inevitably a greater thirst for fuel.
Among the diesel options, the 1.5 105 Econetic is remarkably economical, while the 118bhp 1.5 has more power and is a bit more efficient than the cheaper, older 1.6 diesel; the 2.0 TDCi 150 meanwhile is a satisfyingly swift performer and offers a good combination of speed and economy.
There have also been a couple of high-performance Ford Focus ST models, offered with a 182bhp 2.0-litre diesel or 247bhp 2.0 turbocharged petrol engine, both linked to manual gearboxes, and a super-sporting and much-lauded four-wheel-drive 345bhp 2.3-litre RS version, which was launched in 2016.
Trims and equipment: Trim levels have been equally generous. From launch, the Focus was available in Edge, Zetec, Titanium and top-spec Titanium X trim levels. Studio, Econetic (a fuel-saving model equivalent to Volkswagen’s Bluemotion), Style and Zetec S models were added at various later stages, as well as an electric model. Almost every Focus features air conditioning, alloy wheels, a USB port and Bluetooth, with the most popular trim, Zetec, offering a DAB radio and a heated windscreen.
Ride and handling: The steering is a particular Focus highlight, and this model retains a level of accuracy and response so often lacking from its rivals. It grips well and handles tidily, with more than a hint of fun, even if it's not quite as thrilling as the original Focus seemed in its day. What’s more, while the ride is not quite as comfortable as in the latest VW Golf, it isn't terribly far off, being comfortable and composed over urban ruts and potholes.
Interior and practicality: Inside, the driving position’s excellent, although thanks to its thick pillars visibility can be an issue. The interior quality is acceptable given the car’s reasonable price, but many of its rivals do feel more up-market still. Space up front is good, but it’s a little limited in the rear seats, with a large central tunnel robbing the rear passengers of some leg room; overall the Focus's main rivals do feel more spacious. It's the same story for the boot, which is of adequate dimensions, but smaller than most rivals now offer.
Facelift: It was also the recipient in 2014 of one of the car industry’s more dramatic mid-life facelifts in which the front and rear styling were significantly enhanced and the interior design went from a button-lover’s paradise to a more tech-savvy touchscreen. These cars are definitely worth seeking out when buying a used Focus.
If you're interested in buying a used Focus, or any of the other cars mentioned here, head over to our used car deals pages here.
What used Ford Focus hatchback will I get for my budget?
You certainly won’t be stuck for choice when it comes to finding a Ford Focus, but you will need at least £3000 if your heart is set on a third-generation model. For this kind of money, you’ll get a 1.6-litre TDCi diesel with plenty of miles on the clock. Petrol cars with a 1.6-litre engine cost from about £4000 – that price increase primarily because they won’t have covered nearly as many miles.
Increasing your budget to £5000 will get you into a 1.0-litre Ecoboost or a 1.6-litre TDCi with fewer than 60,000 miles on the clock, while facelifted (post-2014) cars cost from £6000. Spend around £6000 to £8000 on a good 2015 or 2016 model, and between £8000 and £10,000 on a 2017 or even one of the final 2018 cars.
The sporty ST model wasn’t introduced to the third-generation Focus until 2015, so don’t expect to find a used example for significantly less than £12,000, or an RS for less than £20,000.
Find a used Ford Focus for sale here
How much does it cost to run a Ford Focus hatchback?
Pre-facelift cars were at their most efficient as a 1.6-litre TDCi Econetic, from which you can expect 55mpg (the official claimed figure was actually more than 80mpg under the older NEDC tests), but it’s worth noting that non-Econetic models are vastly more common and almost as frugal in everyday driving.
Opt for a more powerful 2.0-litre diesel and fuel economy drops to about 50mpg in normal driving, with the optional Powershift automatic gearbox further denting that figure by as much as 5mpg.
Petrol engines range from a 1.0-litre through to a 1.6-litre either with or without a turbocharger (the former was intended to offer a more fuel efficient alternative to a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre). In everyday use you can expect between 35-45mpg from these engines, with the 1.0-litre being at the higher end of the scale, as well as being eligible for free road tax in its lowest power output guise. In fact, unless you opt for a 1.6-litre petrol Focus or one of the high-performance versions, you’re unlikely to need to pay more than £30 per year in tax (if your car was registered before April 2017).
The post-2014 facelift 1.5-litre engines resulted in improved economy in official tests, but in normal driving it's actually only the diesel that is more fuel efficient than its predecessor.
If your car was registered before the tax changes that came into effect from April 2017, road tax will be decided by CO2 emissions. Those registered after that date will be charged the current £180 per year – that's the same for all petrol and diesel cars. Find out more about current road tax costs here.
Insurance and servicing
Insurance groups are reasonable, and other running costs are also low, thanks to Ford offering competitive servicing prices and parts being in plentiful supply. Ford offers a number of different servicing plans for older cars, allowing payments by direct debit. Cars over three years of age will qualify for Ford’s Motorcraft servicing regime, under which an annual service at a Ford dealer will cost £149. You'll pay even less at an independent Ford specialist.
Which used Ford Focus hatchback should I buy?
The 1.0 Ecoboost 125 engine is sweet and smooth and more than punchy enough to push the Focus around. It’s not quite as economical as it appears on paper, but unless you do a lot of miles it’s the one we’d choose.
For us, the Zetec offers the sweetest spot between price and equipment, with all of the basics covered plus a DAB radio and a heated windscreen. Usefully, it’s also been by far the most popular Focus from new, ensuring a healthy supply of used examples.
What alternatives should I consider to a used Ford Focus hatchback?
While the Focus is your best bet in this class for driving thrills, a VW Golf remains the obvious choice for a more comfortable ride and a classier interior.
Your shortlist might also include the Skoda Octavia and Vauxhall Astra, which can be bought for less and in the Skoda’s case offers vastly more room, and nor should you overlook the Mazda 3. Like the Focus, the 3 is not the biggest car in this class, but offers a satisfying drive and has a good reliability record.