2018 Ford Focus review – price, specs and release date
The all-new 2018 Ford Focus brings a host of new tech, a roomier interior and upgraded quality. Plus, Ford is promising that it will be the best handling family hatchback yet. We drive it for the...
Priced from £17,930 Release date September
Thinking back to our school days, most of us can recall at least one teacher pointing out calmly – or perhaps loudly and irritably, depending on their mood and your waywardness spectrum – that “you must focus if you want to succeed”. Well, modify that mantra mildly and it’s apt for Ford; it has ‘gotta’ Focus, which by crikey it needs to succeed.
More than 16 million examples of the Ford Focus have been sold worldwide since the car first went on sale in 1998. But while the outgoing version still rode and handled well, it had fallen well off the pace in most other areas. Technically, it was about as cutting edge as Atari Pong; in places the interior felt as cheap as a pack of Poundland pens; and only those with a fondness for potholing would find its back seats spacious.
Welcome, then, to the all-new fourth-generation Focus, which seeks to correct all those iffy bits while further enhancing that dynamic sparkle. How? Well, for a start it’s now available with up-to-date technologies, including adaptive LED headlights, a head-up display and adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous steering control.
Next, adding 50mm between the front and rear axles has increased interior space, especially in the rear. And yet the exterior dimensions remain roughly the same, so it should be as easy as ever to park.
And then there's the reworked rear suspension, with lower-powered versions making do with a comparatively basic setup, but pokier models getting an upgraded version of the old car's sophisticated, fully independent arrangement. The aim was to enhance both ride and handling, and for the first time in a Focus you can even add adaptive dampers that let you adjust the firmness of the suspension.
2018 Ford Focus on the road
You can order a new Focus today and expect delivery in September, and right from the off you’ll have a choice of 1.0 and 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engines, or four-cylinder 1.5 or 2.0-litre diesels.
The 1.0 is offered in three power outputs ranging from 84bhp to 123bhp, while the new 1.5 petrol comes with 148bhp or 180bhp. All versions include efficiency enhancing cylinder deactivation; this shuts down one cylinder when you’re gently cruising, and means the expected biggest-selling 123bhp 1.0 (badged Ecoboost 125) manages 58.9mpg and 108g/km of CO2 in official tests.
Diesels are still expected to figure highly for fleet users, and the 1.5 comes with 94bhp or 118bhp, while the 2.0 diesel boosts that to 148bhp. Those interested in hybrid models will have to wait, but these are in the pipeline.
This all sounds impressive enough, but what’s the new Focus like to drive? Well, if you’ll excuse the pun, we focused on the 1.0 Ecoboost 125 petrol with a six-speed manual gearbox (although an eight-speed automatic is also available). Accelerate flat out through those gears and the engine still isn’t frisky enough to wake your adrenal glands, but officially it’ll crack 0-62mph in 10.0sec, which is on par with a Skoda Octavia 1.0 TSI.
It also stays pretty smooth when revved and is flexible when required; certainly enough to pull you from 30mph to motorway speeds with relative ease. Only when the revs drop below 2000rpm does it feel really lacking and force you to grab a lower gear.
That’s just dandy, though, because it means you get to enjoy one of the sweetest gear changes in the class. Even a mechanical philistine would be turned by its effortless precision, and that’s supplemented by a light clutch and, while we’re at it, precise brakes.
Ford makes big claims about the effort it has gone to in making this car quiet at speed, and judging by our drive the lack of road noise is impressive, even in a class featuring the cultured Volkswagen Golf. And although you hear the flutter of wind noise from around its door mirrors, the Focus is always a lot quieter than an Octavia.
Which dovetails rather nicely with its generally calm and cosseting ride. This 1.0-litre uses the less sophisticated suspension layout, yet while you feel the odd thud over really vicious ruts and a slight shimmy on corrugated surfaces, we didn’t notice anything that would really get your gander up. Most of the time it’s simply supple and controlled, which bodes well for the more sophisticated versions.
Boy does the Focus handle, too. Again, this being the less sophisticated suspension layout means it should only get better if you venture further up the range, but along roads strewn with all sorts of challenging cambers, contours and crests, it simply flowed with balletic balance. Add in steering that is light in town, yet faithful and meaty enough for you to glide the Focus accurately down meandering roads, and it's the driver’s choice above all else in the class.
2018 Ford Focus interior
Let’s start with the driving position: it’s spot on. Loads of steering wheel height and reach adjustment lets you pick a position that’ll fit, no matter what your proportions, and the supportive seats come with lumbar support on every trim.
We love the uncluttered dashboard layout and the orderly instruments. In fact, these are so easy to read it makes the optional head-up display a welcome addition, but not absolutely necessary.
For perceived quality, it knocks spots off the old Focus. Most of the key touch points are suitably soft and squidgy; there are faux chrome, wood or carbon-fibre highlights to spice up the look on more exulted versions; and even carpeted door bins. That said, the plastics lower down still look suspect, and the Golf remains the more premium-feeling product.
It's no longer more practical, though. This new Focus has enough head and leg room, front and rear, for four tall adults to fit in easily; and the low central tunnel and good under-seat foot space are particularly welcome if you’re sat in the rear. It's only the central rear seat that's less than welcoming, with head room here a bit tight.
As for boot space, it's a similar story, with the Focus now on a par with a Golf and able to swallow several suitcases or a buggy. However, it still can’t hold a candle to the cavernous Octavia in this area. That’s whether you’re looking at the five-door hatchback or the estate, but you do get 60/40 split-folding rear seats which lie completely flat to provide a level extended load bay right up to the front seats.
There are seven trims to choose from, and many have actually gone down in price relative to the old car. The range kicks off at £17,930 for the Style, which is about the same as an entry-level Octavia and cheaper than any five-door Golf. It gets some decent kit, too, including 16in alloy wheels, air-con, a DAB radio, automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assist.
But the biggest sellers will be the Zetec and ST-Line trims. Both feature a 6.5in touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, while ST-Line also adds 17in alloys, lowered sports suspension and impressively aggressive styling.
Then at the zenith is the Vignale, topping out at £30,340. This is the first time Ford’s premium sub-brand has been seen on the Focus and, as with other Vignale products, you get more luxuries including leather trim and a 10-speaker, B&O Play sound system. Oh, yes, and your own VIP liaison, for some one-to-one attention.
By 2019 you’ll also be able to order an Active version that, like the recently introduced Fiesta Active, adds an SUV flavour with black plastic wheel arches and a 30mm-higher ride height.