Ford Fiesta vs Ford Focus

  • Ford Fiesta and Ford Focus compared
  • We rate them in every area
  • Best versions named – and the ones to avoid
Words ByJohn McIlroy

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The Ford Fiesta and Ford Focus are two of Britain's favourite cars; they've pleased thousands of buyers by offering everyday practicality and an enjoyable drive.

Both cars are among the best options in their class, going neck and neck with the VW Polo and VW Golf. However, what if you're choosing between the two Fords? Here we tell you everything you need to know.

What are the Fiesta and Focus like to drive?
The Ford Fiesta changes direction with an immediacy that no other supermini can match – and if anything, it even has the edge over the Focus in this area. That's not to say the larger car is slow to react – it's a little bit more agile than a Golf, after all – but its extra size and weight do mean that it doesn't feel quite as nimble as its baby brother.

Nor, it must be said, does the Focus's extra size mean that it rides better. The suspension set-up on both of these models is a well-judged blend between body control and ride quality; you won't be uncomfortable in either of them, and they both hang on impressively if you try to corner at speed. However, the latest Fiesta really does take advantage of its weight advantage to offer an extra degree of sophistication and suppleness when you're cruising along; only the very worst potholes and bumps will intrude into its cabin.

The Fiesta and Focus share several engines, including the best petrol option in both cars, a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder unit called Ecoboost. It's available with two power outputs in both cars – 99bhp and 123bhp. The Fiesta is fine with the more modest option and actually pretty rapid with the more powerful unit, but the larger Focus feels more comfortable on motorways with 123bhp instead of 99bhp.

The best diesel options in the Focus are the 1.6-litre engines; the 113bhp version offers a good blend of pace and price. There are two 2.0-litre diesels too, and both feel impressively strong – but it's hard to justify the extra cost for the 161bhp model.

The Fiesta makes do with a 94bhp 1.6-litre diesel that's fairly clattery in the smaller car – although a more modern, 1.5-litre unit with 74bhp is imminent.

Regardless of which fuel is being used in the engine, the Focus's extra size has allowed for a little more noise insulation, so its motors are definitely less intrusive.

Can I get an automatic Fiesta or Focus?
Ford's automatic gearbox is actually a slick six-speed dual-clutch unit that behaves like an auto. On the Focus it's paired with a 1.6-litre petrol engine or both versions of the car's 2.0-litre diesel.

The Fiesta's options are even more limited. It doesn't offer Powershift with any diesels; your only option here is the 1.6 petrol.

What are the Fiesta and Focus like inside?
Most of the Fiesta's dashboard materials are reasonably plush, although most models get plain black plastic door handles, which look and feel cheap, and the finish lower down the dashboard (and on the rear door linings) has a low-rent feel.

Nor is the Fiesta particularly generous with standard kit; entry-level Studio models are downright Spartan, while the next trim up, Edge, gets air-con, remote central locking and front electric windows.

The Focus's dashboard design is a little more modern (its central buttons are themed, like the Fiesta's, on a mobile phone layout) but it doesn't feel any more premium. Indeed, some of the plastics on the centre fascia and central partition are harder and less plush – and by the time you reach the footwells or boot, they look downright cheap. The infotainment controls on both cars change if you switch to the higher-end Titanium trim – but while the posher Sony set-up does look a little smarter, it’s quite tricky to use.

The Fiesta is available as a three- or a five-door, and access to the rear is much more tricky without the extra openings. The five-door version feels roomy enough in the back, though. It only really loses out to the Focus if you're trying to transport three adults, at which point shoulder-room could become an issue.

Both cars have enough boot space to cope with a weekly shop, or the kind of luggage a couple of adults might take on a weekend break. The Fiesta's boot is 276 litres, and that will expand to 960 litres if you lower the standard 60/40 split rear seat. The Focus's standard capacity is not that much bigger, at 316 litres, but it can expand to 1101 litres if you fold down its split rear seats.

In everyday use that means that the Focus is a better bet if you need luggage space for more than two people, or the capacity for a folded pram or pushchair.

Which one should I buy?
The best Ford Fiesta to buy is the 1.0 100 Ecobost Zetec Stop/Start 5dr. This 99bhp model has plenty of performance and excellent refinement, and Zetec trim brings you air-con, remote central locking, front electric windows and alloy wheels.

Our favourite Focus is the 1.0 Ecoboost 125 Zetec, which mixes strong, refined petrol performance with a reasonably generous standard equipment list (you'll get air-con, Bluetooth, DAB radio and a heated windscreen).

Your choice between the two models should really come down to a need for space, because if you pick the right Fiesta then you're not getting a car that's any worse to drive (in fact, it might just be a little better), and you will save a tidy sum of money. If you can cope with its boot size and a slightly smaller rear cabin, then Ford's supermini should really be all you need.

If your requirements include space for a child and their assorted clutter, though, then the Focus's slightly larger boot may justify its higher purchase price and running costs.

Just be sure to check the What Car? Target Price and go prepared to haggle for a better deal; Ford's list prices look a little high, but sizeable discounts are available on both cars.

Read the full Ford Fiesta review >>

Read the full Ford Focus review >>