The judges agreed that £8000 would buy the sort of quality used hatchback that lies in many family’s sights. The good news is that this can buy you a truly terrific all-rounder if you go for a Ford Focus of this age.
Not only does this model bring the best balance of performance and equipment for the money, this is also the current-generation, Mk3 Focus that is only just about to have a mid-life face-lift, which means this used car certainly isn’t old hat.
The Focus has much to commend it. It’s easy and fun to drive, thanks to its quick, accurate steering and tight body control. The driver’s seat is supremely comfortable, and both the engine and cabin are impressively quiet.
Practicality is important for families, and the Focus shines here too, with enough room for four adults to sit comfortably and a boot that’s big enough for their luggage.
Another major bonus is the amount of choice on offer to buyers, as Used Car of the Year judge Jim Holder pointed out in this year’s deliberations. ‘There’s a lot of choice on the forecourts, which means buyers can pick and choose, and find a really terrific deal if they’re prepared to shop around a little,’ he said.
Admittedly, the Focus’s cabin isn’t quite as solid or spacious as a Volkswagen Golf’s, but you’ll have to pay some £1500 more for an equivalent Golf, and that will only buy you the version that went off sale two years ago.
The Focus’s 1.6 petrol engine isn’t turbocharged so it’s not especially fast, but it’s more than adequate for most buyers. Zetec trim is well equipped and comes with a DAB radio, Bluetooth and a heated windscreen as standard.
Filling the Focus won’t be too hard on your wallet, either; its official combined fuel economy is a decent 47.9mpg, while CO2 emissions of 136g/km translate to a £130 annual VED cost. While those figures aren’t class leading, a group 11 insurance rating makes cover reasonable, and maintenance and repair costs are considerably cheaper than many rivals’.
Not that you’ll have to worry too much about repairs because all Fords have a solid reputation for reliability. In the 2014 JD Power customer satisfaction survey, some owners mentioned problems with radio reception, so check this is working properly when you go for a test drive. However, warranty claims firm Warranty Direct reports that even the most common problem that they deal with – axle and suspension issues – accounts for just 15% of claims.
The Focus was awarded the maximum five stars in crash tests by Euro NCAP, including 92% for adult protection and 82% for child protection. However, the facility to switch off the front passenger airbag is a cost option with Ford cars, so if you’re fitting a rear-facing child seat up front then you’ll need to check that the previous owner has paid for this.