In Depth

Ford Focus 2018 reviews: can it rival the Volkswagen Golf?

The new hatchback has a sporty look and an SUV-inspired model

Ford set its sights on displacing the Volkswagen Golf at the head of the hatchback market by unveiling its all-new Focus in April.  

The new car is the fourth generation of the company’s popular hatchback which was originally introduced in 1998 as a replacement for the Escort. 

Over the past 20 years, the Focus has taken the form of a hatchback but Car magazine says that Ford is eager to use the new model to push for “more body styles and niches”. This is primarily due to the growing demand for hatchback-based SUVs and compact city crossovers.

Here are the details of the new Focus:

Prices and release

The new Focus is available to order now in seven different trim levels: Style, Zetec, ST-Line, ST-Line X, Titanium, Titanium X and Vignale.

The cheapest model in the range is the £17,930 Focus Style, says Auto Express, followed by the Zetec at £19,300 and the sportier £21,570 ST-Line. 

Above those sit the ST-Line X crossover at £24,050, the magazine says, along with the Titanium and Titanium X at £21,550 and £22,820 respectively. Rounding off the range is the Vignale trim which costs £25,450. 

An SUV-inspired Active model will join the line-up in October, Car magazine reports. 

Reviews

With orders for the new Focus now open, critics have got behind the wheel of a Titanium X model with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo engine to see how it compares with its main rival - the Volkswagen Golf.

Autocar says the new Focus feels refined, with steering that “yields immediate and precise responses from the front end.”

The engine is “impressive” for its size, the magazine adds, but the less powerful version may “feel pretty leisurely”, so buyers may want to consider the more powerful 1.5-litre engine options. 

Ford has put a lot of effort into updating the Focus’s interior, which according to Auto Express, was “a real weak point” in the outgoing model.

The new car comes equipped with hi-tech features including a “slick, bright and responsive 8in touchscreen” that controls most of the vehicle’s cabin settings.

All the same, the magazine urges buyers to “be a little more adventurous” when speccing a new Focus, as some of the car’s colours are “a bit drab” and the gear knob looks as though it was “plucked from the Mk1 Mondeo” from 1993.

The Focus may pack all the cabin technology that “most buyers will need”, but the Volkswagen Golf is “still the class leader for interior quality”, says CarBuyer

WhatCar? agrees that the car’s interior quality doesn’t quite match that of the similarly priced Volkswagen Golf, and notes that the Skoda Octavia boasts a bigger boot.  

But overall, Ford “has pulled out all the stops” on its new Focus, the site concludes. The newcomer clearly improves on areas where the older model fell short, without losing the hatchback’s “hereditary dynamic sparkle”.

Design

The all-new Focus takes numerous styling cues from the company’s Fiesta city car, says Evo. These include a compact front grille and “swept-back” headlights. 

The car’s design is sleeker than the previous Focus. It has a silhouette that’s closer to the Volkswagen Golf and Peugeot 308, the magazine says, rather than the MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle) of the previous generation Focus. 

The new Focus has wider tail lights, compared to the smaller versions on the old car, that cut into the boot lid. This makes the hatchback appear wider and lower, giving it a sporty look.  

ST-Line models have an even sportier appearance. They come with a more angular design on the front bumper and larger wheels. The Active variant, meanwhile, boasts a taller ride height and panels to protect the bodywork around the wheel arches and bumpers. 

Interior and tech

The new Focus features a spacious interior packed with in-car technology to rival those of its main competitors in the hatchback market. 

The cabin has “more space” than the previous Focus, says CarBuyer, and the revamped interior design features better quality materials. 

WhatCar? reports that the centre console houses an 8in touchscreen, which is paired to a smaller display that sits behind the steering wheel. The screens are used to control the car’s infotainment system and view information about the vehicle, such as fuel economy figures.  

As The Sunday Times notes, most drivers also “demand seamless connectivity with their smartphone”, so Ford has developed a system, called FordPass Connect, that can turn the vehicle into a Wi-Fi hotspot. With connectivity for up to ten devices, passengers can now surf the net while on the move, the newspaper says.

There is also a new Ford Focus smartphone companion app, which allows drivers to monitor how much fuel is in the tank, among other things, and to lock or unlock the doors from their mobiles.

Other additions over the old model include wireless smartphone charging and a ten-speaker sound system.

Engines and performance

The new Focus can be specced with a range of petrol and diesel engines from launch, but Autocar says a hybrid variant is expected to arrive next year. 

Entry-level petrol models will be powered by the company’s fuel-efficient 1.0-litre three-cylinder Ecoboost turbo engines, the magazine says. The next step up is a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine that can be specced in either 148bhp and 179bhp form. 

Buyers looking for a diesel Focus can choose from two 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo EcoBlue engines and a “more powerful” 184bhp 2.0-litre motor, says Auto Express. 

Ford has developed a new eight-speed automatic gearbox for the fourth-generation Focus, the magazine says. This is available on mid and top-spec petrol and diesel models.

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