New look… The Focus, available in November, has been given a makeover... IT’S easy to spot the difference.
The world’s favourite car, the Ford Focus, will get a striking new look, from November.
It’s smarter inside too with an 8in touchscreen and less clutter. But what you can’t see under the skin is Ford’s brilliant new 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine. And there’s NO change in starting prices.
The entry level model is held at £13,995 and the top spec Titanium is £100 cheaper. We had an exclusive first drive in Malaga, Spain.
Focus sales totalled 1,097,618 last year, making it the world’s best-selling car. Even the Pope has one. Now it’s even better value and shares the new Ford family nose with the Fiesta and the new Mondeo.
The grille, bumper, headlights and sculpted bonnet are all different — and the back end has slimmer tail lights and a new spoiler.
How does it drive?
Fords are always fun to drive and the new Focus has even better handling. My test included fast, smooth A-roads and rough twisty mountain roads and the Focus turned in brilliantly. It’s all down to little tweaks with the suspension and shock absorbers and a stiffer front end.
Handling… The Focus takes to mountain roads brilliantly
But it gets better. The current Focus already has the award-winning 1-litre Eco-Boost, chosen by one in three UK buyers for its performance and efficiency. The new 1.5-litre EcoBoost is more responsive and does 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds and a top speed of 130mph, yet returns 51mpg. Definitely my pick.
I also tested the new TDCi diesel engine in the estate and fuel economy is up 10 per cent — and it’s 10 per cent cleaner.
Now for Ford’s party trick.
The current Focus can already self steer in and out of parking spaces parallel to the road. The new Focus can self steer into parking bays at right angles to the road, like at Tesco or your local multistorey car park.
Push a button, let go of the steering wheel and watch the car reverse in between cars while you control the pedals. It’s mad but magic. Even Dynamo would be impressed.
New shape… The 2014 Focus has slimmer tail lights
There’s also an advanced version of Active City Stop which scans the road ahead 50 times every second to stop you hitting the car in front.
If you don’t react to slowing traffic, the Focus will automatically brake, reduce engine torque and flick on the rear hazard lights. But it only works up to 30mph — I nearly pranged it going faster!
What’s it like inside?
Cleaner, quieter and more upmarket. I didn’t like the old Nokia phonestyle dashboard with 50-plus buttons. This is much simpler with the 8in SYNC 2 touchscreen for satnav, music and phone. It’s still not as easy as some TomTom-based satnavs I’ve tested but it is still a major step up.
And it does have voice commands. Say “Alton Towers” and it will bring up directions. Or tell it to “ring home”, play a certain song or lower the air con and it will. And get this. Say “I’m hungry” and it will find places to eat. Neat. There’s a bigger display screen between the speedo and rev counter and easier steering wheel controls.
Inside… Features include hands-free parking and a 8in touchscreen
The new adjustable sliding cup holder easily passed my drive-thru drink test and there are two USBs and two 12v ports for all the family to charge their smartphones.
But there is a downside. The windscreen cameras sit too low behind the rearview mirror for my liking and block your vision, especially at traffic lights.
VERDICT: More efficient, more advanced, more quality and more value. Hard to beat.
Key facts - FORD FOCUS TITANIUM Price: £20,795 Engine: 1.5-litre EcoBoost Economy: 51.4mpg Road tax: £110 (CO2 127g/km) Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles 0-62mph: 8.9secs Top speed: 130mph
We like: even sharper to drive, ride quality, new multimedia interface, improved styling We don’t like: interior still not as premium as some, steering a touch light – although we’re nitpicking
Ford Focus: first impressions
What’s the world’s favourite car? Last year, according to Ford, it was the Focus. Since its introduction in 1998 the Focus - in its various guises - has been a massive success for Ford but the third-gen model, which was launched in 2011, hasn't been free from criticism.
The 1.5-litre Ecoboost engine sounds great, like a more muted Fiesta ST
Its unadventurous styling, for one. Looks might be subjective, but they are key when it comes to forming an initial opinion on a car. Which is why the new 2014 Ford Focus looks much sharper.
Most of the changes are at the front, where there are more angular headlights and Ford's latest Aston Martin-esque "One Ford" grille, but there are numerousother tweaks, including smaller, neater rear lights.
Inside, too, Ford has addressed the old car’s major failing. The 2014 Focus now gets a clear and simple 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system that controls everything from the sat nav (where fitted) to the radio and the climate control.
With Ford’s optional and really rather slick SYNC 2 voice recognition system, it’s elevated the UK’s favourite family hatch to Volkswagen Golf levels of appeal.
Ford Focus: performance
The big news under the bonnet of the new 2014 Ford Focus is the addition of two new 1.5-litre turbocharged engines. One petrol, one diesel.
We'll start with the petrolunit first – available with either 150hp or 182hp, outputs are identicalto the old force-fed 1.6. However, knocking 100cc off the swept volume means improvements in efficiency.
It’s still a wonderfully peppy engine to drive, with crisp throttle response and a welcome linearity to the way it revs. Detecting turbo lag is difficult unless you let the revs ebb away to idle, but with 177lb ftof torque available from as low as 1,600rpm on both variants, there’s plenty of pull right across the rev range.
The Focus now rides and handles even better - and it was the benchmark to begin with
It sounds great, too. Like a more muted Fiesta ST, with a nice, gentle warble emanating from the front end. This engine combined with the 2014 Focus’ revised chassis (more on which in a moment) make it feel very much like a warm hatch.
Just like the 1.5 petrol, the new dervunit is effectively a downsized version of the old 1.6 TDCI in either 95 or 120hp guise. Unfortunately it wasn’t available to try on the launch.
We did sample the 2.0-litre TDCI with 150hp. It has plenty of smooth pulling power from low down teamed with excellent levels of refinement. It’ll squirt the Focus out of turns with an energetic streak, but offers long-legged, relaxed cruising, too.
The final engine option available for us to try was the 1.0-litre Ecoboost three-cylinder turbo petrol. This is a known quantity and an excellent engine that punches harder than its capacity might suggest. The same is true here. It’s difficult not to be entertained by the tiny, effervescent three-banger revving away merrily under the bonnet.
Ford’s six-speed manual gearbox is perfectly suited to the character of each powertrain, with a light but positive action making it a pleasure to change gears yourself.
If you don’t want to engage in such a task, there’ll be a six-speed Powershift dual-clutch automatic along later this year – this time with steering wheel mounted paddles, too.
Ford Focus: ride and handling
The way the Focus drove has always been the car’s trump card. And it’s now better than ever.
The steering is more precise, but Ford hasn’t had to resort to crude methods, such as stiffening up the suspension, to extract this incremental increase in accuracy.
Ford has dialled back the button count of the Focus' dashboard
Instead, it has employed clever techniques with bushing and bracing under the skin, meaning the suspension doesn’t have to be rock hard.
As a result it rides beautifully. Turn in and the front wheels respond with enthusiasm and tenacity, helping the Focus hold a neat, constant line around a corner.
Roll is controlled well, while the dampers on our mixed Spanish test route coped admirably, soaking up scars and bumps on the road with composure. It makes the Focus feel like a very mature and very well sorted car at the same time – and you don’t have to be going fast to notice the improvements, either.
If we had one minor criticism, it’d centre on the steering. Ford has made this lighter to improve comfort. We didn’t think it was too heavy before, but this is only a minor point of nitpicking in an otherwise very well sorted package indeed.
Ford Focus: interior
The former Focus’ major weakness was its button-festooned dashboard. Ford has listened to customer feedback and cut back on the button count, replacing many of the controls with a very simple and very slick 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen.
Controlling most of the car’s major function, it’s intuitive to navigate and easy to use. When mated to Ford’s new SYNC 2 system there are a number of clever services on offer, too.
The 1.5 TDCI claimes 74.3mpg combined with 98g/km CO2
Unlike most voice recognition software, which is slow and laggy, you can speak quickly to the Focus’ electronic brain and it’ll pick up your commands – even down to rattling off a phone number. From one-shot destination entry to searching for restaurants along your route, it’s simple to use.
Fewer buttons also make the centre console smarter, and combine with decent material quality, sound ergonomics and plenty of space to make a very comfortable cruiser. The higher trim levels are nicely appointed, too.
No structural changes to the 2014 Ford Focus mean boot space remains unchanged at 316 litres for the hatchback and 476 litres for the estate, rising to 1,215 and 1,502 litres respectively.
Ford Focus: fuel economy and running costs
We’ll – ahem – focus on the two engines that’ll make up the bulk of sales in the UK: the 1.5-litre turbodiesel and the 1.0-litre Ecoboost.
Titanium and Titanium X variants are actually £100 cheaper than before
When fitted with stop-start, the lower-powered diesel is the most efficient option in the range, in fact, returning a claimed 74.3mpg combined with 98g/km CO2, meaning free road tax.
The 100hp 1.0 turbo variant returns a best of 61.4mpg combined with 105g/km CO2, according to Ford.
The 1.6 TDCI is still available, quoted at 67.3mpg with 109g/km, while the larger 2.0 TDCI achieves official NEDC figures of 70.6mpg with just 105g/km CO2, meaning both will cost £20 per year to tax. The 1.5-litre Ecoboost petrol turbo is inevitably a little thirstier, but it still offers a strong claimed best of 51.4mpg with 127g/km.
The new range of engines is up to 15% more fuel efficient, boasting impressive gains right across the board.
Ford Focus: price, equipment and spec
Ford has frozen headline pricing for the Focus at £13,995, but this only buys you an entry-level Studio model. Above that will sit the £16,795 Style, £18,295 Zetec and £20,045 Zetec S variants, £395, £895 and £400 more than the models they will replace respectively.
The higher spec Titanium and Titanium X variants are actually £100 cheaper than before like-for-like, priced from £19,715 and £21,795.
Across the range there are "18 new driving technologies" on offer, including park out assist – a feature that will extract the Focus from a parking spot after it’s already got there by itself – rear cross traffic alert and a clever predictive stability control system.
Then there’s that new touchscreen, voice recognition that actually works, reversing camera, wider availability of stop-start and plenty of new safety features – simply, there’s even more on-board tech on offer, improving safety and convenience.
This additional equipment has had an important effect on the new Focus’ predicted second-hand values, too, elevating them to similar levels as Volkswagen’s premium Golf hatch. Quite a coup for Ford.
Ford Focus: verdict
Ford has tackled every area that needed improvement from the previous generation Focus, and it’s resulted in arguably the bestiteration of the Focus yet.
It’s now deceptively attractive, just as wonderfully engaging to drive, even more efficient, well priced, better equipped and just as practical. It’s Britain’s best-selling family hatchback, and should remain so with this new car for a damn good reason.
It's very similar, we'll give you that. The third generation Focus has been facelifted - neater headlights and the latest company grille - but there's no major step change. And with good reason: for the last two years, this has been the world's best selling car, and it's on course to take the title again in 2014.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and all that.
Indeed. But that hasn't stopped Ford from implementing a raft of measured improvements, with new engines (and an inevitable focus on boosting fuel economy and slicing CO2 emissions), small dynamic tweaks and a rejigged interior.
Is it still great to drive?
When the Focus replaced the ageing Escort 16 years ago, the sharpness of its dynamics was nothing short of revelatory. Passing years have seen the Focus grow in weight while rivals have caught up a little, but this mid-life update for the gen3 Focus gets it right back on its game.
Changes are slight, and centred mainly around tuning the electric power steering for ease of use and making the dampers more compliant. But a resulting benefit is an increase in agility, with keener responses from a more natural and satisfying steering rack. It's impressive for an EPAS system.
The overriding impression the Focus gives is of its front and rear ends working in harmony; a tricky sequence of corners won't outfox the Focus, its accomplished suspension set-up soaking up surface changes while the rear axle is willing to play a role in tightening your cornering line if you ask it to. There are reassuringly high levels of grip for when you simply want to get places, but plenty of driver interaction for when you want to do so smiling. And it's always composed.
And what about those new engines?
A new sub-99g/km 1.5-litre diesel engine will mop up nearly half of Focus sales, though 118bhp is as hot as it gets. We bee-lined straight for the range's new petrol engine, a 1.5-litre four-cylinder Ecoboost turbo unit which comes in 148bhp and 180bhp guises, both claiming 127g/km CO2 emissions and 51.4mpg. The more potent version was available for us to try, and it's mostly very good, its gutsy spread of torque delivered with a linearity akin to a naturally aspirated engine, which will please keen drivers.
It's only north of 2500rpm that things really get going, though, and a lack of low-down verve was particularly noticeable when slicing through town centre traffic and while grabbing a gear lower than normal to keep pace up steeper hills. Good excuse to exercise a decent six-speed manual gearbox, though.
What about that rejigged interior?
This is an area in which the Focus - and Fords in general - has been long overdue some love. Its dashboard has previously been a bit of an ergonomic puzzle, tiny air con and entertainment buttons scattered across the centre console willy nilly. No more. There's a new touchscreen system that immediately slashes the button-count, and its on-screen design has clearly been influenced by some of the more intuitive systems out there, such as Audi's MMI. It works well, and makes the interior look and feel a lot better. The plastics still aren't a match for VW's, mind.
How about technology?
Tons of the stuff. The gen3 Focus was a bit of a market leader when it arrived in 2011, with plenty of big car tech such as self parking and lane departure warning. This has been updated and added to, with the park assist now pulling you out of the tight bay it's spookily swung you into and more diligent crash avoidance radars up front.
Sounds great. Where's the catch?
In the showroom. If you want this 180bhp engine then you must whizz straight up to Titanium X spec, which means lots of goodies, but also a base price of £23,520. Or around £1500 more than the (admittedly less luxurious) Focus ST currently costs, with its 247bhp and madcap attitude.
The 148bhp 1.5 Ecoboost has the same 177lb ft torque figure as the 180bhp version, though, with prices starting at £20,545 for a Zetec S. If you want a Focus and nothing more, there's an old fashioned 84bhp 1.6 petrol for £13,995.