Ford Focus Review
"A brilliant bestseller - but can it beat the Golf"
Ford Focus review - front view, blue, 2020

Ford Focus review: an everyday hero that does everything well

  • Published 28 April 2020
  • 6 minute read
  • By Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

Introduction

The Ford Focus is the family hatchback you buy when you can’t afford a Volkswagen Golf, right? While this might be true of some people, the Focus is actually far too good to play second fiddle to the VW.

Besides, the monthly lease payment on a Volkswagen Golf – the all-new model introduced in 2020 – could work out cheaper than leasing a Focus, depending on the model you’re looking at. You might get more toys for your money in the Focus, but if you want a Golf, you can probably have a Golf.

It's not a Golf - but it's very goodFord Focus review - rear view, driving, blue, 2020 Available to lease Lease Now

Which means there’s little point reading on. Lease a Golf and live happily ever after (or at least until the end of your leasing contract). Not so fast, though, because there are many reasons why you should lease a Ford Focus, including a couple of ways it plays the Golf and wins.

The current Ford Focus was introduced in 2018, and it’s very much the Freddie Flintoff of the car world. That’s to say, it’s a terrific all-rounder. As well as a five-door hatchback, the Focus is also available as a practical estate car, plus it comes in an SUV-inspired Active trim, as a high-performance ST model and a luxurious Vignale variant.

Forget not being able to afford a Golf – you could find that you want to spend a little extra to lease a Focus.


Looks, tech and design

For a car that arrived so recently, the Ford’s styling hasn’t aged particularly well. It doesn’t help that the Focus looks a tad generic, with little to help it stand out from other family hatchbacks. Compare and contrast with the new Ford Puma compact crossover SUV, which looks different to most rivals and is sure to be at the top of many shopping lists in 2020.

Progressing through the Focus range helps, though. The most basic Zetec model rides on 16-inch alloys and has the look of a company pool car. The ST-Line looks far better, helped in no small part by lowered suspension, 17-inch alloys and sporty addenda. Upgrading to ST-Line X adds 18-inch alloys, which do a terrific job of filling the wheelarches.

The Focus Estate adds extra practicalityFord Focus review - estate, side view, 2020Available to lease Lease Now

The full-fat Focus ST boasts a properly aggressive look, while the Titanium and Vignale trim levels lend the Focus a premium feel, both inside and out. Personally, I love the style of the Active models, with their raised ride height, body cladding and roof rails combining to create a suitably rugged look, which is particularly successful on the inside.

Speaking of the inside, the cabin feels more upmarket than you’d have found in Focus models of old, with enough space for five adults. The boot is average for the class, but if luggage capacity is a priority, you could opt for the Focus Estate. With 575 litres on offer with the rear seats in place, the boot is larger than the more expensive Ford Mondeo.

I would argue that the dashboard feels a little cluttered when so many manufacturers are switching to minimalist cabins. It’s less fussy than before, but there are too many buttons on the steering wheel, and the overall design isn’t particularly easy on the eye.

On the plus side, if the predominantly digital, ahem, focus of the new Golf leaves you cold, the Ford’s physical buttons, dials and switches for its primary functions will be a welcome tonic. This is handy, because the 8.0-inch touchscreen can be tricky to operate on the move.

Interior design could be more inspiring - but you get plenty of kitFord Focus review - interior, 2020 Available to lease Lease Now

As for standard kit, the entry-level Zetec trim boasts a heated windscreen, air conditioning, cruise control, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a suite of safety systems, but many people will opt for the ST-Line or Titanium models.

At the top of the range, the flagship Vignale edges the Focus into premium territory, with a fantastic Bang & Olufsen sound system, LED headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, rear-view camera, leather seats, head-up display, heated steering wheel and LED ambient lighting. It’s a class act.

Or try: Our Mercedes-Benz A-Class review


Driving

There’s a lot that could be said about the way the Ford Focus drives, not least because it’s available in so many different configurations. Overall, it’s a great car to drive, but you can tweak the experience according to your needs.

This is a great car to driveFord Focus review - front view, driving, blue, 2020 Available to leaseLease Now

Predictably, the Focus ST hot hatch is the most fun. It’s available as a hatchback or estate, with the choice of either a 2.3-litre petrol engine or a 2.0 diesel. The petrol engine is a variant of the one you’d find in the Ford Mustang muscle car, so it offers genuine pedigree. As such, it’s the petrol I’d pick, because it can feel ‘on it’ when you’re in the mood, but there’s can manage relaxed progress when you’re not.

Elsewhere, we’d favour the 1.5-litre petrol and 2.0 diesel over the 1.0 petrol and 1.5 diesel, as their more sophisticated rear suspension helps it drive better and feel more comfortable, too.

The steering is nicely weighted across the range, with a drive mode selector allowing you to choose between Normal, Sport and Eco modes. I’d avoid the optional Continuously Controlled Damping (CCD) option, as the car curiously feels less stable and more unsettled. Save the £800 and spend it on something else.

Active version could be the star of the rangeFord Focus review - Active, orange, 2020 Available to leaseLease Now

But again, I’d go for the Focus Active. The raised ride height allows it to deal with Britain’s increasingly pockmarked roads without ruining the handling. A Ford Focus Estate Active X Vignale might be expensive – and a bit of a mouthful – but it’s the SUV alternative you should buy.

Super family SUVs - CarZing's guide to the best


Cost and economy

Whichever Focus you go for, you do get a lot for your money.

Of the petrol engines, the 1.0-litre turbo is the most economical, with the potential to return between 44.1mpg and 53.3mpg according to the official figures, depending on the output and transmission. The 1.5 offers between 42.8mpg and 48.7mpg, while the 2.3 could return 34.4mpg, if you’re able to resist the talents of the ST.

If you're looking for value for money it's time to see the lightFord Focus review - interior, seats, panoramic sun roof, 2020 Available to lease Lease Now

Alternatively, the 2.0 turbo in the ST diesel is like having your performance car cake and eating it, with the potential to achieve 50.4mpg. There’s little difference between the 1.5 and 2.0 diesel engines, with figures ranging from 54.3mpg to 62.8mpg

Of the hatchbacks, insurance groups range from 8 to 34, depending on the engine and trim.

Affordable sports cars that your mates will admire


Verdict

Still want that Volkswagen Golf? You probably do, and that’s your prerogative. But to dismiss the Ford Focus would be to miss out on one of the best all-rounders in the business.

There’s a Ford Focus for every occasion, whether you’re after a cheap runabout, a hot hatchback, a cavernous dog chariot or something plush for the ambassador’s reception. You can even get one that looks like an SUV, albeit without the option of four-wheel drive.

I criticised the styling for being a tad generic, but maybe that’s its strength. The Focus is the blueprint of the modern family hatchback – and Ford has chiselled it to within an inch of perfection. A case of Focus plays Golf, and Focus wins? That could be a fair way to put it…

Articles you may also like: