What is it?
The latest version of Ford’s brilliant mid-price hatch is the model tasked with taking the Focus global. This means it’s been designed with an international market in mind, and, as such, it has lost some of the dynamic vim and vigour that made the last two generations so special.
All is not lost, however. It may be a slightly softer offering than we Brits would like, but it’s now an even more complete package, with fine handling, a superb ride and preternatural refinement for this class. It may not be as timeless and inherently classy as a Golf perhaps, but it’s as good in every other way.
There was a bit of a hoo-ha made about how the third-generation Focus was going to lose its way, going soft and plobby to meet the demands of an international audience. But the worst of our fears were quickly allayed. The new Focus, while less mechanically involving than the last, is still an impressive and entertaining car to drive, making you feel immediately at home and confident in the car’s set up and ability. It corners flat, grips well and reins in the worst human transgressions with sensible yet not invasive stability control.
The Focus also rides well, soaking up the longer undulations without feeling wallowy and soft. And it cossets the cabin from the vibrations and imperfections underneath, and from the wind and tyre noise, creating an amazing level of refinement for a hatchback. Diesel engines long impressed but, until recently, mainstream petrols had disappointed. No more. The 1.0-litre Ecoboost is a gem - it sounds like it shouldn’t work but, believe us, it really does (and sales figures suggest buyers are convinced too).
On the inside
The new Focus cabin is another strong suit. It feels spacious and finished to a high standard. More so than the old Focus, and that was none too shabby. The driving position is improved over the outgoing car too, with much more adjustment, but the rear is a little more cramped under that sloping roofline. The boot isn’t the biggest either, so we’re not sure where the space has gone.
A popular criticism of the latest cabin is the fussiness of the dash and centre console. There are too many buttons and switches and the display screen is excessively busy. But a shrewd Ford dealer will tell you that this is, at least, a reflection of the impressive amount of kit every Focus has as standard.
The Ecoboost engine is a great option, with up to 180bhp squeezed from a 1.6-litre four-pot that’s good for 47mpg. The 1.0-litre is even more eye-opening, although only if you drive it gently.