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The Top Gear car review: Ford Focus
For:Chassis, especially the upper-spec, and engines. But also safety and space
Against:Not much really
What is it?
The Focus is a chuffing important car for Mr and Ms Car-Buyer here in Britain. The old car, in its final year, was our number three seller, beaten (just) by the Golf and (substantially) by its sibling Fiesta. It’s part of the proof that despite the seemingly unstoppable rise of crossovers, actual hatchbacks still rule. Of the UK’s top 10 in 2017, only one was a crossover, the Qashqai.
The Focus also matters here at Planet Top Gear, because over the years it has been a consistently good drive, as well as throwing up some of our fave hot-hatches, under the ST and RS badges.
But the outgoing car, in its mainstream versions, wasn’t one of the greatest-hit Focuses. The bodywork had too many creases, and the driving experience was a little soft-edged. Both these were the result of it being designed for a global audience that included the US (though it didn’t sell well over there). The new one is set up for we Europeans. It won’t be sold Over There.
More cause for optimism: it’s an all-new car. Yes a brand-new platform, engineered to be stiffer for dynamics, safer than ever in a crash, and yet lighter than the old – a reasonable 1,325kg for the three-cylinder manual.
Its profile is sleeker than before, thanks to a longer bonnet with more rear-set screen pillars, and also to a longer wheelbase. And we think the sheetmetal is rather pretty. The wind doesn’t notice it so much: aerodynamic drag Cd is a super-slithery 0.27.
Inside, displays take the form of a tablet for most of the infotainment heavy-lifting, but conventional dials ahead of the driver, and none the worse for that. Also, a £400 flip-up head-up display shows speed, navigation arrows and info on the driver-assist systems, automated systems that are as comprehensive as any car in the class.
You’re not only assisted, you’re also connected. This generation Focus has a built-in SIM so it knows about traffic and can do online destination searches. Plus you can perform various tricks remotely on your car via phone app – finding it, checking fuel, locking and so on. And it gives in-car wi-fi.
Given that folk, especially urban folk, are getting wary of diesel, the 1.0-litre Ecoboost will sweep up most sales. It’s the heavily revised version from the Fiesta, and comes in 100 and 125bhp, with just 108g/km CO2 even in the strict new WLTP test. Oh yes there’s an 85bhp version in the base-trim, but don’t punish yourself eh?
The bigger petrol engine, a 1.5-litre, is now also a triple, almost the same as the new Fiesta ST jobbie. It has 150 or 182bhp. For economy in light use, the three-cylinder engines can close down one of their cylinders.
The 1.5 diesel is all-new and itself full of clever fuel-saving engineering, and should clear legal emissions standards to 2025, they claim. Power is up to 120bhp, and then there’s a revised 2.0-litre diesel making 150bhp.
The auto versions are a conventional eight-speeder, not the old twin-clutch job. They operate via a Jag-style rotary controller to save console space.
There seem to be nearly as many suspensions as there are engines. At the front it’s similar principles as before but all-new parts, with a wider track. Three completely different rear suspensions now turn up according to model.
The hatches with the lowest power now have a torsion-beam setup. Sounds like a retrograde step given it’s the first time we’ve had one of those on a mid-size Ford since the Escort. But a hopeful sign: it’s related to the setup in the new Fiesta ST. It uses banana-shaped springs that push the outer rear wheel outwards as the car rolls in a corner, keeping the trailing arm pointing straight and the wheel better aligned.
Meanwhile, more powerful hatches get a short-and-long arm setup (as the original Focus pioneered). Its advantages are ride quietness and steering precision. Finally, estates get a different layout of SLA system, with the dampers laid near-horizontally, to improve boot space. Top models get the option of adaptive dampers too, for the first time in a mainstream Focus.
Mention of the estate shows that this popular Focus body-style is here at the launch, and it looks pretty sleek but has a properly boxy load space. But as with the last generation there’s no prospect of a three-door hatch.
Never mind: an ST is already well under development and an RS is also highly likely if not any time soon.
Right now a semi-crossover, in the form of a jacked-up Active version (see Fiesta Active for details) is ready for sale. It’s quite possible that some time after launch there will be 4WD versions, because this same new floorpan will also be used for a new Kuga.
Read a long term review on the Ford Focus by clicking these blue words.