Ford Focus Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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BBC TopGear
Car Review

Ford Focus

£ 20,460 - £ 34,835
Published: 15 Oct 2021


What is it like to drive?

Our most recent experience has been in the 1.0-litre Ecoboost hybrid, and it’s the powertrain we’d recommend, so that’s the one we’ll focus on here. We previously noted there are two engines, either 123bhp or 153bhp, and while both are capable enough, if it was our decision we’d go for the latter for the increased power and torque – 155lb ft plays 177lb ft respectively – for not a lot more cash.

Cruising around town is a pleasant enough experience: quiet, refined and eager to please thanks to the starter/generator motor and 48-volt battery, which helps to smooth out any turbo lag when accelerating away from the lights. Clever tech also switches off the engine (even with the clutch pedal pressed) when coasting at up to 16mph, contributing to greater fuel economy and less time at the petrol station.

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The hybrid Focuses come with a six-speed manual only, but again, much like its Fiesta counterpart, it’s very satisfying to use – slightly longer throw, but smooth to use. Very little noise from the engine either, so it’s a serene place to be.

How does it corner?

Well, let’s just say it’s an entirely pleasant affair. The steering has well-mapped answers to the movement of your hands, and the car steers through any bend with superb reassurance. It simply follows the front wheels, all the way up to the limit.

We previously mentioned the different suspension set-ups – where the lesser-powered Focuses get torsion beam suspension, those of more powerful ilk get the short and long arm suspension. We’ve tested both, and the latter is hugely impressive – while the steering’s weight and gearing and progression aren’t noticeably different, there’s an immediacy and precision, a sense of connection that isn’t there in the torsion setup. It’s as if you’ve taken off a thick pair of gloves. 

Still, the torsion-beam setup is as good as most rival hatches, so don’t be put off. Push this Focus, especially with the lowered ST-line suspension, and you can sense its efforts, feel the road, play little games with its angles. The damping is terrific too, allowing the wheels to breathe over small bumps but keeping the body in check over big crests and dips. We can't see why you'd need to splash out on adaptive damping.

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What’s it like as a motorway cruiser?

Arguably at its most relaxed – it’s an efficient motorway mileage cruncher, thanks to standard fit cruise control and adjustable speed limiter. Economy suffers slightly but there’s little in the way of wind or road noise, and there’s plenty of space, too – put it this way, it’ll more than manage the annual family getaway.

All Focuses come with lane keeping aid and lane keeping assist, the former of which applies steering torque to direct you back into the centre of a lane, the latter which warns you through steering wheel vibrations that you’re veering off course. Turning it on and off is as simple as flicking the switch on the end of a stalk, (so no need to drop your eyes), and it’ll smoothly nudge you away from any white-line whoopsies. 

Anything else? Ah yes, pre-collision assist is again standard fit, which works by detecting vehicles and pedestrians in the road ahead, or who could cross the vehicle’s path, and warns you of their presence. If there’s no input from you, the system automatically applies the brakes. Handy. Little wonder that the Focus has got a five-star NCAP safety rating – and it feels that way, too.

Additional driver assistance options include adaptive cruise control, speed sign recognition, active park assist and more – they’re worth browsing but aren’t really essential, with the standard fit features plenty for most folk.

Highlights from the range

the fastest

Ford Focus 2.3 EcoBoost ST 5dr
  • 0-625.7s
  • CO2
  • BHP280
  • MPG
  • Price£ N/A
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