What stands out?
The Ford Focus is one of the most rewarding small cars to drive, with excellent accelerator response, quick steering and great handling. Hatch and wagon versions are available, all of which are equipped with autonomous emergency braking. The range includes hatchbacks, wagons including the SUV-inspired Active, and the powerful ST hot hatch.
What might bug me?
Forgetting what gear you’re in when using the fiddly rotary-dial shifter
Driving at 80km/h on the space-saver spare until you can fix your full-sized flat tyre.
Seeing other small cars and realising your Focus has a relatively bland interior finish.
What body styles are there?
Five-door hatch and four-door wagon.
Every Focus but drives its front wheels.
The Focus is classed as a small car, lower priced.
What features do all Focuses have?
An 8.0-inch colour central screen. Satellite-navigation, with voice activation (that actually works).
A sound system with an AM/FM/Digital (DAB+)
radio, CD player, USB and iPod inputs, Bluetooth connectivity and at least six speakers.
Voice controlled phone calls and music selection, via Ford’s excellent SYNC3 infotainment system. Support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
, which allow you to display some smartphone apps on the touchscreen and control them from there.
A 180-degree reversing camera, and rear parking sensors.
Cruise control, with a speed-limit function (which allows you to set an upper limit that avoids speeding fines). Autonomous emergency braking
that also stops to prevent or mitigate impact with pedestrians and cyclists.
Lane-keeping assist and lane departure warning.
A leather-wrapped steering wheel that is adjustable for height and reach and carries paddle shifters to manually change gears, and buttons for operating the cruise control, the sound system and your phone.
LED daytime running lights, headlights that can automatically turn on when it gets dark, and rain-sensing windscreen wipers.
Wheels made from aluminium alloy, which look nicer than steel wheels with plastic covers and usually are lighter (and hold the road better).
Hill launch assist, which controls the brakes automatically to help you start from rest on a slope.
Electronic parking brake that frees up space on the centre console, and a space-saving spare tyre.
Electronic stability control, which can help control a skid. All new cars must have this feature.
Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?
All Focus versions except for the ST hot hatch are powered by a highly efficient 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
It has one less cylinder than the 1.5-litre petrol engine in the previous-generation Focus, however the turbocharger means it has about the same power.
This powertrain consumes as little as 6.4 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined).
The Focus has stop-start system that cut fuel use in the city. It switches off the engine when you come to a halt, and restart it when you press the accelerator to drive away.
The main reason you wouldn’t choose this engine is you want significantly more performance as offered by the Focus ST that boasts a powerful 206kW/420Nm 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, which has an official fuel consumption of 8.8 litres/100km.
This engine is a modified version of the one found in the four-cylinder Ford Mustang High Performance, and comes with a choice of six-speed-manual transmission or seven-speed auto.
What key features do I get if I spend more?
The least expensive Focus is the Trend, which rolls on 16-inch alloy wheels and has cloth seat trim.
Spend more for the Focus ST-Line and you get bigger and arguably more stylish 17-inch wheels, and firmer suspension for more stable handling.
Available as a hatch or wagon, the ST-Line also has dual-zone climate control (which allows the driver and front passenger to choose different cabin temperatures), a wireless phone-charging pad, LED fog- and tail-lamps, auto-folding and heated door mirrors, puddle lamps, tyre-pressure monitor, and a smart key that allows you to unlock and start the car without removing the key from your pocket or bag.
The ST-Line is also features sporty exterior trim features including a body-kit with side skirts, chrome twin tailpipes, while the interior gains a flat-bottomed steering wheel, metal foot pedals.
The ST-Line wagon costs about $2000 more than the hatch, and comes with roof rails and easy folding rear seats. It also has more advanced independent rear suspension.
The SUV-inspired Focus Active wagon is similarly equipped to the ST-Line wagon minus the sporty garnish. It has a higher ride height and is equipped with Trail and Slippery driving mode to help negotiate rougher surfaces and roads with poor traction due to snow and ice.
Opt for the Titanium, and the wheels grow to 18 inches and are fitted with significantly wider tyres of a lower profile, adding grip and sharpening steering response. The driver’s seat is power-adjustable, and all seats are trimmed partly in leather and heated. You also get chrome exterior trim, adaptive LED headlights, 10-speaker premium sound system with subwoofer and variable colour LED ambient interior lighting.
The Focus Titanium also offers additional active safety features including adaptive cruise control with ‘stop and go’ function that works in heavy traffic, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. These are available in the other Focus versions as part of an optional Driver Assistance Pack that costs about $1250.
If it’s performance that you’re after, the Focus ST adds the more powerful four-cylinder turbocharged engine that comes with a six-speed manual gearbox, or a seven-speed auto as a no-cost option.
The ST is similarly equipped to the ST-Line with the addition of a the Driver Assistance Pack, heated and powered adjusted steering wheel, sliding centre-console armrest, and the 10-speaker premium audio system found in the Focus Titanium.
Performance extras include a body kit, rear spoiler, 19-inch alloy wheels, launch control, red brake calipers, sports suspension with adaptive dampers and selectable drive modes with normal, slippery, race track and sport settings.
Unlike the ST-Line, the ST only has single-zone climate control.
Does any upgrade have a down side?
The lower profile tyres on cars with bigger wheels can ride more roughly because there is less cushioning air between the wheel and the road. This is particularly noticeable on the Titanium’s 18-inch rubber.
Only one colour, Frozen White, comes for no additional cost. The rest all bring a premium of about $650.
How comfortable is the Ford Focus?
The roomy interior design is clutter free and intuitively designed. The dashboard design is a big improvement over the previous model, with the bulky central head unit replaced by a floating 8.0-inch touchscreen that display’s Ford’s very user-friendly Sync3 infotainment system.
The smaller dashboard frees up interior space, which gives the Focus excellent leg room. It all looks a little bland though, unless you like everything black, and the gauge cluster looks like it was borrowed from a truck.
The cloth front seats are pretty basic but are comfortable enough with good back support. You’d expect more sporty seats in the ST-Line, but apart from some red stitching the seats seem exactly like the Trend’s and lack decent side bolstering as found in other sporty hatches.
On the plus side the ride is generally comfortable, even on the ST-Line hatchback’s firmer sports suspension. The decision to give the ST-Line relatively small 17-inch wheels instead of the 18s that most of its rivals roll on pays off with a smooth and quiet ride.
It’s a different story in the Titanium whose 18-inch wheel and (quality Michelin Pilot Sport) tyre package results in an unwelcome, uncharacteristic firmness that brings lumpiness at odds with its upmarket aspirations.
The ST’s Recaro sport seats support the body well through corners and are comfortable for long drives. The ride is firm but not overly so, with the adaptive dampers able to flex its muscles for sporty driving but soften up for around town. Still, you know you’re driving a hot hatch.
What about safety in a Ford Focus?
Six airbags, autonomous emergency braking
, lane-keeping assist, a 180-degree reversing camera, and rear parking sensors, provide a solid safety platform for every Focus.
The Focus Titanium and ST come as standard with a Driver Assistance Pack that adds adaptive cruise control that automatically slows down to match the speed of a slower vehicle in front at high and low speeds. The pack also comes with blind-spot warning and rear-cross traffic alert – blind-spot warning flashes a light to let you know when there is a vehicle alongside and behind, in a blind spot. And rear cross-traffic alert helps you avoid driveway and carpark bingles, acting when you are reversing to warn of other vehicles crossing behind you.
The Driver assistance pack can be fitted to the other Focus variants for about $1250.
The Focus’s six airbags include two front and two side inflators to protect the driver and front seat passenger, and side curtain bags on each side to provide side impact protection for all occupants.
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Focus its maximum five-star safety rating in December 2018.
I like driving - will I enjoy this car?
Very likely you will. The Focus has a well-deserved reputation as a car that delights in the corners in this latest-generation model is no different. Steering is accurate and communicative, and the body settles confidently after bumps.
Grip levels on the ST-Line, Active and Titanium versions are high. That is helped by their lower profile tyres, and suspension that reduces leaning in bends compared with the softer Trend.
The 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine is full of life and is rarely found wanting. There’s little turbo-lag when you put the foot down and the eight-speed auto does a nice job shifting through the cogs, with Sport mode holding the revs more.
The ride in the Trend feels controlled but comfortable around town or on the highway, which makes for an enjoyable ride whether it’s a quick trip to the shops or a weekend road trip.
In the ST-Line hatch, the sports suspension provides more dynamic ride and handling that doesn’t come at the expense of comfort around town or on the highway, which makes this a nice all-rounder.
The Focus ST It has been engineered to be an enjoyable everyday performance car, with track-day potential but excellent road manners.
How is life in the rear seats?
The rear seats in the Focus are comfortable, but lack a centre armrest and their own air vents or USB sockets (though there is a 12-volt socket for device charging).
How is it for carrying stuff?
The Focus hatch carries up to 375 litres, or 273 litres if measured below the cargo cover. Folding the rear seats down frees up a total of 1354 litres.
The wagon’s cargo capacity is a very handy 575 litres, which stretches to 1620 litres with the rear seats down. Wagon versions have easy-fold rear seats that drop the backrests with the flick of a lever.
Where does Ford make this model Focus?
Ford makes the Focus in Germany.
What might I miss that similar cars have?
Perhaps the all-weather security of all-wheel drive – the Subaru Impreza
has this, for example.
If you plan on doing a lot of country-road driving, maybe better fuel-efficiency from a diesel engine. The Hyundai i30
and Peugeot 308
offer diesels, for example.
Or possibly a fuel-saving petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain. Toyota offers an excellent hybrid Corolla
, and Hyundai with its Ioniq
that’s also available with an all-electric version.
Rear air vents for additional passenger comfort, as featured in cats like the i30, Impreza, Kia Cerato
and Volkswagen Golf
A sedan version as with the Mazda 3
, Corolla, Hyundai Elantra
, Honda Civic
, Mitsubishi Lancer
, and Cerato.
I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?
The Focus ST-Line is a very entertaining car if you want something a little sporty.
It gets more aggressive looks and has better balance of ride and handling, making it both liveable and entertaining on a daily basis. Throw in features such as the smart key entry, push-button start and leather-wrapped steering wheel and it justifies the price premium. And it’s the only Focus available in both hatch and wagon body styles.
The Focus Active wagon is similarly equipped and great if you want something a little more practical for travelling around.
Are there plans to update the Focus soon?
The current generation Focus went on sale in December 2018 so no facelifts are expected until at least 2021.
The Focus Active was added to the range in mid-2019, with the more powerful Focus ST following in February 2020.
Ford has confirmed that there will be no new version of the Focus RS hot hatch.