15 February 2012 Last Updated: 28 October 2013

Full Ford Focus Hatchback (11 on) Model Review

by Tim Bowdler, Deputy Editor

  • Ford Focus 124bhp EcoBoost costs from £38 per month
  • Surprisingly good performance for such a small engine
  • Three-cylinder petrol engine helps drop running costs
Ford Focus Hatchback (11 on) 1.0 (125bhp) EcoBoost Titanium 5d - Road Test
The Ford Focus 1.0-litre EcoBoost could be a major force in persuading urban fleets to change from diesel to petrol power.

The Ford Focus 1.0-litre EcoBoost could be a major force in persuading urban fleets to change from diesel to petrol power.

This alteration in mindset has come about as the cost of diesel continues to rise. Many company car drivers have also had problems with expensive failures of complicated emissions control systems, or have found their commute isn't proving any more economical with a diesel car.

Until now, however, the running costs and CO2 emissions of petrol models have often been higher than that of diesel cars. So, many have continued to pick the diesel option. The latest development of Ford’s EcoBoost engine, though, means opting for petrol is much a more viable option.

Producing 124bhp, the little three-cylinder engine has the same power as the manufacturer’s existing 1.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine, but with a significant reduction in emissions and better economy.

This has been achieved thanks to a number of different engine innovations including a more advanced turbocharger and improved fuel injectors, among other things.

With emissions of 114g/km, from April 1 this year the Focus EcoBoost will fall in to the 13% company car tax bracket. This means that the Zetec model, with a P11d price of £17,665, will cost anyone in the 20% tax bracket £38 per month. That’s a saving of £8 per month over the 1.6-litre diesel Zetec model. It can also average a claimed 56.5mpg, though our route of tight mountain roads saw us return a fairly respectable 36mpg.

The 124bhp version of the car comes fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox. It’s a precise and smooth unit that doesn’t have the notchy feel that can often be the by-product of a slick gearbox. A lower-powered 99bhp model is available, which comes with a five-speed gearbox.

Despite the improved efficiency and drop in CO2 figures, the performance is more than adequate. This model can complete the benchmark sprint from 0-62mph in 11.3 seconds. The car doesn’t feel sluggish though, and the petrol engine pulls well up until around 4,500 revs. In fact, lower down the rev range it feels much more like a diesel engine, while in-gear acceleration is also very good, which makes overtaking slower traffic surprisingly easy.

The near-silence of the engine is also remarkable. On start-up there is almost no noise whatsoever. Not until you push the car to does the engine sound begin to intrude into the cabin. What engine noise there is, is a characterful three-cylinder gurgle rather than an off-putting strained sound. Wind and road noise are equally well contained, and this makes the car as comfortable on the motorway as it is around town.

This model handles as well as the rest of the Focus range. The steering is fairly sharp, it grips well and in corners there is very little body roll. Despite the lighter engine, there’s no real noticeable difference on the road.

One question mark over this model, however, is how it might stand up to the more rigorous mileage that would normally be done in a diesel car, and how the little 1.0-litre engine will hold out to this kind of punishment.

Another issue for the manufacturer to deal with is how they will sell the car to fleet customers, and how to achieve the shift in perception required to pick a 1.0-litre car over a 1.6-litre or 2.0-litre car. This newly developed engine, however, offers an excellent combination of low costs and good performance. In fact, it belies its size when it comes to power and pull.

If the majority of your driving is low mileage stints around built up areas, and you’re not conscious of the size of your engine, then the Focus EcoBoost is ideal. It demonstrates that a small three-cylinder petrol can be just as useable, and affordable, as a small diesel engine.

Also consider:

Alfa Romeo Giulietta

Recommending a Giulietta as a company car would have sounded like madness when the car was first launched. However, an improved engine and new TCT automatic gearbox has significantly lowered costs for this car.

Volkswagen Golf

The Golf continues to be one of the top choices for company car drivers in this sector. BlueMotion diesel engines offer an excellent combination of strong power with lower running costs.

Hyundai i30

The new i30 is another step forward for Hyundai. It's comfortable, well-built and good to drive. Low emitting and economical BlueDrive models will be the big hit for fleets.