A joy to drive but quality and flexibility falling behind rivals
- Excellent ride and handling
- Broad range of powerplants
- Staggering speed of RS
- Generously equipped
- Poor steering feedback
- Counter-intuitive PowerShift gearbox
- Seats lack lateral support
- Rivals are more spacious
As an all-rounder few cars match the enduring appeal of the Ford Focus hatchback.
Whether you’ve a young family and are looking for something inexpensive and safe to run, or you’re after a nimble and engaging hot hatch with a useful degree of practicality, chances are there’s a Focus to suit your needs. It’s no surprise it’s such a popular seller.
Third-generation, five-doors only
The third iteration of Ford Focus was introduced in 2011 as a five-door hatchback and the separately-reviewed Estate. Gone from this generation are the slower-selling three-door hatch, the even less popular saloon and the unfancied Coupe-Cabriolet.
It’s a majorly competitive sector that the Focus competes in with virtually every manufacturer offering thoroughly competent alternatives: the Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf – along with its SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia siblings – as well as the Honda Civic, Hyundai i30, Kia Ceed, Peugeot 308 and Renault Megane are just a few of the hatchbacks on the market giving Ford a headache.
Rarely does the Blue Oval rest upon its laurels, consequently this generation Focus has been regularly honed and improved upon to help maintain its appeal.
Styling and quality overhaul in 2014
A significant facelift for the Focus was introduced in 2014 (although not for the slow-selling electrically-powered model) with a new bonnet, front wings, bumpers (the front one incorporating a slender new grille) and slimmer headlamps. At the back, LEDs feature in the reshaped lights and there’s a new tailgate design.
Climb inside and you’ll notice the cabin materials were upgraded too, with many models featuring an 8.0-inch touchscreen at the top of the dashboard for the multimedia system (Sync2 initially, then Sync3 from 2017). All versions benefited from new instruments and redesigned switchgear, giving a mild uplift in quality.
Further enhancements were also made to the Focus’s self-parking and active safety systems.
Wide range of engine options
The breadth of powertrain choices for the Ford Focus is extraordinary, with most of the petrols and all of the diesels featuring turbocharging for efficient performance.
EcoBoost – read turbo – petrols come in 1.0- and 1.5-litre guises for the mainstream Focus range, producing between 100hp and 182hp, yet with CO2 emissions of just 99g/km for the least-polluting version.
Diesel fans have a choice of 1.5- and 2.0-litre units, serving up between 95hp and 150hp and, unsurprisingly, represent the most efficient of the conventional powerplants for the Focus. In fuel-sipping Econetic form, the 1.5 TDCi Focus has a claimed average of 83.1mpg with emissions of 88g/km of CO2.
You can go even greener with the very slow-selling Focus Electric, which simply requires charging up to replenish its batteries, although the maximum range is limited to 100 miles before you’ll need to plug it in again. On the plus side, the car itself is emission-free.
Fast Ford legacy: Focus ST and RS
Ford has a proud history of offering high-performance versions of its regular family cars and this generation Focus is no different, offered in both hot ST and scorching RS forms.
Petrol (2.0-litre EcoBoost, 250hp) and diesel (2.0-litre TDCi, 185hp) versions of the Focus ST are offered, each with a racier bodykit and deeper front grille, with enhanced performance and handling. Those petrol versions can reach 154mph and scurry from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds.
Introduced in 2016, the Focus RS is something else again, offering genuine performance-car slaying speed (165mph, 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds) from its 350hp, 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine. Four-wheel drive and clever electronics keep the car stable or allow it to be playful, depending on your requirements, but while the bodywork’s suitably pumped-up, it looks less outlandish than RSes of old.
Packed with features
Ford’s Focus hatchback comes with a raft of technology to improve driver safety and ownership experience such as a blindspot indicator, self-parking function and autonomous emergency braking. Some of these features are available as options only while others, depending on the trim level you choose, are standard.
There are nine trim levels available from the entry-level Style that comes with air-con but no alloy wheels through to the performance RS flagship, with the luxurious Titanium models providing comfort for those seeking a more premium aura.
Ford Focus hatchback model history
- January 2011 – Third-generation Focus hatchback available to order with deliveries from March in Edge, Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X trims. Petrol engines are all 1.6s and comprise of the Ti-VCT in 105hp and 120hp guises, as well as a turbocharged EcoBoost with 150hp. Diesels come in 1.6-litre TDCi with 95hp and 115hp, and a 2.0-litre TDCi with 140hp and 163hp.
- August 2011 – Entry-level Studio model with an 85hp 1.6-litre Ti-VCT petrol engine introduced.
- November 2011 – Zetec S trim introduced as the sportiest offering in the range until the ST arrives. Engines restricted to the 1.6 Ti-VCT (125hp) and 1.6T EcoBoost (180hp) petrols, and in diesel form the 1.6 TDCi (115hp) and 2.0 TDCi (163hp).
- February 2012 – New three-cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine with 100hp and 125hp introduced in Edge, Zetec, Zetec S, Titanium and Titanium X trim levels, in most cases replacing the previous non-turbo 125hp 1.6-litre motor.
- June 2012 – Sportier ST-1, ST-2, ST-3 versions available to order with a 2.0-litre 250hp engine. First deliveries begin in September.
- July 2013 – Aftermarket Mountune upgrade available for petrol-powered ST models, pushing power up to 275hp.
- August 2013 – New trims introduced with standard sat-nav: Zetec Navigator supplements the existing Zetec specification, while Titanium Navigator and Titanium X Navigator replace the versions they’re based on.
- September 2013 – Standalone Electric Focus launched powered by a 142hp motor, with batteries sufficient for a claimed range of 100 miles. Specification is broadly similar to Titanium.
- September 2014 – Revised range available to order for November delivery, featuring an all-new front end, a wider tailgate, smaller rear lights and a refreshed interior. Trims for the revised range are Studio, Style, Zetec, Zetec S, Titanium, Titanium X and a stand-alone Electric trim for the battery-powered model. Many of the engines are more efficient than before, plus there’s the addition of a 1.5-litre EcoBoost producing 182hp.
- October 2014 – Facelifted versions of the sporty ST-1, ST-2 and ST-3 are available to order with delivery scheduled for February 2015. More aggressive styling kits than regular hatchbacks with a choice of a 250hp 2.0-litre petrol and a 185hp 2.0-litre diesel.
- September 2015 – Range-topping RS available to order with deliveries from spring 2016. Hallmarked by a unique bodykit, a 2.3-litre 350hp engine and four-wheel drive.
- October 2015 – Nudging power for the petrol-engined ST models to 275hp is an aftermarket Mountune package.
- November 2015 – Diesel-engined versions of the ST are available to order with the PowerShift twin-clutch automatic gearbox.
- December 2015 – Available with a 182hp 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol or a 150hp 2.0-litre TDCi diesel are the Zetec S Black Edition and Red Edition. The former is black with a red roof, grille surround and other details, the latter its opposite.
- June 2016 – ST-Line specification introduced replacing all previous Zetec S versions.
- August 2016 – Aftermarket Mountune performance upgrade available for the Focus RS, pushing peak power up to 375hp.
- February 2017 – Zetec Edition specification replaces previous Zetec trim. ST-Line Black Edition and Red Edition, along with the ST-1 are discontinued. Multimedia system upgraded to Sync3.
Is the package good enough to justify its top-selling status? Read the full Ford Focus hatchback review to find out.
What owners say about this car
I love to drive this car, it's plucky and has everything in the right place for me however some things... Read owner review
My 4th focus and this latest one is very disappointing. Not as good as my 2011 1.6 tcdi Zetec sport. Read owner review
I find it difficult to look passed a Ford, the equipment offered at this price is almost impossible to find... Read owner review