- Petrol, diesel and electric options
- Most are turbocharged for efficiency
- Flagship RS is staggeringly quick
With a broad selection of 13 engine and gearbox combinations delivering the performance, if you can’t find a Ford Focus that suits then you might as well take a trip to Picky Are Us.
Petrol, diesel and electric powerplants are available, while higher-performance motors are installed in the Focus ST and RS.
Mainstream petrol choices
Ford’s turbocharged EcoBoost engines have grabbed many headlines, and here the technology’s available in 1.0- and 1.5-litre forms.
Kicking off proceedings is the three-cylinder 1.0-litre in 100hp form. That’s enough for a top speed of 115mph, while 170Nm of torque means a leisurely 0-62mph time of 12.5 seconds. A five-speed manual’s the only transmission but different gearing means two different sets of efficiency statistics: as standard it delivers a claimed average of 61.4mpg and 105g/km of CO2, but the more frugal alternative posts figures of 65.7mpg and 99g/km.
There’s also a 125hp edition of the 1.0-litre, the standard manual gearbox upgraded to a six-speeder. With an accompanying torque increase to 200Nm, the 0-62mph is shaved to 11 seconds, while the top speed’s 120mph.
If you fancy spending extra on a six-speed automatic gearbox then one can be had with this engine, resulting in a 119mph top speed and a 0-62mph time of 12 seconds.
These three-cylinder EcoBoosts offer impressive power for their size, although rivals’ newer units of a similar capacity tend to be less harsh.
Six-speed manuals and optional automatics are available on both versions of the four-cylinder 1.5-litre EcoBoost motors. First up is the 150hp version producing 240Nm of torque. Performance figures for the manual are a 130mph top speed and 8.9 seconds for the 0-62mph sprint; opt for the auto and those numbers become 129mph and 9.2 seconds.
Quickest of the 1.5s are the 182hp editions, which still produce 240Nm of torque. Again, the manual transmission is the quicker of the two, with a top speed of 138mph (137mph for the automatic) and a 0-62mph time of 8.6 seconds (8.9 in automatic guise).
Completing the range of non-sporty Focus petrol engines are a pair of 1.6-litre Ti-VCT units, without turbocharging, hence their meagre 85hp and 105hp outputs. Both have five-speed manual gearboxes.
The less powerful motor produces just 141Nm of torque making it the slowest derivative of the Focus range, with a top speed of 106mph and requiring a pedestrian 14.9 seconds to reach 62mph from a standstill. The gutsier version does a little better courtesy of its 150Nm-worth of torque, but even that’s only sufficient for a 116mph top speed and a 12.3-second 0-62mph time.
Economical diesel line-up
The Focus’s diesel-fuelled range starts off with the 1.5-litre TDCi in 95hp form. That doesn’t sound like a tremendous amount of power but its 250Nm of torque outguns all the mainstream petrol engine figures, and like all the diesels, a six-speed manual gearbox is standard. Top speed’s just 112mph but it’ll reach 62mph from a standing start in 12 seconds.
Next up is a 105hp edition of the same engine, here tuned more for economy despite the power and torque increase (it’s up by 20Nm), hence the Econetic badges. Although it has a 116mph top speed, the 0-62mph time only just drops to 11.9 seconds. However, claimed economy is an impressive 83.1mpg, with CO2 emissions of just 88g/km.
Fleshing out the top of the 1.5-litre diesel range is the 120hp version, again with 270Nm, but with a choice of the standard manual transmission or the optional twin-clutch PowerShift automatic – it’s a slow-witted gearbox and one we’d recommend avoiding if you can. Performance is rated at 120mph and 10.5 seconds for the 0-62mph with the manual, 119mph and 10.8 seconds for the automatic.
You’ve a choice of the same two transmissions for the 150hp 2.0-litre TDCi, the engine’s extra capacity helping ramp the torque figure up to 370Nm. It’s a pleasingly sprightly performer, with a top speed of 130mph in manual form, and an 8.8-second 0-62mph time for the manual, 129mph and 8.7 for the PowerShift.
It may well have escaped you, not least because Ford sells so few of them, but a Focus Electric is also available. Energy’s stored in a 23KWh lithium-ion battery, enough to give the Electric a theoretical range of up to 100 miles between recharges.
Its motor produces 142hp and 250Nm of torque, enough to get from 0-62mph in 11 seconds; top speed is governed to just 84mph.
Sportier Focus ST versions
Enthusiasts will undoubtedly read the Ford Focus ST performance stats with beady eyes. What’s interesting is that the 2.0-litre EcoBoost’s 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds isn’t much slower than the previous-generation RS, which could get there in 6.0 seconds.
Okay, it’s half a second off, but when you consider that the engine capacity in the old RS is 500cc bigger and that the RS model was supposed to be the pinnacle of performance in the Focus range, this ST certainly gives a good account of itself.
The engine in this model delivers 250hp, maximum pulling power of 360Nm and, as well as the impressive 0-62mph time, it’ll go on to a top speed of 154mph. The stats tell just a smidgeon of the story. Not only is it fast, it feels fast. The performance is linear and smooth, but not so refined that you don’t feel the raw brutality.
The torque steer that has blighted some of the previous fast Ford models has been well restrained, and once you get up to third gear the scenery will have become a satisfying blur. On top of that you get a fantastic engine sound that is very addictive.
For those seeking greater frugality, the ST’s also available with an uprated 185hp edition of the 2.0-litre TDCi diesel, with manual or PowerShift transmissions: 400Nm of torque ensures 0-62mph times of 8.1 seconds for the manual and 7.7 for the automatic, while both post identical 135mph top speeds.
Performance flagship Focus RS
It’s fair to say the performance of the Ford Focus RS is mind-bending. It uses a turbocharged 2.3-litre, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine from the firm’s iconic Mustang, but retuned to deliver 350hp and 440Nm of torque available between 2,000rpm and 4,500rpm, though the torque figure swells to 470Nm while in the 18-second “overboost” function upon initial acceleration.
In terms of raw data that equates to a 0-62mph sprint in 4.7 seconds, with a top speed of 165mph. Nothing else at this price point can match those figures.
To hit 62mph as fast as the Focus RS will go means using the launch control system, which can be found in the trip computer menus by using the controls on the steering wheel. It’s best saved for track use really though, because it takes a little too long to engage for most traffic light Grand Prix situations.
Once you’ve selected launch control it’s simply a case of standing on the accelerator and releasing the clutch quickly once you’ve built up turbo boost - handily displayed on one of the three gauges sat above the sat-nav screen.
It sounds sensational too. On the road the power delivery is savage, and better still with the driving modes tweaked to allow the flap in the specially tuned exhaust to open, eliciting pops and bangs from the twin tailpipes that can’t fail to make you smile. There’s a hint of synthesised noise (it uses the same system as the Focus ST for that) but actually there is genuine engine sound mixed in there.
We found the gearchange to be excellent, although not as pleasing in operation as, say, a Mazda MX-5’s, with a longer throw and slightly more vague operation, but it does the job perfectly well.
- Steering feel has been dulled
- Overall handling still impresses
- ST and RS are especially agile
The previous-generation Focus was adept at cornering so we expected this iteration to be an improvement, but although it is competent, it’s not quite so sharp. It appears Ford, in a bid to appeal to an even broader market, has made this car a little softer.
On tight corners you get a little more body lean, a little less grip and steering that just isn’t as quick or accurate as that on its predecessor. Still, it’s not bad, and if you do enter bends with gusto you will enjoy decent levels of grip, but again you will find the nose pushing more in a straight line on damp surfaces, which will require you to lift off the accelerator to get the car to tuck in.
The Focus does feel softer which means it’s not quite on par with the Volkswagen Golf for instance, and is only as good as the latest Vauxhall Astra.
It is hard to pick fault at Ford, though. Yes, the Focus does feel less of a driver’s car now, but the compromises made to deliver a more comfortable ride are probably worth it. ST-Line models (previously Zetec S) get stiffer suspension that helps reduce body roll, making the car feel more sporty, without overly compromising that ride quality.
The main criticism of the mainstream Focus, however, is with the steering – the introduction of electronic power assistance has dulled the feel, which means there’s less feedback coming through the wheel. The rest of the controls combine to give a positive driving experience: the brakes are excellent and gearchange on the manual is smooth, but the Powershift auto seems to restrict the car’s progress rather than enhance it.
We don’t think the answer is to switch to manual mode and do the gearchanges yourself because the buttons are located on the gearknob and it doesn’t feel quite right – a fixed paddleshift like that on the Golf’s DSG versions would have been a better solution.
Sportier Focus ST
The handling in the Ford Focus ST is also let down a little by the electric power-assisted steering, which is best described as rubbery. Still that’s probably the only complaint as far as the Ford Focus ST’s dynamics are concerned.
Although the steering may be low on feel, it’s responsive on turn-in and is well-weighted. Like the standard Focus, you get excellent roadholding, but the sports suspension ramps up the agility a notch. Twisty roads are where the ST excels, coping with fast and tight corners with ease. The body control is excellent, with little lean on tighter corners. The six-speed manual gearbox is smooth, the clutch satisfyingly light and the brakes solid.
There’s plenty of wizardry to make sure you don’t make a fool of yourself on the road. The Focus ST features torque vectoring control, which sounds fancy but this is a system that applies brake torque to the wheels on the inside of the corner to increase grip and reduce the car’s tendency to go straight ahead instead of turn in.
The car also features Cornering Understeer Control - another piece of technical trickery that helps keep the car stuck to the road. In any event, this is a difficult car to fault as far as handling is concerned.
Exhilarating Focus RS
Hold on tight. The Focus RS has an innovative all-wheel drive (AWD) system which can send up to 70 percent of available torque to the rear axle, and 100 percent of that torque exclusively to one side of the car. It uses electronic clutch packs to measure out the torque extremely accurately, with the car computing the desired mix at a rate of 100 times per second.
It uses a torque vectoring system in partnership with the AWD tech, which programmes the brakes to subtly tighten the Focus’s line when required, eliminating understeer (the front end washing wide when you’ve gone too quickly into a corner) and improving agility. There’s a fixed-rated steering system installed as well, which offers predictable and feelsome cornering unrivalled in the sector.
In its Normal driving mode the RS is astonishingly grippy but relatively safe and benign; it’s possible to flip to a tail-happy drift king at the push of a button. In fact, you’ve got three handling modes to pick from if Normal doesn’t do it for you, but two are strictly for track use only.
The most engaging set-up for the road is Sport, which switches the AWD system to a more entertaining configuration and adds to the steering weighting.
If you’re out on a race circuit and want to go fast the Track is the setting for you. This stiffens up the dampers by a huge 40 percent, making them quite probably unsuitable for some UK roads anyway – make no mistake, this is a firm car at the best of times.
The infamous Drift mode
Finally, there’s the industry-first Drift mode. Inspired by Youtube sensation Ken Block, this allows you to indulge in the sort of tail-out antics usually only achievable on a rear-wheel drive performance car. It retains the traction control but backs it off into a wide slip mode, allowing you to kick the rear end out and then maintain the slide thanks to fancy configuration of the AWD system.
Doing so requires a different technique to a rear-driven car (you keep your foot planted on the floor when the slide starts rather than backing off to balance the skid) but the end result is the same: you’ll be laughing like a hyena and visiting the tyre shop regularly. That’s unless it’s wet, in which case you’re simply going to have an amazing amount of fun.
Hidden behind each set of 19-inch alloys are large Brembo brakes that perform very well. They’re designed for heavy track use but aren’t too aggressive for the road either, striking a good balance between progressive application and outright stopping force.
While the exterior styling perhaps isn’t as garish as the previous two RS Focuses, it’s worth noting that every single part is there for a reason. The front bumper design, rear roof spoiler and diffuser between the exhaust pipes all help this car feel amazingly stable at high speed because they’re working together to make the Focus perfectly balanced at either end.
- Dashboard improvements from 2014
- Reduced button count, quality uplift
- Sporty versions feel too ordinary inside
With that raft of buttons, particularly on the Ford Focus’s steering wheel, it can initially be confusing but shouldn’t take too long to learn where all the controls are.
As part of the 2014 facelift, Ford reduced the switchgear count and introduced an eight-inch touchscreen for models fitted with Sync2. It’s a big improvement but not as classy and fuss-free as a Volkswagen Golf’s cabin.
Disappointingly, there’s little else to make the interiors of the Focus ST and RS feel much more special than the regular versions, save for some contrasting stitching to the leather and a trio of supplementary dials at a jaunty angle atop the centre of the dash.
These gauges display oil temperature, turbo boost and oil pressure, but are small and require more than just a cursory glance to absorb the information.
The front windscreen pillars are quite large but they don’t hinder visibility that much – only when you are trying to pull out at junctions with acute angles. Rear visibility is good, however, although the door mirrors are squarer than most, but do have a wide-angle curvature to their outer edges.
- Ride comfort a strong point
- RS is very stiffly-sprung, ST less so
- Sports seats may be snug for some
There’s little to complain about the comfort on offer in the Ford Focus. The seats are supportive and comfy, with a broad range of adjustment and, combined with height-and-reach movement in the steering column, it’s easy to find a decent driving position.
We would have liked a little more lateral support to hem you in when cornering tightly, but it’s not a deal-breaker. The optional sports seats help here and are more comfortable but we’d recommend actually testing them to see if they are worth the extra outlay – it’s not a cheap option.
The ride is excellent – one of the best in the class – and even after a couple of hours of hard driving we emerged from the car feeling very fresh with no niggling aches or pains.
Road and engine noise are well contained, but there is a little bit of wind rustle coming from the door mirrors.
Mixed results with the faster Focuses
Ford Focus ST comfort could have been compromised by the sports suspension, but it rides surprising well, even over rutted roads. In city centres it’ll deal with manhole covers without fuss and only the most pock-marked streets present a problem. Yes, it’s firm, and yes there are more comfortable cars out there, but this is a high-performance sports car that’s good enough for daily use.
Secondly, the sports seats do a good job of hemming you in on tight corners and that’s reassuring, offering a firm, yet pleasing amount of support for your back. If you are a little on the portly side you may find them a bit tight.
The Focus RS’s low-profile tyres and stiff suspension are going to make for bumpy progress in the UK, but most owners will put up with it for the sheer performance on offer here. Just keep those two-stage dampers out of their stiffer mode because on most British roads that’s likely to make the RS an unruly animal.
We loved the standard seats, though. They’re beautifully finished and supportive, albeit sitting slightly higher up than we were expecting. Less comfortable – but more supportive – are the optional Recaro shell seats, and they’ve proven popular with those who have ordered the car so far.