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Company cars compared: Ford Focus vs VW Golf

  • We pit two of the UK's most popular company cars against each other
  • Find out which wins in terms of engines, driving, practicality, safety, spec and kerb appeal
  • With a set tax budget of £53, find out which car offers the better value proposition

It’s a question thousands of company car drivers have to answer every year. Which of the two top-selling medium hatchbacks is best? Here we pit Ford Focus vs Volkswagen Golf.

To carry out this test we’ve picked a set budget, and then faced the cars off against each other to see which offers the better package.

We’ve picked a cap of £53 per month in Benefit-in-Kind tax, and we’re assuming rates for a 20 percent tax payer in the 2014/15 tax year. That nets you a mid-level trim and a small, efficient diesel engine. But which one wins? Read on to find out…

The engine question

Both companies have a seriously impressive engine line-up with diesel engines that offer low CO2 emissions and high fuel economy. Ford has a new 1.5-litre diesel which makes 118bhp and emits 98g/km of CO2. It goes up against VW’s 1.6-litre unit, which makes slightly less power of 103bhp while emitting 99g/km of CO2.

While the Ford has a touch more power, performance figures are so similar we suspect you won’t notice the difference on the road. For the Golf you’re looking at 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds and a top speed of 119mph. The Focus does 10.5 seconds and 120mph respectively.

Fuel economy is claimed exactly the same for both models – 74.3mpg on the combined cycle – but as we know, it’s likely you’ll see closer to 55mpg during real-world driving.

Winner: Ford Focus

Driving dilemma

Both of these cars are fantastic to drive, but there’s a clear winner here. Following Ford’s 2015 refresh of the Focus range its hatchback is the driver’s choice. The excellent driving position Ford is famous for joins an impressive combination of ride quality and engaging handling to provide a great compromise on the road.

That’s not to say the Golf is bad in this sense, though. It still handles brilliantly and it’s also very comfortable, and furthermore is probably the better car when it comes to noise in the cabin.

It also only gets five gears compared to the Focus’s six, so the Ford will be quieter at motorway speeds and better on fuel over longer journeys, and its 53-litre fuel tank is three litres bigger than the VW’s too, which means a little extra range between fill-ups.

Winner: Ford Focus

Spec secrets

Here we’re pitting Ford’s Titanium Nav specification against Volkswagen’s Match trim. With the well-matched above engines installed they both cost exactly the same amount in tax per month: £53 for a 20 percent tax payer.

Here are the key differences between the two trims:

Ford Focus Titanium Nav: Eight-inch touchscreen, sat-nav, DAB, voice control, cruise control with speed limiter, automatic climate control, rear parking sensors, heated windscreen and keyless entry/start.

VW Golf Match: 5.8-inch touchscreen, DAB, single CD, SD card reader, eight speakers, adaptive cruise control, manual air-con, parking sensors (front and rear), variable boot floor and electric parking brake. 

So as you can see, both cars get extra kit in some areas and sacrifice it in others. For a company car driver, we’d suggest you’re better off going with the Focus in this instance. Its screen is bigger, the tech more modern and crucially you also get sat-nav built-in. The only thing we’d really miss here is adaptive cruise control, and that’s a £550 optional extra. Since it would cost you another £650 to add sat-nav to the Golf, and the screen/tech aren’t up to the Ford’s standards, that’s where our money would go.

Winner: Ford Focus

Practicality and safety

The Golf is the clear winner in the practicality stakes. Its 380-litre boot space dwarves the Focus’s 316, while folding the rear seats down unlocks 1,270 litres in the VW and 1,215 litres in the Ford.

Both cars have a lot of room in the cabin, seating four easily and five at a push. They both have wide-opening rear doors too, which makes access to the rear seats far easier.

They both have a five-star EuroNCAP crash test safety rating too, which means a plethora of airbags along with a high-strength body structure and ISOFIX child seat lashing points.

On top of that, each firm uses torque-vectoring technology to retain traction at all times. This effectively stops the car’s nose washing wide in corners by braking the inside wheels, tightening the line the car takes. There’s also a low-speed automatic braking function for city centre driving.

As you’ve seen from the equipment comparison, with the Focus you have to go without adaptive cruise control (will maintain a set speed unless car in front is slower, at which point speed is matched) and front parking sensors.

You get an electric parking brake on the Golf too, which unlocks more elbow room for driver and front passenger.

Winner: VW Golf

 

Appeal

That new Ford grille has come under some scrutiny since it was fitted to the Fiesta back in early 2013. It seems somehow better suited on the Focus, and along with the other subtle styling tweaks we’re fans of the way the Ford has grown up. It just seems like a more resolved design than the pre-facelift car.

But VW has never had an image issue with the Golf. Its styling might be iterative rather than dramatic in its evolution, but it’s still a Volkswagen and it’s still a Golf. There’s a certain cache to that.

Not to mention the fact that while Ford doesn’t have an issue with cheap parts or poor build quality, the VW has legendary reliability and bits shared across the firm’s line-up. As a result the cabin is extremely well built and thought-out, and thanks to higher quality materials it’s the nicer place to be.

Winner: VW Golf

 

And the winner is…

In an ideal world we’d claim there are no winners here. The sales figures for both cars are very strong indeed, and it’s clear either will make a fantastic company car.

But if we have to pick a winner, it’s the Ford Focus. It’s more practical and comes with more kit for your money. A worthy winner. 

Find out how much your car costs to run by using the Parkers Cost of Motoring Tool