What is the Ford Focus?
Now in its fourth generation, the Ford Focus has consistently been one of the most popular family cars in the UK since the original's launch in 1998. Like the Ford Escort it replaced, the Focus has established itself as a good-value buy both new and used - a significant achievement given just how capable the best of its rivals, such as the Honda Civic, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf, are.
But what set the Ford Focus apart from all of those cars was just how capable a driver's car it was. That 1998 Focus revolutionised the traditional family hatchback sector with handling, agility and feedback far better than most rivals. Since then, it has always been the go-to choice for those who like driving, although rivals have significantly narrowed the gap to the Mk4 Focus.
- Top speed: 109-137mph
- 0-62mph: 8.5-13.9 seconds
- Fuel economy: 38.7-62.8mpg
- Emissions: 91-138g/km of CO2
- Boot space: 273-1,620 litres
In typical Ford fashion, the Focus range is a diverse one as it's designed to cover as many demands from different sectors in the market as possible. That said, the fourth-generation model is only sold in the UK in two bodystyles: the evergreen Focus Hatchback and the more capacious Focus Estate. Other markets are also offered a traditional four-door Focus Saloon, but there's no sign of this reaching Britain.
Kicking-off with Style, the Focus line-up moves-up through Zetec and Titanium, with the flagship Vignale setting a high standard of luxury fixtures and fittings.
If you fancy something sportier, then so far the Mk4 Focus is only available in ST-Line trim, but the much more potent Focus ST joins the range in 2019.
Turbocharged 1.0- and 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engines continue to prove popular, while the 1.5- and 2.0-litre diesels have been upgraded and rebranded EcoBlue.
Think of the Focus ST as a modern-day Ford Escort XR3i and you're not far wrong - it won't be the fastest of the Focus breed, but it should perform well enough to capture the imaginations and deposits of hot hatch buyers.
For the ST version of the Mk4 Focus, Ford will again make it available with both five-door Hatchback and Estate bodies, with a choice of diesel and petrol power.
Those seeking a degree of fuel efficiency with their sporty family car will be drawn to the 190hp 2.0 EcoBlue diesel, while the faster of the pair is the 280hp 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol. How fast? Ford's been coy and is yet to reveal performance figures.
Rallye Sport: that's what those initials stand for if you were wondering. And, everytime Ford unleashes a new model with that evocative badge, people flock to showrooms to place their deposits long before they've even driven the car itself.
There isn't a Mk4 Ford Focus RS - yet - but given the sales successes of the first three three generations of Focus RS, it's a fairly safe bet that we'll see one, but maybe not until 2020 or 2021.
Of its predecessors, it's the third-generation Focus RS that was the most accomplished: its turbocharged 2.3-litre engine produced 350hp, enough for a 165mph top speed, while four-wheel drive ensured it could squirt from 0-62mph in just 4.7 seconds. But it wasn't simply about its straight-line speed - so well-judged was its handling that it could carry enormous levels of alacrity around corners at speed. A genuine driver's delight and one we exploited on the North Coast 500.
Ford believes that there are customers who live an adventurous lifestyle but don't want a taller SUV, such as its EcoSport or Kuga models. It's response is the Ford Focus Active, available in both hatchback and estate or five-door hatchback, with a number of visual differences compared with the regular Focus.
Active models gets a 30mm increase in ride height and bespoke steering knuckles. As well as that, there are new black plastic wheelarch extensions, different bumper mouldings with silver skidplates and roof bars. It also gets bespoke front-end styling and two new selectable drive modes called Slippery and Trail. However, like other Focuses, it remains front-wheel drive only, so forget any notions about serious off-roading.
Launched in 2018, the fourth-generation Focus is a thorough reboot of the franchise both in terms of styling and engineering that's based on an all-new platform. The good news is that Ford says that this one has been honed for keen drivers, and we'd certainly agree with that assertion.
In terms of styling, the new Ford Focus looks substantially different from any Focus that has come before. As well as losing the six-light glasshouse (three separate side windows on each side) on the five-door Hatchback, it's now a far sleeker proposition, which lends itself to the notion that this is a proper driver's car. Half-close your eyes and it has a passing resemblence to both the original BMW 1 Series Sports Hatch.
This isn't just a visual trick. The new Focus is lower and wider than before, which gives it a sportier stance. However, thanks to the longer wheelbase, there's more interior room, especially in the rear. It's also packed with safety kit that's new to the Focus line.
It is, yes, but although we rate the Mk4 Ford Focus very highly, there are a couple of caveats: it's lost some of the polish of its predecessors, plus many rivals are much closer to delivering Focus-levels of driver involvement.
The basis bodes well for higher performance versions, such as the upcoming Ford Focus ST.
Although it's a class-leading car, it does have some niggles. Most notably, the interior quality isn't up there with the Volkswagen Golf, and we're still not completely sold on Ford's Sync3 infotainment system.
With a list price for the Style version coming in at less than £18,000, the Focus is bang on the money compared with its rivals in this market sector. At the other end of the scale you can spend more than £30,000 on a specced-up Vignale and for that sort of money you're likely to find better value with more upmarket choices from premium brands.
Finance deals are attractive, though, and that's how most private buyers will get into a Mk4 Focys. A high spec 182hp Focus ST-Line could be yours for less than £300 per month with a deposit of £3,000 (on a 38-month, 9,000-mile-per-year contract) on Ford's Options scheme.
If you want to get the latest view of the Focus's PCP car finance deals, check out our Finance Advice section. It's also worth remembering that it also often features in our regularly updated best cars for £250 and £300 a month article.
See what drivers of the Ford Focus think of their cars with our entertaining owners' reviews.
Ford Focus Model History
Launched in 2011, in most regards the Mk3 Focus continued with the template set down by its predecessors in that it was designed to be good to drive in a way that enthusiasts would choose it because they wanted it, not because they were forced into one due to family circumstances.
However, the variants were paired back, limiting buyers to just two bodystyles. By far the most popular was the five-door Ford Focus Hatchback (the three-door was dropped for this generation), but the only alternative was the roomy Focus Estate.
There was a lot of choice within those confines, though, with a huge suite of petrol and diesel engines, an ell-electric version (although sales barely registered in Britain), plus the rapid Focus ST (from 2012) and outrageous Focus RS (introduced in 2016) for those who sought more performance.
Ford introduced a significant facelift for the Focus in 2014, with an all-new front end and - for the Focus Hatchback - a revised tailgate and rear lamps. All models enjoyed an overhauled interior with a leap forward in driver technology.
Browse through hundreds of used examples for sale and read what drivers think of the car with our Ford Focus owners' reviews.
Second-generation Ford Focus (2005-2011)
Available to order from the end of 2004 with deliveries commencing in early 2005, the Mk2 Ford Focus arrived to a mixed reception. Yes, it was still great to drive, yes it was more spacious, but the visual drama of the original had all but been eroded away.
That didn't stop it being very popular, of course, and in large part that was down to Ford offering a vast array of different bodystyles on top of a confusing suite of trim levels and petrol and diesel engine combinations.
More conservative customers had to wait a little later into 2005 before they could get their hands on the Focus Saloon, but there was an even bigger surprise in 2007 when Ford introduced the Focus Coupe-Cabriolet. Featuring a folding hard-top and a snug four-seater cabin, the Focus Coupe-Cabriolet was styled by and built in Italy by Pininfarina, confirmed to onlookers by badges just ahead of the rear wheels.
Ford responded to criticism of the Focus's dull looks by introducing a compregensive facelift in 2008. As well as an all-new nose, with more distinctive headlights, the wings and door panels were all exchanged for ones with shapelier sculpting, while the Focus Hatchbacks received a tweaked tailgate.
First-generation Ford Focus (1998-2005)
Things move quickly in the automotive industry making it easy to forget how much of a sea-change the Mk1 Ford Focus represented over the humdrum Escort range it replaced.
Dashingly daring inside and out is one thing, but the Focus's biggest revelation was how good it was to drive. Compared with the so-so dynamics of many rivals, the Focus felt sports car-like, courtesy of its well-honed all-round independent suspension.
An important Escort carry-over was the bodystyle line-up, with three- and five-door versions of the Focus Hatchback, a somewhat ungainly four-door Focus Saloon and a spacious Focus Estate.
Initially the range lacked truly sporty derivatives - it was 2002, following a very mild facelift across the whole range, before the Focus ST170 and original Focus RS debuted, the latter not to universal praise.