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View all Ford Focus reviews
Parkers overall rating: 4.6 out of 5 4.6

Very little to fault it on – a huge step from its already impressive predecessor

Ford Focus Hatchback Review Video
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PROS

  • Broad range of strong engines
  • Fun to drive with great handling
  • Suite of driver assistance tech
  • Spacious interior and big boot

CONS

  • Adaptive dampers don’t add anything
  • No hybrid or electric version available
  • Automatic gearbox can be indecisive
  • Cabin storage could be better

PROS

  • Broad range of strong engines
  • Fun to drive with great handling
  • Suite of driver assistance tech
  • Spacious interior and big boot

CONS

  • Adaptive dampers don’t add anything
  • No hybrid or electric version available
  • Automatic gearbox can be indecisive
  • Cabin storage could be better

Ford Focus Hatchback rivals

­­The Ford Focus, following its launch in 1998, has become one of the UK’s biggest-selling cars. It’s easy to see why; the original, with its striking styling and fine handling, was a breath of fresh air in a segment of the market that needed new life. The Mk4 Focus aims to continue its predecessors’ success and, although 2019’s crop of family hatchbacks are far tougher competition, the popular Ford still stands out.

For starters, it’s based on an all-new platform and, when you consider that it’s already bagged the 2019 Parkers Small Family Car award, it looks set to be a sure-fire success – and likely to contribute to driving Focus sales well beyond the current tally of two million. That said, there’s the small matter of today’s wide and talented range of competition; rivals include the Vauxhall AstraMazda 3Hyundai i30Kia Ceed and the evergreen Volkswagen Golf.

Consequently, Ford might not have it entirely its way. Find out how it stacks up, and whether it’s worth your cash, in the in-depth Parkers verdict.

Ford Focus is still great fun to drive

Ford has been accused of letting the overall driving characteristics of its vehicles slip in recent years, but if the latest Fiesta (and especially the Fiesta ST) was an indication that this is no longer the case, then the fourth-generation Focus is a signed and sealed confirmation.

The ST-Line models in particular – with their lowered suspension – are enormous fun when the road gets twisty, delivering balanced body control (how little the body of the vehicle leans through corners), quick responses and bags of grip. As far as medium-sized hatchbacks go, this is pretty much as good as it gets.

A drive mode selector is standard on all Focus models, which tweaks the steering weight, accelerator response, adaptive cruise control (if fitted) and adaptive dampers (if fitted) to change the vehicle’s driving characteristics.

Unfortunately, the optional adaptive dampers (named Continuously Controlled Damping) do little to persuade you that they’re worth the extra cash. Not only is comfort not improved, but body control also takes a hit. Best give that option a miss.

Impressive EcoBoost petrols and EcoBlue diesels

Customers will be spoiled for choice when it comes to picking the engine in their Ford Focus – that is, as long as they weren’t expecting a hybrid or electric option. Despite boasting a total of four different engines in eight guises from launch (three of which are diesels), there are no hybrid or pure electric choices. We have been told, however, that all EcoBoost petrol engines are hybrid compatible, so watch this space.

Of the powerplants that you can buy, we’ve driven the 150hp and 182hp 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrols. Both are three-cylinder units with cylinder deactivation technology (where the car saves fuel by shutting down one of the three cylinders under light or no load) and they deliver a smooth, refined driving experience. Claimed fuel economy is 51.4mpg for the 150hp unit and 50.4mpg for the 182hp version.

Neither feel particularly quick but keep an eye on the speedometer and the numbers rise quickly enough for the vast majority of driving situations. The three-cylinder rumble won’t be for everyone, but you’ll seldom hear it when pottering around at low revs.

Two gearbox options are offered: a six-speed manual and an eight-speed auto. It’s hard to justify spending the extra money on the automatic, unless you need it, because the manual transmission is such a joy to use. The automatic is also somewhat of a mixed bag, as it’s predominantly smooth and predictable – yet it can be jerky and inconsistent when hurried. It’s still an improvement over the old Powershift transmissions, make no mistake, but it’s still not quite up there with Volkswagen’s DSG unit.

Ford Focus interior: good quality and lots of tech

Hop behind the wheel and you’ll find that the overall shape and layout of the cabin isn’t that far removed from the current Fiesta. Most of the important controls are positioned logically around the wheel and centre console, while the 6.5-inch touchscreen (an 8.0-inch upgrade is available) juts out of the dashboard to display sat-nav, media and other infotainment options via the tried-and-tested Sync3 interface.

Ford Focus Vignale interior

The cabin looks and feels of a higher quality now, too. Everything appears tightly screwed together and appears current; the manual handbrake lever is no more, replaced by an electronic switch, while – on automatic models ­– the traditional gearstick has been replaced with a rotary dial gear selector (like that in a Jaguar).

Storage space is reasonable but could be better, with the glovebox and central armrest cubby feeling a little pinched. Still, deceptively large door pockets and well-placed central cupholders go some way to making up for it. An optional head-up display also makes its debut on Ford cars in Europe, and is capable of showing speed, traffic sign and sat-nav instructions.

Ford Focus trim levels: eight in total

The familiar trim levels – including the popular Zetec, ST-Line, Titanium and Titanium X – remain, and are joined by the new ST-Line X and top-of-the-range luxury Vignale spec.

Standard equipment on Style models is fairly sparse, but still includes air-con, DAB radio and switchable drive modes. However, it’s easy to see why buyers opt for Zetec trim; it features a useful Quickclear heated windscreen, cruise control and a Sync3 touchscreen infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

Focus ST arrives in 2019

The ST was added to the range for delivery in September. It’s offered with a 2.3-litre petrol engine – similar to the one found in the Mustang – which produces 280hp, or a 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel with 190hp. Just like the previous ST, the option to have an automatic gearbox is available on both, although you’ll have to wait a bit longer for this to arrive. If you want more practicality to go with your performance, you can also have the ST as an estate.

The ST model range has also been reduced to just one trim level. Most buyers of the previous version went for top-spec ST3, so Ford decided to simply offer its new ST in one highly equipped specification. The cheapest route into ST ownership will be the diesel, due to its lower list price and higher fuel economy.

Will there be an RS to join the 2019 Focus ST?

Nothing has been confirmed yet, but strong rumours of a 2020 Focus RS aren’t likely to be wide of the mark – and with the ST coming out of the blocks with 280hp to play with, it's going to need 350hp-plus to make sure it's worth the upgrade. We suspect it will also drive all four wheels, just like the previous model.

Is the Ford Focus still worthy of being a popular hatchback? Read the Parkers full review to find out

Ford Focus Hatchback rivals

Other Ford Focus models: