Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 4.1

Parkers has run two Ford Focus hatchback long termers - click here for the ST-Line X 1.5 TDCi, and here for the ST.

Ford Focus ST long termer

Update 1: Introduction

2019 Ford Focus ST front white

The Ford Focus is one of the most successful cars in the UK. There are statistics to back that statement up, but I get bored with numbers, so look at it this way - without fail, any car journey will result in seeing a Ford Focus sharing the road with you.

It will also always hold a sentimental place in my heart, as it was my mum’s car when I turned 17 and passed my driving test. I got myself insured on her car and the 2004 black Ford Focus was my first taste of ultimate freedom. I will always remember the cloth seats, the plastic everywhere, the five-speed manual gearbox and the suspension knocking over any uneven surface.

Fast forward to summer 2018, and my first time working with Parkers at the New Car Awards filming day, I got my first glimpse at the current Ford Focus. A curvy, clean and familiar shape. Generic and conventional to maybe some critics, the Focus covers and ticks all the boxes it needs to. I sat in the driver’s seat and took in my memories behind the wheel of a Ford, and explored the new buttons, technology and the other interior pleasantries. 

Anyway, with that long winded background story, the scene has been set, and I’m back on to bring you another long term adventure with another quirky and interesting car. The Cupra Ateca is still sorely missed and frequently find myself looking at old photos remembering how easy my life was with that car. So, here is my next long termer - a Ford Focus ST - and it's the 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol version with a six-speed manual and 280hp. What is not to love!

Is the manual gearbox the best choice?

Well, firstly...I haven’t owned or daily’d a manual car since my 2007 Audi R8 back in 2014. I was hesitant to begin with, until I realised I didn’t have a choice or a say in the matter. From that moment I threw myself at the car and my manual memories came flooding back. I totally forgot the control and thrill of smashing the stick through the gears! With added fun with the auto rev matching, available in Sport and Track mode, the whole gearbox compliments you as a driver and really makes you feel part of an intimate motorsport weekend. 

Looking at the initial specs, I realised I had a gem. The petrol engined Focus ST comes with an e-LSD which adds an exciting dynamic to the car’s character. But what I was intrigued to explore was why the Fiesta ST (which Parkers is also running as a long termer) has such a strong cult following, and the Focus ST seems to fall short as ‘the car to have’.

I can’t help but think that the Focus RS is the more hardcore, more powerful offering, which squashes any potential ego for the Focus ST, whilst the Fiesta ST enjoys the limelight as the ‘top of the Range’ Fiesta. I see far more modified and passionate Fiesta ST cars on the road than I do the larger Focus ST. Modified or stock! They just don’t seem to be as popular. However, this one is supposed to be different. 

So here we are, six months ahead of us to get to know a car that feels like it needs to prove itself. So far it’s got all the right options, I’ve decided manual is the right transmission and the clutch and gearbox is a very pleasant experience both in and out of traffic. I like the white, not that i’d pick it if I was buying my own but all together, it’s a lovely spec that I’m very much looking forward to getting to know. And I have one very important question to answer and hopefully by April 2020, I will have my answer...

Is the Ford Focus ST better than the Hyundai i30 N

We’ll see! Stay tuned for my next update, head over to my YouTube channel (where I've introduced the Focus ST) to see more of the car and keep your eyes peeled on the Parkers YouTube channel too as I’m sure the ST will appear on there very soon too. See you next time!

Update 2: Bang for Your Buck

Ford Focus ST 2019 meets Ferrari 458 and Aston Martin Vantage

Over the last month I’ve been getting to grips with this car - I’d heard great things, and there’s no doubt the Ford Performance product range is only improving. I’ll briefly touch on the exact specification my vehicle has, but go into more depth into how this car slots into the world, and why I’ve already concluded I’d spend my own money on one (just not in white). 

So, to bring you guys up to speed with the last month, the Parkers Cars Focus ST has made itself at home alongside two quite frankly ridiculous cars. It sits proudly alongside a white 2013 Ferrari 458 Italia, and a 2019 silver Aston Martin Vantage. Two iconic cars that are arguably the prettiest cars launched this decade. Yet, I’ve managed to cover over 2,500 miles in the first month in the Ford, and on many occasions, have chosen to jump in the Focus instead of the others. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning about the revvy little hot hatch and it’s the little touches and additional features this car has, that makes it my choice of transport. 

Ford Focus ST 2019 steering wheel

Let’s start with it’s ‘winter’ options: we’ve got heated seats and steering wheel. Without question the most aggressive heated seats I’ve experienced in a car. They’re usually up to temperature within two minutes and burning your backside by three! Even my girlfriend, who loves heated seats can’t handle max power on these Recaros. The heated steering wheel is almost the complete opposite. I feel the warm up but after five minutes I have to check to see if the light is still on, and the wheel is still on.

Having said all of the above, I’ve spent enough time in the car now to adapt each heated component to get temps just right for those long distance drives which is why I find the long term loan test vehicles so much more valuable for both the tester, and the reader/viewer because the knowledge becomes richer, the more you drive.

Ford Focus ST 2019 rear tailgate

In terms of options, we have a ‘premium colour’ of Frozen White at £250. That name immediately confuses me as you expect a satin finish similar to those BMW ‘frozen’ colours. The white looks great and shows off the lines of the car well, but I’ve started to spot other Focus STs out on the road and think there are better options. The panoramic roof on the ST comes in just shy of £1,000 which I think is a ‘must have’ optional extra. It offers so much light and is a lovely feature to appreciate both from the exterior and interior. Finally, at a price of £250 we have the Performance Pack, head up display at £400, wireless charger, and Blind Spot information System added onto the car.

Whilst the Performance pack is probably another no brainer, the others are completely pointless. The head-up display looks cheap and ruins the interior, the wireless phone charger pad kills battery faster than if your phone was on your lap, and the blind spot system is a take it or leave it option that isn’t necessary. What we can take away from the above, is the optional extras are very reasonably priced and individually all come in cheaper than a brand new iPhone 11 Pro, which is always a good measure of value for money.

Ford Focus ST 2019 headlight

Moving onto my 2,500 miles in the car. I’ve done plenty of miles in the older Focus RS, which I didn’t get on with. Mainly the gearbox and clutch so I was a little nervous when first moving the new, and improved Focus ST. Ford have worked wonders on the clutch and gearbox. It feels smoother, easier to control and much better for city driving. The gearing is perfect, the biting point tickles the engine’s revolutions to making that pull away easier, and flick it into sport or track and the auto-rev matching makes you feel like a hero. The suspension is firm but tolerable, unlike the new Fiesta ST - I found that too stiff for daily driving especially on UK roads.

My only negative so far is its torque steer. Being a front wheel drive power house, I prepared myself to hold on, and it really was slightly wild. That being said, I’d put that down to character. I’m not going to mark the car down on something I’d probably also complain about if the car instantly put it’s power down effortlessly in a straight line because cars these days are becoming more like robots, and that’s just not fun. 

Ford Focus ST 2019 front grille

My most memorable drive so far was an airport run. I was running slightly late, my usual route via motorway was gridlocked and my nav took me ‘the long way’. I initiated Track Mode, forgot about fuel economy and set off on some pretty epic local B-roads. The cars balance was spot in, the steering had enough weight behind it to feel like you were in control, and could also predict the front end, and rear for those slightly tail happy lift-off oversteer moments. I put the car through it’s paces, almost took my distraction out from being late into the car. I punished it. And it kept wanting more. I got to the airport with a massive adrenaline buzz which helped me whizz through security and onto my flight! I sat down in my seat thinking back to the car and thought about it the entire trip. And when a car that costs £35,000 new does that to me, I put it up there with some of the best.

Of course there are some amazing used car deals on rivals that would eat the Focus ST alive on paper, but the character and personality this little thing has is brilliant and I’m already in love. Even writing this and reliving that drive is making me want to go out and drive. And I’ll mention it again not because I’m name dropping, but I’ll jump in the Ford over the Ferrari and Aston any day of the week!

Video incoming with an update on the Focus so you can see it up close and personal, but hopefully this blog has got you excited if you’re considering one. See you in the new year and new decade! Merry Christmas and have awesome 2019 celebrations!

Update 3: Ford vs Ferrari

2019 Ford Focus ST rear white

Well, never in my 12 years of creating automotive content and YouTube videos, being able to drive so many dream cars, did I expect that I would be writing this blog post.

Wait for the bombshell! 

The title is quite fitting. Only recently we were all treated to Matt Damon and Christian Bale playing through the Ford and Shelby story at Le Mans '66, and their fight with the motor racing heroes at Ferrari. The film's great, and it's fantastic to see the history of motorsport being shown on such a global, and mainstream scale. I’m really hoping the buzz around the film builds hype for this summer at Le Mans - but that's not the only reason why we’re looking at a Ford vs Ferrari.

I’m now well into 5,000 miles in my long term loaner, the Focus ST, I also took delivery of a 2013 Ferrari 458 Italia. For Ferrarista, an iconic model, and arguably the greatest car of the decade we said goodbye to not too long ago. So my current driveway is home to the lovely hot hatch from Ford, and the Italian mid-engined powerhouse from Ferrari. It may be evocative of legends, but the desire to slap myself in the face isn'tto wake from a dream - it's because I’m about to admit something crazy.....

I prefer driving the Ford to the Ferrari.

Now, there are many, many contributing factors to that statement. Just reading that back, while sat in the driver’s seat of the Focus, is blowing my brain cells. So let’s try and dissect what the hell is wrong with me, and what's happened in the previous 5,000 miles of the Focus ST to get to this confusing state of mind.

The current weather conditions, and our British weather in general, might be a factor. We've just experienced a fairly grim couple of weeks, with salt spreaders out on the road, the dirtiest muck and grub being kicked off our tyres. Low sun, bouncing off shiny motorways, yielding near 0% visibility. It’s safe to say the poor Ford has been put through a lot, and looks a little bit unloved. Its door mirrors are covered in salt and provide no assistance in seeing vehicles in my blind sports. My rear view camera has so much filth over it, I’m having to use other means to park, and getting it wrong and wonky every day.

When delivered, the Focus looked stunning in Frost White paint. It’s currently more black, brown, grey than white and I’m desperate to do something about it. But there’s no point! We’re back to the same condition and situation with just one journey back round the M25. So here is my first argument; why risk the Ferrari in this weather conditions?

The roads are wet, cold and dangerous when the sun glares up into your eyes. Why would you want to be driving such an expensive, fast, performance car? Putting nearly 600bhp through the rear wheels, no tyre will get enough grip for you to maximise your driving enjoyment on our roads at the moment. Every day so far in January, on every journey I’ve needed to do, I turn to the Ford for a more secure, sensible drive, feeling comfortable in the car’s ability to do the minimum to get me safely to my destination. 

2019 Ford Focus ST rear right white

Next, there's the relaxing cabin of the Focus ST. Alcantara, comfortable bucket seats, heated (as is the steering wheel) which I’ve already mentioned will happily set fire to your bottom with little warning. Day in, day out, London to Manchester, Hertfordshire to Kent, the Focus is better than the Ferrari in every way. My current average MPG over the 5,000 miles is 33.1mpg, which I’m pretty happy with. I have my fair share of ‘hoons’ and love to thrash this thing in track mode on the back roads across the countryside.

The Ferrari, on the other hand, has no heated anything! What I’ve failed to mention is my 458 Italia is an import from Saudi Arabia. Absolutely ZERO buyers of any car ever in Saudi Arabia have specced their car with heated seats! So each morning, with sub zero temperatures, I have a choice; be warm enough to become a bonfire in 90 seconds with the Ford, or remain an icicle for the entire journey in the Ferrari. The decision is easy every single time. 

And finally, we look at the drivetrain. Power to weight and gearbox options ultimately shape how appropriate any car is to a given situation, after all. The Focus ST provides a better all-round package for our roads in the UK than the Ferrari. Arguably, the 458 Italia is slightly too fast for 80% of our roads, 99% of the time (particularly considering London and the surrounding areas' traffic flow). So you can actually use the Ford’s performance, and feel like you’re flat out on most of your drives. The Ferrari, you only ever feel like you’re scratching the surface. You really need a warm, dry track to get the most out of it, where as the Ford is brilliant on B-roads, and great as my daily driver.

So here I am, SupercarsofLondon, the biggest Supercar fan ever, and... I find I don't want to drive a supercar every day.

Having dreamt of owning Ferraris and Lamborghinis all my life, in the position of choosing between a Ford Focus ST, and a Ferrari 458 Italia, I'm choosing the Ford 95% of the time.

The only really fun drive I’ve had in the Ferrari so far was on my birthday. Crisp blue sky, eight degrees. I warmed the car up and went for a blast. The back continually twitched, I found myself constantly correcting the steering with a bit of opposite lock and not once did I put my foot to the floor. My heart rate was through the roof and I was terrified of the repair bill should anything go wrong.

I made it back in one piece and had a smile on my face - right before I jumped in the Ford, flicked the ignition on and hugged my heated seat for the next five minutes to warm up. And there you have it - the realities of living with a Focus ST. It’s brilliant, ticks almost every box and is more fun to drive through the winter months than a Ferrari 458 Italia.

Check back in over the next couple of months to see if my views change as the temperature warms up. But the one thing I’ll finish on is, even though for my daily commuting and general day to day life the Focus ST scores more points. The roar of the Ferrari V8 is something my ears will never tire of. So bring on the spring, bring on the summer as I cannot wait to drive that Ferrari properly! One month into ownership, through December and January, and I’m already craving the summer!

See you next month for another update on the Focus ST. What do you want to see and hear from me and the car? And I’ll try and answer a few of your questions in the next blog! Cheers.

Update 4: The Hot Hatch Debate - Manual vs Auto

2020 Ford Focus ST interior

Technology develops to make life easier. And for a majority of people, cars are a form of transport that allows them to get from A to B in the easiest, comfiest, and most stress-free way.

Automatic gearboxes also provide ease and comfort, yet, petrolheads like myself still require a sense of engagement. A thrill. Nanograms of adrenaline coursing through my veins.

Which is why after thousands of miles in my Focus ST I’d like to raise a debate. 

Delve inside the world of hot hatches and you'll discover talk of the ‘hyper hatch'. These are like hot hatches, but turned up to 11. Notable entrants include the Mercedes-AMG A 45 S, which makes 420hp from a four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. It does the industry standard 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds. It's terrifyingly fast for a hatchback. And it's not available with a manual.

My Focus ST, a mere hot hatch, makes 280hp and does the 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds. My Ford, however, comes with the option of speccing a manual gearbox or an auto.

It makes sense to offer both in this application. Some may want an auto to ease the pain of city traffic, while others (like me), want the opportunity to maximise the car’s performance via their own left hand and foot.

Which (finally) brings me to my point. At what stage is a car too powerful to require a manual, or more specifically, at what point as a consumer, are manuals pointless?

2020 Ford Focus ST front three quarters

In my opinion, the power output threshold sits at around 450hp. Anything below this figure should have a manual option. The BMW M3 for instance - is phenomenal with a manual gearbox. Engaging, easy to use, and it really maximises driver enjoyment. Porsche still offers manual gearboxes in its sports cars. And Hyundai only offers a manual option in its i30 N hatchback.

Personally, I would have liked to have seen a manual Mercedes-AMG A45 s option. Of course, Mercedes sells far more automatics than manuals. But could you imagine a car with a 'drift mode' AND a manual gearbox?

Above 450hp, I believe computers should take over. Human reaction just lets the vehicle performance down and we’re too slow to enjoy the savage accelerations. Top Gear TV's Chris Harris' words about the Ferrari F12 TDF stick firmly in my brain. 

'This car is furiously fast, a manual gearbox just would not work. We wouldn’t be able to keep up.'

A manual gearbox is the ultimate for driver connection, then. Yet I do understand where the line needs to be drawn, and where we need to say goodbye and let technology take over. 

2020 Ford Focus ST rear and wheel

Is there still demand for manual performance cars? I’d love to know how many Focus STs are ordered with a manual. Even with 6,000 miles under my belt, and my full support and backing behind a manual gearbox, I realise this choice was forced upon me. The car arrived, and I accepted it as it came. But....put myself in the position of actually going and buying a Ford Focus ST with my own money, and I would really struggle to not select an auto gearbox, especially as the additional cost option would effortlessly slot into the monthly payment without much movement.

I realise this decision goes against everything i've just written about. I love the ST, I love the gearbox, I love the auto rev-matching. But I’d still spend the extra money and get an auto. Yes it would be less exciting, less engaging and probably soften the car, but I believe I sadly creep into the evolving society of needing everything easier. 

Having said the above, let’s make one thing clear, the Ford Focus ST is my daily driver and I’m lucky enough to spend time in quite silly, very fast cars to grab my adrenaline fix. My Lamborghini Murcielago is nearly ready and I have some mega roadtrips lined up with it. Take my Lamborghini away from me and throw away the key, and I’d be straight back on the manual bandwagon immediately.

But here’s my worry. I think that manuals are dying out. But I also believe that demand will rise again in the future. They will become collectible, desirable, and almost a novelty. The engagement is unrivalled and no matter what, there should always be a manual option sat on your driveway if you truly love the thrill of driving. My pick? A 2008 Audi R8 4.2 litre V8. An old-school kind of gearbox without needless leather gaiter. And only £5k more expensive than my 2019 Focus ST. 

Ford Focus ST-Line X long termer

Update 1: Introduction

James standing next to his Ford Focus ST Line X

Introducing the fourth-generation Ford Focus hatchback. A favourite of the British car-buying public and a 2019 Parkers Awards winner, this Desert Island Blue ST-Line X Focus – in 120hp 1.5 TDCi spec ­– is in my care for the next few months, during which I plan to subject it to the finest that my 200-mile daily commute has to offer. What a lucky car.

And what a lucky ‘owner’. I’ve always fancied a Focus since I saw the first-generation RS model operating as pace car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, it’s bold, sporty styling and genuine attainability making it seem far more attractive than the assembled supercars. Granted, this isn’t an RS model, but it does look the part nonetheless, oddly coming across far better in person than it does in any photo.

So without further or do, here’s all you need to know about our new addition.

Ford Focus: equipment and price

Coming in high-spec ST-Line X trim, there’s plenty of standard kit aboard the good ship Focus, including:

  • Heated front seats
  • 6-way power adjustable driver’s seat
  • Ford Sync3 infotainment system with sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • 4.2-inch TFT digital dashboard display
  • Cruise control
  • Selectable drive modes
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Enough bodykit to make the car look almost identical to the upcoming ST
  • Ford Focus interior

Ford Focus ST Line X adaptive cruise control switches

A tidy selection of kit, and one that brings the standard on the road price to £26,410. Throw in a few options however – like Ford’s press office has kindly done – and the total price increases to a rather un-Focus like £31,450 (a £5,040 premium). Additional gadgetry includes:

  • Desert Island Blue paintjob (looks superb)
  • Heads-up display
  • Heated steering wheel (would have chipped in my own money for this)
  • Driver Assistance Pack & Convenience Pack (more on what these do in a later update)
  • B&O Play 10-speaker sound system with 675-watt amplifier and Digital Sound Processor (should drown out my shrill singing voice)

Needless to say, there’s plenty of talking points in the above kit list – all to be addressed as I spend more time with the Focus over the next few months. Remember to check back on this page next week as I deliver my first impressions of the car, and promptly discover it’s already been damaged in one of the worst possible places…

Mileage: 4036

Fuel economy: 64.2mpg (claimed)

Update 2: Performance and handling

Under the bonnet my of new steed is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder EcoBlue diesel, packing 120hp and 300Nm of torque. This translates into a 0-62mph time of 10.2 seconds, a top speed of 120mph, claimed average fuel economy of 64.2mpg and a CO2 output of 116g/km. The gearbox, meanwhile, is an eight-speed automatic with manual override via paddles on the steering wheel.

So, essentially, we've got a small (one of the smallest on sale), frugal diesel engine with moderate CO2 returns and average performance. In reality, it’s a competent, agreeable engine, yet I can’t help but feel I’d enjoy the car far more if it was upgraded to the 150hp 2.0-litre diesel. It would be unfair to say the 120hp version is slow, but it’s certainly not fast and I’ve been left wanting a few times for that extra bit of performance. It’s always very loud when cold, too, although this isn’t a massive issue.

Ford Focus ST Line X rear driving shot

The gearbox, meanwhile, does a decent job of shuffling between the eight forward speeds, but it’s not as polished or crisp as a DSG Volkswagen Group unit. Down changes can often feel clunky, plus the override paddles behind the steering wheel fail to elicit a particularly snappy response from the actual gearbox.

Sweet-handling Focus is back

A quick history lesson. The original Ford Focus made an instant impact thanks partly to its fabulous handling and this was duly carried through into the second-generation car.  The Mk3, version, however, was somewhat blunter to drive and allowed rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Astra and Mazda 3 to catch up.

Happily, though, it seems that Ford has made a return to form with this latest Focus. Early opportunities to throw it around a little have shown it to possess a poised, well-balanced chassis with tremendous grip from the front wheels. The weighting of the steering can feel a little odd at times, and I’m not sold on the feel of the brakes, but these issues aside the fourth-generation Focus handles superbly.

Mileage: 4393

Fuel economy: 34.3mpg

Update 3: Having a cracking time

Disaster. ‘My’ Ford Focus has taken damage in the most fragile of places. I’m not quite sure how it happened – the Clancy Docwra lorry that flicked stones up at the car is a prime suspect – but the end result is a small crack right in the corner of the windscreen.

Fearing the worst (can you even repair a heated windscreen?) I ring Ford and break the bad news. My fears over the possibility of a repair are – thankfully – unfounded.  After examining the photos – Ford suggests that I go down to my local Halfords and get one of the on-site technicians to fill imperfection with that magic gooey stuff that – at the very least – reduces the chance of a humungous crack forming across the windscreen.

Ford Focus ST Line X chipped windscreen

Once at Halford’s Uxbridge branch, the queue is short and my wounded Focus is seen immediately, the windscreen repairer looking excited as he recognises the shape of the fourth-generation Ford Focus. ‘I’ve got a Mk3 RS myself. Love it, but it’s a bit thirsty so I’m thinking of getting one of these’.

Our jovial chat is sadly ended, however, when he sees the location of the crack. Since it’s so close to the edge of the screen, the repair can’t be done without risk of cracking the entire piece of glass. Not something I knew, and I’m not alone according to the repairer, with many customers booking their car in not realising that a quick fix to the outer edge of the screen isn’t possible.

Running the Focus as a long-termer, I’m fortunate enough not to have to fit the bill for a brand-new windscreen, yet there’s no doubt that the heated element adds a fair chunk extra to the total repair bill.

Mileage: 5155

Fuel economy: 38.9mpg

Update 4: Interior and equipment

There’s been a bit of a disagreement in the office. Some of my ‘expert’ colleagues have decided that the Focus’ interior isn’t as good as a number of key rivals and that I – by running one – have become somewhat biased in favour of the blue hatch. While the latter may be true (it happens to all of us), the former – in my opinion – is certainly not.

Granted, some of the material quality could be better, but the overall design and ease of use granted by the Focus is superb. The steering wheel for example, is a lesson in ergonomic bliss. Nicely trimmed in ST-Line X leather, the buttons are easy to find and pleasant to the touch making volume or cruise control adjustment a cinch. Meanwhile, the centre console balances functionality between touch screen and physical dials perfectly. No faffing about to find the climate control or heated seat buttons.

Ford Focus ST Line X interior

The equipment on offer is genuinely effective, too. The adaptive cruise control and lane guidance systems work better than on many cars costing three times as much, keeping the Focus at a constant distance from the vehicle in front and holding it deftly in lane. I’ve also taken much joy from the electric sunroof, standard-fit Apple CarPlay (the Ford sat-nav is good, but not as good as Waze) and sporty yet comfortable leather seats.

Not so good is the automatic parking function (which can be hit and miss, plus refuses to work when exiting a space) and the Bang & Olufsen stereo that, while powerful, keeps vibrating the driver’s side speaker. I suspect a full-bass thrash metal session from one of my unnamed colleagues (begins with Adam, ends with Binnie) could be responsible.

One other handy piece of kit that I feel is worth pointing out is the FordPass app and the additional functionality it gives.

Mileage, fuel and tyre pressures all accessible

Using the FordPass app (downloadable on the App Store and Google Play), I can see how much fuel is left in my car, how many miles it’s done, what the tyre pressures are and where it’s parked.

Ford Focus ST Line X Ford Pass

Such details may sound trivial, yet they’ve already come in useful. Forgetting how much fuel is left in your car is a common occurrence, while the ability to see where it’s parked helps keep an eye on errant airport valet parkers. I still haven’t had an explanation as to why my car needed to be parked outside Hounslow KFC at 2:30am last week…

Remote start and unlocking/locking

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the FordPass functionality, however, is the remote start and unlocking/locking. The former is only available on automatic versions (designed to ensure that car doesn’t jump forwards if left in gear) and allows you to launch the FordPass app, hit the start engine button and fire up your Focus from anywhere in the world. Clever.

Why would you want to do that?

For example, unless you’ve been living under a sun-proof rock, it’s been rather hot recently. And before that, as things go, it was jolly cold. Remote starting the Focus brings the car to a comfortable temperature, as well as defrosting the windscreen and cranking up the heated seats/steering wheel – if needs be. So no freezing cold morning starts, or climbing into a sweltering hot car after work. Joy.

I should make it clear at this point that remote starting the car does not simply allow you to walk up to it, get in and drive off. For starters, to access the car (even when it’s running) you need the key. Without this it remains locked just as if the engine were not running.

Ford Focus ST Line X Ford Pass

And once you do get in you still need to have the key on you and hit the on button if you want to move the vehicle, minimising the chance of the car getting stolen due to the remote start. Indeed, if the vehicle is left running too long without anyone getting in, it’ll automatically switch off again.

Mileage: 5809

Fuel economy: 41.5mpg

Update 5: Practicality/Comfort

As much as I like to pretend that it’s every bit the fire-breathing Focus RS hot hatch, my Desert Island Blue diesel Focus is, first and foremost, a family car. That means it needs to be practical, comfortable and easy to use above pretty much all else. Thankfully, the Focus largely excels in this department, but it’s worth digging a little deeper into its family bus credentials – especially if you’re interested in buying one.

Comfortable drive, but not without its compromises

I won’t pretend that the Focus is an effortlessly comfortable cruiser only a couple of steps down from a Rolls-Royce, because the truth is there are more relaxing hatchbacks on sale. Ride quality is perfectly acceptable, but be aware that the ST-Line (and ST-Line X)’s sporty suspension and larger 17/18-inch alloy wheels add an undesirable brittleness to the car’s bumpy road absorbing abilities. Also note that cars with the basic torsion beam rear suspension (those with less than 150hp) deliver a firmer ride and slightly inferior handling.

Ford Focus ST-Line X 18-inch matte black alloy wheel

The 120hp 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel engine is more than capable of pulling the Focus around – even when heavily laden with people and luggage – yet its refinement levels when cold are poor. Honestly, if you take a test drive and wonder why the engine is so noisy, give it 30 minutes (yes, 30 – it takes a while to properly warm up) and things become a lot more civilised. Wind and road noise levels are par for the course.

One thing that has made the Focus a lot easier (and more comfortable) to drive is the optional Driver Assistance Pack and the adaptive cruise control, Lane Centring Assist and Stop & Go functionality that’s included. With all the systems on it follows the car in front at a set speed while also taking care of the braking and steering (the driver still needs their hands on the wheel, however). As a way of making morning commute traffic jams that bit more bearable, it’s worth its weight in gold.

Spacious cabin and boot in the Focus

The Focus has one of the most spacious cabins among its immediate rivals, delivering copious amounts of passenger room front and rear. Of particular note is the generous rear leg room, even with the front seats set further back than average. I’ve ferried around a six-foot friend in the back of the car and they’ve fitted just fine, commenting that although some of the materials felt a little cheap there were no complaints for outright space. Meanwhile, the glovebox and space under the front armrest could be larger, however the door pockets are deceptively large.

Ford Focus ST-Line X rear seats/rear passenger space

Boot space is reasonable, but can vary depending on whether you have the full-size spare wheel or B&O Play fitted. Opt for either and the space drops by around 20% – not ideal if you’re looking for maximum load-lugging capability. It’s still a good size, however, no matter which configuration you go for, and should be able to accommodate an average-size motoring journalist eating his fish and chips (see below). The lip up from the floor was the only uncomfortable part, however, and could well make it trickier to load or unload heavier items.

Ford Focus ST-Line X boot

Mileage: 9521

Fuel economy: 43.4mpg

Update 6: Farewell and verdict

Ford Focus ST Line X front three-quarter

You always know whether you had a good long-term test car because once it’s gone back – like the Focus now has – you miss it. Not in the way you’d miss a partner, more so in the way you’d pine after a talented work colleague. Competent, reliable and a jolly nice person to boot. That’s what you want. And after six months with my Parkers long term Ford Focus, that’s where I find myself.

Read on for a summary of why I think ‘my’ now departed Desert Island Blue Ford Focus is going to leave a small – but well-formed – hole in my life.

First report was mostly positive

We know in advance what long-termers we’re getting from the manufacturers, so I had a pretty good idea of what the Focus would look and drive like. After all, I had done the international launch in Nice just a few months earlier and declared to my colleagues that the Focus was the best medium-sized sensible family hatchback that money could buy. 

I was also taken in hook, line and sinker by the sporty exterior styling of my high-spec ST-Line X Focus – its sharp bodykit and vibrant paintjob reminding me of the Mk1 Focus RS I’d so lusted after as a kid. My first drive in the car proved my ‘best that money can buy’ declaration correct (in my head at least), the Focus easily swallowing my 200-mile round commute – even if it did appear to initially be using more fuel than expected.

On the sporty side of things, however, I was yet to be convinced. This was very much a personal preference as many buyers won’t care one iota for their family hatch feeling like a sportscar, but I was hoping for a little more zing from the 1.5-litre TDCI EcoBlue engine. No complaints about cornering ability, though, even if the multi-link rear axle versions of the Focus are definitely the ones to have. 

I was also enjoying the sheer amount of kit on EO68 KXS. Heated front seats, heated steering wheel, sunroof, adaptive cruise control with Lane Centring Assist (that actually worked) and FordPass remote start were all included in the £31,450 price tag – as they should be for that kind of money!

Second update gave an in-depth look at performance and handling 

Following neatly on from my initial reservations, the second update saw me take a closer look at how the Focus performed in a straight line and through the bends. I declared the engine to be fine for keeping up with traffic, but lacking in the sort of oomph you want for longer journeys or swift overtakes. The eight-speed automatic gearbox, too, was adept during relaxed driving, but suffered when you asked any more of it.

In all honesty, such complaints are partly down to my inner boy racer, always wanting a car to be that little bit quicker than it comes out of the box. However, I stand by the notion that the punchier 150hp 2.0-litre diesel is the one to get if you do many motorway miles or just have a need for speed. What’s more, the six-speed manual gearbox is one of the sweetest around in this type of car.

What you also get with the 150hp 2.0-litre diesel is the more advance multi-link rear suspension – something that makes the car both handle and ride better. However, even with the standard setup on my long-termer I had few complaints. It’s a blast through a series of tight bends (only let down by the lackadaisical nature of the gearbox) and grips the road was admirable conviction, seldom feeling out of its depth.

Meanwhile, the ride comfort (initially a concern with those 18-inch alloys and firmer ST-Line/ST-Line X suspension) soon became more than tolerable – especially at higher speeds. Granted, it could have been better, but the odd intrusion from potholes and bumps wasn’t enough to spoil the driving experience.

Cracked it on the third report

Not the Christmas present I (or Ford UK) was after. Shortly before Christmas I took the Focus to my local Halfords branch to see if they could fix a chip that had appeared in the otherwise unblemished windscreen.

My initial concern was over whether you could indeed fix a heated windscreen, yet the biggest problem turned out to be far simpler. Because the imperfection was so close to the edge of the screen, the man at Halfords told me that they couldn’t do anything without cracking the glass. So, no repair and a new screen needed. Bah humbug.  

Focus’ interior causes an argument in fourth update

The Focus’s interior is one of the best out of all of its rivals. Some of my colleagues may disagree but I’m standing my ground on this one. Yes, a few of the materials could be a little more ‘premium’ and nicer to the touch, but for the most part it’s a lesson in excellent judgement and taste.

The sporty ST-Line steering wheel, the comfy sports seats, the easy-to-operate climate control dials and rotary volume controller, the clear but still visually attractive dashboard and the logical all-round layout – to name but a few highlights– are all major plus points on a day-to-day basis. In fact, the cabin has probably been one of my favourite parts about the Focus. If only the infotainment system software was a little quicker and more elegantly designed…

Doubling up as a fish and chip dining spot in report five

Despite the header, this update was about more than what the Focus was like as a fish and chip eating venue (incidentally, it was very good at this). No, here we looked at comfort and practicality. We’d already touched on ride quality and the excellent seats, this was more focused on examining the driver assistance tech and what it’s like when you’re carrying passengers (and their luggage).

One particular highlight was the optional Driver Assistance Pack, including adaptive cruise control, Lane Centring Assist and Stop & Go functionality. Said technology effectively allows the Focus to ‘drive itself’ in traffic jams (obviously, when I say drive itself, I mean that the car takes control of the steering, brakes and throttle, yet you still have to keep your hands on the wheel and pay attention). It works well and puts systems on some pricier cars to shame, reducing the tedium of long and all too frequent tailbacks.

As for outright passenger space, the Focus delivers in spades. Up front, there’s oodles of room, yet it’s in the back where things get really impressive. Headroom (even with the panoramic sunroof fitted), legroom and kneeroom is excellent and only falls short of the Skoda Octavia for sheer space. There’s even a reasonable amount of storage space out back – although a couple of USB charging points behind the front armrest wouldn’t go amiss…

Bootspace is similarly pleasing, although it’s worth noting that the optional B&O Play sound system (when fitted) reduces outright capacity.

The Final Verdict

I’ll spare you the dramatic build up. The Ford Focus is the best small family car currently on sale. End of.

It’s comfortable, handles well, comes with a broad range of engines and trim levels, is packed with tech and should be available with endless tempting discounts. Concerns over the sometimes-sluggish automatic gearbox and pointless (optional) adaptive dampers are valid, plus we really could do with an electric or plug-in hybrid version. Otherwise, it’s not hard to see why the Focus is and continues to be one of Britain’s best-selling cars. Farewell EO68 KXS.

Final mileage: 11,114

Fuel economy: 44.2mpg

Ford Focus ST Line X rear driving shot