Four generations in and Ford has revitalised its range offering with a comprehensive and highly judicious rethink of its big-selling Focus. Its aim from the outset has been to provide a benchmark, by which all of its rivals would be judged. This is a fickle market sector remember, bolstered by company car registrations, which outlines the mighty task undertaken by the company.
On first acquaintance, the car looks the business, even though it does appear to have dipped into Mazda’s styling box for its elongated profile. Whereas the original Focus was all intersecting lines and edginess, the latest iteration is significantly more organic and none the worse for the transformation. From the first pull on the driver’s door handle (touch the upper edge, with key in pocket, and it unlocks), to electrically adjusting the driver’s seat (the front passenger’s chair is manual) and settling into the ‘soft-touch’ and high quality cabin, the Focus feels roomy and airy.
Crystal-clear instruments confront the driver, with the dashboard moulding dominated by a top-of-centre-stack touchscreen. It is incredibly neat and very easy to familiarise. The driving position is superb and the view outwards exemplary. Yet, it is the little details that enhance the package, such as the flock-lined door pockets, the illuminated and adjustable drinks-holders and the head-up display projecting key information onto the lower portion of the heated windscreen. Ford did its sums right for this variant.
Yet, while you take in its vertiginous, Titanium X price tag (starting at a lofty £22,820, with the modestly-loaded test car tipping the scales in the wrong direction at around £25,500), to discover that, below the mid-line, the plastics take a dip into Dacia’s pond, you start to ask questions about value-for-money. Its back seat is accommodating, as is the boot, which justifies its longer wheelbase.
Riding firmly on its suspension, the handling envelope is as good as any previous Focus, even though this model lacks the multilink rear suspension of speedier versions, relying on a simpler torsion-beam instead. The steering is delightful, providing crisp responses and accuracy, while grip levels are high. The six-speed manual gearbox is slick. However, on short amplitude road surface ripples, the car’s ride quality can become disturbingly harsh. Fortunately, the build quality is exemplary, so there are neither creaks, nor rattles in evidence.
Powered by the 123bhp version of Ford’s diminutive but punchy 1.0-litre turbo-triple, depressing the throttle fully, while testing the car’s acceleration (0-60mph in 9.7s) reveals a strange, ‘three-stage’ response from the motor. Armed with 147lbs ft of torque at a lowly 1,400rpm, there is an initial surge, followed by a levelling-out and then a final surge from 4,500rpm to the maximum at 6,500rpm. It feels as though the engine management system has been tailored to provide a discouragement to go faster. Yet, the issue could lie with a need to overcome the car’s kerbweight, even though its fuel return is a laudable 57.6mpg (111g/km CO2).