What is it? Significantly updated version of mass-selling Ford Focus family hatch and estate.
Key features: Sharper exterior, new engines, more technology.
Our view: Does everything the previous model has done, but better
Facelifting the Ford Focus, to produce this latest version, is a task that is not undertaken lightly. This car is about to be named the world’s best-seller, for the third year in succession.
Globally it sells 1.5 million a year, while UK buyers love it, and it spends most months of the year firmly in second place in the new car top ten, only beaten by its smaller Fiesta sister.
So Ford would be forgiven for making only subtle changes. But in this update of the third-generation Focus the subtleties are confined to the exterior and combined with revisions to the interior and most significantly upgrades to the powertrains and a raft of new technology.
A series of tweaks, following the brand’s latest ‘One Ford’ global styling language already seen on the Fiesta and the soon to arrive in the UK Mondeo, have certainly improved the car’s visual presence. The chrome grille is more prominent, the narrower headlamps adding to the more purposeful stance. The rear is similarly treated for a cleaner, less cluttered look.
There are major changes inside, which according to Stephan Presser, engineering manager of the new car, have been aimed at creating more cockpit-like surroundings for the driver, as well as simplifying the instrumentation.
It all works very well indeed. Slipping into the driver’s seat the immediate impression is of quality, enhanced as much by the fit and finish as by the very attractive blue-lit instruments.
Dominating the instrumentation is the eight-inch touchscreen atop the centre console – larger than the previous screen it’s also easy and intuitive to use, to the degree that one expects in premium-segment cars. It has in turn vastly reduced the numbers of buttons on the dash, previously a Focus minus point.
Other interior changes, meanwhile, include more storage, notably between the front seats which is customisable to the owner’s preference.
Highlights of the new engine line-up are the arrival of new 1.5-litre Ecoboost petrol and TDCI diesel units. Both replace previous 1.6 versions and match them for power, while improving economy and emissions by up to nine per cent.
The 99bhp 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine, which won many plaudits when introduced a year ago, is further refined. With auto start-stop fitted it shaves its CO2 emissions from 109 to 105g/km, while next year a 123bhp version is set to be some 19 per cent more efficient than the 1.6 it in turn will replace.
On the UK launch event The Car Expert tried the 1.5-litre diesel of 118bhp, in the Ford Focus Estate, and the 1.0-litre Ecoboost in hatch form. If we had to choose between them then the diesel appeared to offer a little extra refinement, but both are very efficient powerplants.
The Focus has always been renowned for its roadholding, which other manufacturers have spent much time, and expense, trying to replicate. Such challenges have prompted Ford to again move the bar upwards in the latest model, a series of changes concentrating on reducing steering effort without sacrificing feedback, smoothing out any coarse areas, and a host of body mods to improve aerodynamics, stiffen the shell and cut out extraneous noises.
The result is an even more effective on-the-road performance, and there is no more pertinent indication of just how competent the Focus is than the fact that when driving the Estate, one could just as easily be at the wheel of the hatch.
Among the technology highlights are new adaptive headlamps, which offer some eight different modes automatically adjusting to suit the environment, from city streets to motorways at speed.
The Active City Stop, which will automatically brake the car if it senses a collision is likely, will now work at speeds up to 30mph, 10mph more than previously. At faster speeds a new ‘pre-collision assist’ system performs a similar function.
Focus drivers should never be troubled by tight parking spaces – perpendicular and parallel parking modes can now be specified to the park assist system, while also included is a feature that automatically steers out of a space, not just in, and another that warns of approaching vehicles when reversing out of a space.
The technology is certainly impressive but it does not obscure the one overriding fact regarding the new Ford Focus. In simple terms, it does everything the previous model has done, but better, which is likely the worst thing manufacturers of its rivals would want to hear…
Ford Focus – key specifications
Model tested: Ford Focus 1.5TDI, 1.0
On sale: November 2014
Range price: £13,995-£25.585
Insurance group: 7E-22E
Engines: Petrol 1.0 (2), 1.5 (2), 1.6 (3). Diesel 1.5 (2), 1.6 (2), 2.0.
Power (bhp): 99/123, 147/179, 84/103/123. 94/118, 94/113, 147.
Torque (lb/ft): 125/125, 170/170, 104/110/117. 119/119, 159/199, 258.
0-62mph (sec): 12.5/11.0, 8.9/8.6, 14.9/12.3/10.9. 12.0/9.2, 12.5/10.8, 8.7.
Top speed (mph): 116/121, 131/139, 106/113/119. 113/121, 113/121, 130.
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 61.4/60.1, 51.4/51.4, 47.9/47.9/47.9. 74.3/74.3, 62.8/70.6, 70.6.
CO2 emissions (g/km): 105/108, 127/127, 136/136/136. 98/98, 117/109, 105.
Key rivals: Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf
Test Date: December 2014
* All figures relate to five-door hatch with manual gearbox and auto stop-start where fitted.