Performance: There are two engines available with the Focus. A 2-liter four-cylinder producing 160hp and a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 252hp in the ST. The standard Focus offers enough oomph for most buyers, while the ST offers wicked fast acceleration and a smooth manual gearbox to match. Only downside with the ST is the large amount of torque at low revs which causes the ST to torque steer more than we’d like in the first two gears.
On the road: The Focus was known for having sweet handling when it first arrived here in 1998. The new Focus continues that trend with strong grip and solid body control which makes it feel agile through corners and bends. The steering weighs up nicely and the ride is pretty good too. It isn’t as smooth as a Volkswagen Golf but it’s pretty close to it. The standard Focus engine is smooth and doesn’t make much of a racket when you put your foot down. The manual gearbox is the way to go. It’s smooth and crisp shifts make it much more of a joy than the rather jerky Power-shift automatic. Wind, road noise is well isolated in the cabin making the Focus a comfortable long distance cruiser.
Behind the wheel: The Focus driving position is really good. There’s plenty of adjustment for the steering wheel and driver’s seat. Visibility out is okay, with a few blind spots over the shoulder and out the rear windscreen. The dashboard has too many fiddly and confusing buttons. The Focus offers enough room for four and the boot space is pretty generous it isn’t as large as the VW Golf but its decent compared to the rest.
Equipment: The S trim comes with CD-player, air-con and stability control. You’ll have to step up to the SE to get alloy wheels and SYNC voice activated entertainment system. Titanium trim adds climate control, premium sound system, rear view parking camera and four-wheel disc brakes. The ST trim adds unique exterior body-kit, turbo engine and few extra sporty bits to make it feel sportier than the rest of the Focus range.
Buying & owning: The standard Focus offers plenty of choices. Although we highly suggest sticking with the SE trim in sedan and hatch form. It seems to make the most sense compared to the S and Titanium trim. ST trim offers hot hatch performance with a relatively low price but don’t expect discounts as the demand for them are high. Running costs should be reasonable and resale value should hold up well as the Focus has been selling quite well.
Quality & Safety: The Focus has a funky and attractive design inside with plenty of high quality materials used in the cabin. This is all good but we wish the dash overall design was a little more user friendly. The Focus has suffered few mechanical issues with the automatic gearbox and the SYNC infotainment system. Stability control and anti-lock brakes are standard. Sadly you’ll have to pay extra for rear disc brakes on most trims which should be standard considering the hatchback starts near $20,000. Side curtain airbags are standard as well as an array of anti-theft features to keep theft at bay.
The Ford Focus is a radical departure from the previous generation. It’s stylish inside out and offers way better driving experience that the previous generation lacked. However, just like all good things there are its downsides. The Focus interior controls are fiddly and confusing to operate. The Power-Shift auto gearbox is rather jerky between gears and take some getting used it. Also the fact that you’ll have to either step up to the Titanium trim or pay extra for rear disc brakes is just baffling to us. Other than these few complaints the Focus is a solid choice among the heavy hitters and well worth the extra look.
Likes: A radical departure from the previous generation, plenty of grip with excellent body control. Wicked turbo engine performance with low starting price.
Dislikes: Interior controls are too fiddly and confusing to use. Rear disc brakes aren’t standard on SE trim. Power-shift auto gearbox can be jerky between shifts.
Devon’s Pick: SE trim pretty much has all you’ll ever really need in a Focus without paying more than you’ll really need to with the Titanium trim. Our only complaint is the fact that this trim is close to $20,000 and only comes with rear drum brakes. At this price point this is unacceptable. Other than that this is the best Focus of the range not counting the thumping ST.