On paper there’s certainly a lot to like. MPG in the mid-70s, well equipped even in basic trim, loads of space for the detritus of family life and prices starting at less than £14,000. In the metal it remains a convincing prospect.
From the outside, the latest Focus follows the “One Ford” design philosophy with the large corporate grille, a lower and wider stance and taut, sharp lines. Inside there’s a high-quality feel with soft touch plastics and a well laid out cabin where everything falls easily to hand. In the back are a variety of pockets and recesses for drinks, snacks and the inevitable half-eaten apples. The only downsides are a faintly claustrophobic feel thanks to small windows and lots of dark trim, and a lack of rear legroom if your driver’s north of six feet tall.
While the range starts at £13,995 for the Studio trim, Ford sent me the top-whack Titanium X estate. The spec sheet is the now-familiar mix of the useful (rear parking sensors since the view back from the estate is non-existent); the pointless (hill start assist and changeable interior lighting colour) and things you think are pointless until you’ve tried them. Into the latter category falls keyless entry and start, which seemed like a frippery until I found myself approaching the car in the rain with our squirming one-year-old in one hand, the four-year-old’s bike and backpack in the other and the key buried at the bottom of my pocket. Order the four-year-old to simply touch a door handle and hey presto – car open, problem solved.
Also fitted to the test car was Ford’s eight-inch SYNC2 touchscreen infotainment system. It’s is a simple, intuitive setup that offers phone and MP3 connectivity and controls alongside DAB radio, sat-nav and climate settings. A luxury perhaps but one that makes day-to-day driving that touch easier.
The biggest change in this current Focus range is under the bonnet. The 1.6-litre EcoBoost petrol and 1.6-litre diesel have both been replaced with new 1.5-litre lumps. Ford says the diesel on test here is cleaner, more efficient, more powerful and more refined than its predecessor.
I’ve certainly no complaints, the 120hp version was quick to respond and had plenty of grunt for A-road overtaking. Under heavy acceleration there’s a definite roar but once cruising it quickly fades and serenity prevails. The 1.5l also comes in 98hp guise – which I suspect might be a bit underwhelming – and there’s a 150hp 2.0-litre, although given the 1.5’s proficiency I’d take some convincing to consider the bigger engine.
Thanks to start-stop tech as standard and a variety of technical tinkering, Ford claims a combined economy of 74mpg from the 120hp 1.5l. While any manufacturer’s claimed economy should be taken with a pinch of salt, I still saw the best part of 50mpg on the repeated short urban trips that make up the nursery run. On my longer, more mixed commute this quickly and substantially improved.
In the mid-range family sector Focus has long been a byword for handling excellence and so it remains. Coming from any other mainstream car it’s still a surprise how sharp and responsive the Ford is. Being able to throw it about so much the kids spill their apple juice doesn’t come at the price of comfort, either. Even on 18-inch wheels the ride is smooth and supple.
So, as an ideal target for the Focus, would I have one? Yes, but with one proviso. Only a lunatic would spend the near £27,000 the test car cost. While the £14,000 Studio may be lacking a few useful features, you can have a Zetec for less than £20k and add the actually useful gadgets for a fraction of the difference.
MODEL: FORD FOCUS 1.5 TDCI ESTATE TITANIUM X
ENGINE: 1.5-litre diesel producing 118bhp and 200lb/ft of torque
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 120mph, 0-62mph in 10.5 seconds
ECONOMY: 74.3mpg combined
EMISSIONS: 98g/km of CO2