Ford Focus overview
Having been on sale for three years, 2022 saw the fourth-generation Ford Focus receive a facelift, with a subtly revised look, more efficient engines and extra equipment on board. You can spot an updated Focus thanks to the Ford badge nestling in the top of the updated grille, while the headlights have been reprofiled, too. However, you'd be forgiven for not seeing one of these facelifted models on the road, because the global semiconductor shortage has seen Ford alter its build schedules, with its big-selling van line-up taking priority over cars such as the Focus and Fiesta.
Now that those chip shortages have eased a little, we're beginning to see a few more of these new Focuses on the road, but for how much longer that will be, we don't know. Ford has already announced that the Fiesta is being dropped completely in 2023, and the indicators are that the Focus could go the same way. That's because Ford is concentrating on the electrification of its line-up with a wave of new SUVs, and it believes that there's no place for these two long-standing models in its brave new world.
If the Focus is axed, then that would be a real shame, because it's still a great contender in the compact hatchback sector. It's the class leader when it comes to driving enjoyment - even the entry-level versions are fun - while the 2022 update introduces the latest infotainment tech to keep the Focus competitive against rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf. Opel Astra, Hyundai i30 and Toyota Corolla, among many others.
The Ford Focus model range
The current Ford Focus is available as either a five-door hatchback or as an estate (the four-door saloon was discontinued in Ireland with the arrival of the Mk4 model in 2019). Prices start from €32,541, which gets you behind the wheel of a hatchback powered by the 125hp 1.0 EcoBoost three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, in Titanium trim. There was a time when Titanium was at the upper end of the Focus model range, but in an effort to maximise margins, the more basic Trend and Zetec trims have been dropped and it's now the entry point to the line-up.
Standard equipment is generous as a result. The revised exterior lights are all LED units, while 16-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and starting, heated electric mirrors, two-zone climate control, Ford's excellent Quickclear windscreen and a 13.2-inch touchscreen with SYNC 4 infotainment and navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, voice control and online connectivity are all included.
Next up is the Titanium X trim, which adds some more plush equipment, such as 17-inch wheels, tinted rear windows, a B&O 10-speaker audio upgrade, electric driver's seat adjustment, front-seat heating and 12.3-inch digital dials ahead of the driver. The upgrade to Titanium X spec costs around €3,200 extra.
Starting from €33,367, the Focus Active has an equipment list that largely mirrors that of Titanium trim, but also introduces machined 17-inch alloy wheels, a slightly raised ride height and SUV-style body cladding for the exterior. There's an Active X upgrade that's available for around £3,200 extra, and this adds the same kit found on Titanium X models, while the machined alloys increase from 17 to 18 inches in size.
If the off-road look isn't for you, then there's the sporty ST-Line spec on offer. This starts at a slightly lower price point than Active, at €32,865, and the biggest changes over the Titanium model are the introduction of lowered sports suspension, 17-inch alloys finished in dark grey, rear privacy glass, a sporty body kit and a lack of chrome exterior trim - except for the polished twin exhaust tips at the back.
Once again, there's an ST-Line X upgrade, but this is around €6,700 more than ST-Line. It adds the same B&O stereo, 12.3-inch digital dials and heated front seats included with the other X models, but also adds Sensico suede-effect seat trim, sportier 18-inch wheels and red brake callipers.
At the moment, the Ford Focus comes with one petrol and one diesel engine option, although while the latter is on Ford's price list, it's seemingly unavailable due to chip shortages. As already mentioned, the petrol engine is a 125hp 1.0 EcoBoost unit that comes with a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed PowerShift auto for about €3,700 extra. This version also features an 'mHEV' mild-hybrid system that uses a belt-driven starter generator to harvest energy into the car's battery system. This helps take the load off the engine and improves efficiency and response.
When and if the diesel model is available again, it is powered by a 1.5 EcoBlue unit connected to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, but there are no mild-hybrid tricks included here. There's a premium of around €1,200 to pay over the petrol auto model, too.
At the top of the range, the Focus ST is the hot hatch variant that comes with a 280hp 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. It starts from €58,204 for the six-speed manual hatchback, rising to €62,343 for the estate version fitted with a seven-speed automatic gearbox. Standard equipment for the ST includes grey 19-inch alloys, matrix LED headlights, a limited-slip differential and a reversing camera, all on top of the features found on the ST-Line X.
All versions of the Focus are front-wheel drive, while the estate carries a premium of around €1,000-€2,000 over the hatch, depending on which powertrain you choose. Here we're testing what's expected to be a big seller within the Focus range, the 1.0 EcoBoost manual hatchback in sporty ST-Line X trim.
The Ford Focus interior
While the upgrades to the Ford Focus's exterior are subtle, the big change inside is the introduction of a large 13.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system. This dominates the dashboard since it's placed front and centre, and it runs Ford's latest SYNC4 software, which is responsive to use, whether using the touchscreen or the voice control system.
The sheer size of the screen means that Ford has been able to permanently locate the climate controls across the bottom of the display, so the lack of physical buttons isn't as much of an issue here as it is in some other cars. However, for some drivers, their seating position could mean that the lower-right section of screen is obscured by the steering wheel, meaning you'll have to peer around the wheel to operate the driver's side temperature control or the heated front seats.
Thankfully there's a wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustment to allow you to get comfortable (or let you see the whole of the screen), while this ST-Line version has a subtly sporty feel about the cabin. Build quality is good, too, with plenty of soft-touch plastics and more upmarket materials on touch points such as the doors. Ford has also taken a leaf out of Volkswagen's book and added a flock lining to the Focus's door bins, so loose items don't rattle around in them.
Interior space was never a Ford Focus strong point, but the Mk4 model saw a marked improvement over the Mk3 that came before it, courtesy of a longer wheelbase. Of course, that hasn't changed for this facelifted model, but when compared with class rivals, the Focus is now merely adequate rather than class-leading. There's space for four adults inside, but you wouldn't want to undertake a longer journey sat in the back. There are two pairs of ISOFIX points for child seats in the rear, too, but getting bulky chairs in there via the relatively narrow back doors might be a bit of a challenge.
Cabin storage is fine, with a bin under the central armrest, those deep, flocked door bins and a decent glovebox. You also get USB-A and USB-C sockets on the centre console, so older smartphones are catered for as well as the most recent devices. Choose an X model, and these are complemented by a wireless charging pad, too.
The boot measures 341 litres in five-seat mode, and 1,320 litres with the rear seat backs folded. Again, this isn't particularly outstanding in the class, but should be fine for most needs, and if you need more space, then the Focus Estate is always on offer, with 575 litres in five-seat mode, or a maximum of 1,650 litres with the seats folded. Upgrade to an X-spec model and, as well as split folding seats, you'll also get a through-loading ski hatch added to the centre seat.
The Ford Focus driving experience
Whichever version of the Ford Focus that you choose, whether petrol or diesel, hatchback or estate, it will deliver an entertaining driving experience. While power outputs are modest, there's enough performance for most needs, but the car's agile chassis will provide plenty of entertainment. This won't come at the expense of passenger comfort on Titanium or Active models, either.
The ST-Line version tested here has suspension that's 10mm lower and slightly stiffer than stock, while the larger 18-inch alloys and low-profile tyres of our ST-Line X car firm things up even further, but the trade-off is a sharper driving experience that means the Focus is largely unflappable on twisting country roads. The 125hp EcoBoost engine can't deliver hot hatch performance, but that thrumming three-cylinder soundtrack and the engine's torquey mid-range power delivery mean it's quite fun even at lower speeds.
Take things easy, and the Focus is quiet and refined, with the engine barely ticking over at motorway speeds. And the car's agile chassis has its benefits in town, too, where the light steering and sharp handling mean it's easy to manoeuvre.
Our verdict on the Ford Focus
What the Ford Focus has often lacked in terms of outright practicality it has more than made up for with its entertaining driving characteristics, and this Mk4 version is easily the best compromise yet. The facelift has lifted the cabin from the lacklustre to the class-competitive, while the large infotainment screen brings a new level of tech that's arguably among the best options in the sector. The exterior updates are so subtle that the Focus will still be a model that will barely draw attention from passers-by, but this is still a great contender in the class. If and when Ford decides to pull the plug, it'll be a real shame to see the Focus go. We'll miss it, that's for sure.