What are you driving?
One of the first examples of the fourth-generation Ford Focus to hit Irish shores, fresh from its 2018 launch. This is the five-door hatchback variant, finished in natty 'Desert Island Blue', which works particularly well with the sporty-looking ST-Line specification. A word of warning though: the tasty 18-inch 'Katana' alloy wheels pictured are an optional extra (and they result in slightly higher emissions and fuel consumption than the figures quoted here for the standard car), though one well-worth investing in we think.
Under the bonnet of this test car is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine Ford calls 'EcoBlue', producing 120hp and 300Nm of torque. It's mated with an eight-speed automatic that sends drive to the front wheels. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard. Initially, the only other engine offered in Ireland is the three-cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol unit, in 125hp guise (read our review of that version of the Focus here), and the Focus Estate is on sale already, too.
Pricing for the Focus starts at €24,900 and across the board the 1.5-litre diesel is €1,900 more expensive than an equivalent petrol version. The automatic gearbox adds another €2,100 to the price, while the Estate is €1,100 more than the corresponding hatchback. There are Zetec, Titanium and Vignale trim grades as well as ST-Line featured here.
As standard, the Focus ST-Line includes selectable drive modes (Eco, Comfort and Sport), air conditioning, sports suspension, a flat-bottomed and leather-trimmed ST-Line steering wheel, sporty pedals and seats, cruise control, auto lights and wipers and an effective ST-Line body kit. It costs from €26,400.
Name its best bits
The Ford Focus has had a reputation for being a great car to drive ever since the 1998 original replaced the Ford Escort and the new car continues that for the most part. The sporty ST-Line branding does raise your expectations a little higher than the car achieves, but by any normal hatchback measure, the Focus has a well-sorted chassis. The steering could be a little quicker and more direct and I suspect that the car would flow down challenging Irish back roads a little more smoothly if it stuck with the standard 17-inch rims, but the damping and control exhibited by this car is nothing short of class-leading. What's more, you don't need to be trying to drive the wheels off it to appreciate how well it deals with poor surfaces and fiendish bumps; it just shrugs it off, allowing you maintain a decent cross-country pace without even trying to.
The interior of the new Focus also deserves mention as it's noticeably more spacious and modern than that of its predecessor.
Anything that bugs you?
This particular version is not as refined as it could be, which is to say that the Volkswagen Golf is notably more civilised on the road. And while some of this will be down to the optional 18-inch alloys on 'our' Focus, there's also too much wind noise, while the 1.5-litre diesel engine is far too loud in this day and age. More reason to opt for the excellent EcoBoost petrol variant instead.
Another tiny niggle is with the weight of the switchgear, in particular the dials for the air conditioning and the new rotary controller for the automatic transmission. They're just too light, making it very easy to overshoot the intended selection.
And why have you given it this rating?
While we have misgivings about the refinement of this version of the new Ford Focus, it still does enough to merit a solid four stars. It looks good, has a far better interior than before, more technology and safety and is great to drive. Go for the petrol one if the maths make sense, however, as that's the new Focus at its best.