It’s hard to fault the current breed of Ford Focus. With keen pricing and a variety of engines, gearboxes and body styles to choose from, it lays a strong foundation, which it builds upon with a great drive and good build quality. The only question mark is its rather disappointing Driver Power showing. Given both that and the inherently competitive nature of the family hatch segment, it’s best to shop around to be certain you’ll find a good buy.
By the time the Ford Escort went off sale in 1998, it was well past its sell-by date. That became even more apparent when its replacement was revealed: the sharply styled Focus, which genuinely moved the game on for small family cars.
With each generation, the Focus got ever more impressive in terms of comfort, safety and practicality, and while the first take is generally regarded as the Focus’s finest hour dynamically, Ford’s hatch has long been at (or towards) the top of the class for driving enjoyment. By the time the Mk4 arrived in 2018, Ford had sold more than seven million Focuses globally, and this model is more accomplished than ever.
- Ford Focus Mk4 (2018-date) – With lots of models for sale, and plenty to like about it, the Focus Mk4 is a fine buy.
The Mk4 Focus arrived in September 2018, as a five-door hatchback or estate. Buyers could choose between 84bhp, 99bhp and 124bhp versions of the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine, or there was a 1.5 EcoBoost unit offered with 148bhp or 179bhp. Diesel fans could pick 94bhp or 119bhp versions of the 1.5-litre unit; the latter came with an automatic or manual transmission, just like the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel motor, which was also available.
By July 2019 a hot Focus ST had joined the range in hatchback and estate forms, with 276bhp 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol, or 187bhp 2.0 EcoBlue diesel engines. A 124bhp or 153bhp 1.0 mild hybrid replaced the 1.5 EcoBoost 150 engine in June 2020.
Car group tests
Used car tests
An updated Focus is about to arrive, with a refreshed exterior design, improved connectivity, standard LED headlights and more driver-assistance systems.
Which one should I buy?
Whatever engine or transmission you buy, you’re unlikely to be disappointed with the driving experience or running costs. With few entry-level (Style) cars about, anything you buy will probably be in at least Zetec spec.
The Style has 16-inch steel wheels, air-con, a DAB radio, Bluetooth, automatic headlights and powered windows front and rear. The Zetec gets 16-inch alloys, a heated windscreen, cruise control with speed limiter, and an eight-inch display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The ST-Line has 17-inch alloys, a bodykit, sports suspension, black headlining, alloy pedals and keyless go, while the ST-Line X comes with 18-inch wheels, power folding mirrors, privacy glass, automatic wipers, part-leather trim, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control and sat-nav. Titanium adds front and rear parking sensors.
Alternatives to the Ford Focus
The Volkswagen Golf provides formidable competition with its wide model range, impressive interior, ready availability and excellent ergonomics. Its rival from SEAT, the Leon, is arguably even more impressive, for the same reasons, but with lower prices and more distinctive styling.
The Kia Ceed is also multi-talented, with its smart interior, user-friendly dash, keen pricing and engaging dynamics. A long warranty is an added bonus, and most of these things are shared with the Kia’s cousin, the Hyundai i30.
If value is key, check out the Vauxhall Astra; it has efficient engines and there are plenty to choose from. The Peugeot 308 is also good value and smartly styled, while the Mazda 3 is really good fun to drive, looks distinctive, and has a superb interior too.
What to look for
Ford gave Focus buyers a space-saver spare wheel, but a full-size spare wheel was available with Style and Zetec trims.
All Focuses had Ford’s capless EasyFuel system as standard, to make sure that owners didn’t put the wrong fuel into the tank by mistake.
Sometimes if you manually fold in the Focus’s power-fold mirrors, they don’t work properly afterwards. The system can be reset.
Some Focuses got halogen headlights before LEDs became standard. The halogen bulbs aren’t impressive; upgrading is worthwhile.
It’s generally very good news in the Focus, because the dash is easy to use without looking bland, the quality is generally high, and the infotainment systems are user-friendly.
Cabin and boot space are average rather than exceptional. There’s enough head and legroom for a couple of six-footers in the back (but not three), while the boot can stow 443 litres with the rear seats up, and 1,320 litres with them down; the estate’s numbers are a more impressive 728 and 1,620 litres. The now-discontinued Focus Style carried a 4.2-inch colour screen, but the majority of used examples will have the eight-inch system.
All Focuses will need to be serviced every two years or 18,000 miles. The first “Interim” service costs £215-£225 depending on the car’s spec; the second, Major service costs £265-£305. Once a Focus has celebrated its fourth birthday it’s eligible for a £169 Ford Essential service, although this covers only a visual check of the key functions and a top-up of fluids like the antifreeze, brake fluid and windscreen washer fluid, plus an oil and filter change along with a fresh pollen or air filter.
Fresh brake fluid is required every two years (at £40), the coolant needs to be replaced every 10 years (at £45), and all engines are chain-driven, so there are no cambelts to replace.
The Focus Mk4 has been recalled 11 times so far, three of these occasions (April and August 2020, plus March 2021) being because of chafing to the engine bay wiring loom. The first recall, however, was in November 2018 because of faulty child locks; within just a month the second campaign had been launched due to substandard brake pedal hinge bolts having been fitted.
Rear doors that opened without warning on the Focus estate, along with faulty clutches, led to two recalls in February 2019; loose suspension bolts meant another recall was due the following month. Poorly secured seatbelts were the reason behind the next recall, which came in November 2019; two months later, electrical glitches led to another campaign. The most recent recall came in May 2021, because of a faulty eCall system.
Driver Power Owner Satisfaction
Disappointingly, the Focus Mk4 didn’t appear in our 2019 or 2020 Driver Power new-car surveys, but it did scrape into the 2021 poll, in 72nd place out of 75 cars.
We really like the Ford, but owners are less keen, with their highest rating a 40th place for rear-seat legroom. Everything else is towards the bottom of the table: infotainment, quality, interior design, front-seat comfort, ergonomics and value for money.