Ford Focus Review (2011-2018)
It may not be the latest version, but the third-generation Ford Focus is still a car that can suit many people’s needs.
Published: 14 December 2022
If you’re looking for a compact yet practical car that’s efficient, looks good, feels great to drive and is very affordable, the Ford Focus could be ideal. The version we’re looking at here was sold new from 2011 to 2018, with an update in 2014 that included a larger front grille and improved technology, including a touchscreen infotainment system in some models.
There’s a Focus to suit most needs because it’s available as a hatchback or as an estate, with petrol or diesel engines, and with manual or automatic gearboxes. You can also choose from a broad selection of trim levels and there are even a couple of high-performance models, which are fast and fun to drive.
- Great to drive
- Very affordable
- Fuel-efficient engines
- Some rivals are more spacious
- Lower-spec models have few features as standard
- Large range of models can be confusing
Dashboard & tech
All versions of this generation of Focus have air con and a CD player; many also have cruise control and parking sensors. All the buttons, dials and knobs that control the features are clearly marked and easy to find without looking away from the road for too long.
Some Focus models have what Ford calls its SYNC2 infotainment system which has an 8-inch touchscreen display that gives access to features like the radio, Bluetooth connection and sat nav. There’s a bit of a lag between you swiping or pressing the screen and it responding – especially if you’re used to using modern smartphones – but it’s easy enough to use.
The Focus gives you a very comfortable ride on any type of road, with its suspension cushioning you and your passengers well from bumps in the road. The seats also play a part – they’re quite firm but not so much as to cause aches and pains on a really long trip. Some high-performance models have extra-supportive seats that look great and hold you in place better when cornering.
The seats are mounted quite high, which can make getting in easier. But if you’re over six feet tall, you may find yourself having to stoop down to avoid hitting your head on the relatively low roof when getting in.
The Focus feels like a well-made car with solid materials, although some rivals do feel a bit more plush. This is especially true of premium rivals such as the Audi A3 or Mercedes-Benz A-Class, but also of cars such as the Volkswagen Golf, which have arguably more stylish interior designs. All that said, the Focus is a perfectly pleasant place in which to sit.
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Practicality & boot space
Sit in the front of the Focus and you’ll find a generous amount of space even if you’re particularly tall. Similarly, there’s enough legroom for taller people in the back seats, but headroom can feel a little tight in hatchback models because the roof slopes down noticeably towards the back of the car. Estates have more back-seat headroom thanks to a flatter roof.
There are some more-spacious mid-size cars, like the Volkswagen Golf, but the Focus has enough room to serve the needs of families with one or two children well.
There’s a pocket on each of the Focus’s doors that can hold a phone, wallet and keys, plus there’s a pair of cupholders between the front seats. Most models have sliding dividers between the cupholders so they can accommodate different sizes of cups or bottles, as well as an armrest between the front seats that lifts up to reveal a deep cubby hole, plus the aux-in and USB ports.
The Focus hatchback’s 316-litre boot is below average for this type of car in terms of outright space – a Vauxhall Astra of the same era has a 370-litre capacity, for example, while an equivalent Volkswagen Golf has a 380-litre capacity.
Still, the Focus has sufficient space for a week’s-worth of family food shopping or your luggage for a short holiday. If you regularly need to carry bigger things like a pushchair, the Focus estate will be a better fit for you because its boot is much longer than the hatchback’s and has a capacity of 485 litres.
Some other mid-size cars have hidden extra storage areas in their boot, usually under the floor, but the Focus just makes do with storage trays in the corners nearest the boot lid, which are a few inches deep. The boot floor lifts up, but the space below is occupied by the spare wheel. The back seat folds down in both hatchback and estate models, creating a usefully large space for flat-pack shopping trips and tip runs.
Driving the Focus can be very enjoyable whatever type of road you’re on; in fact, we’d go as far as to say it’s one of the best cars of its type to drive. It feels responsive and solid, giving you real confidence. That can make driving on country roads an engaging experience, but it also means threading down narrow city streets and manoeuvring into tight parking spaces is very easy.
That responsiveness doesn’t come at the expense of stability on motorways, either – the Focus also is a relaxing car to travel in for long distances. The high-performance ST and RS models can be a lot of fun, yet they’re just as easy to drive as other Focuses.
The Focus range stretches from fuel-efficient diesel models to the high-performance RS, which is as fast as some much costlier sports cars. In between those two ends of the spectrum, there are lots of petrol and diesel models that strike a good balance on nippy acceleration and wallet-friendly fuel economy.
Models with a power figure of around 120bhp are the most popular because they occupy a sweet spot in that balance. Sporty ST models don’t have the same level of performance as the RS, but they’re still very fast by any standard.
Fuel economy & CO2 emissions
The Focus is very fuel-efficient, whichever engine it has. According to official figures, Focus models with a petrol engine can give you an average fuel economy of between 36mpg and 61mpg. The high-performance models are clustered at the low end of that range and the 1.0 ‘EcoBoost’ engine is at the top end. Most petrol models give around 47-51mpg. Diesel models can give 53-83mpg; the popular 1.5-litre diesel can give 74mpg.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for petrol models cover a range of 105g/km to 175g/km, and diesels cover 88-139g/km. A Focus sold before April 2017 is subject to Vehicle Excise Duty (VED, often called car tax) based on its CO2 emissions. Several models fall into the lowest VED band and others are even VED-free. Models sold after April 2017 are subject to a £165 annual VED.
Value for money
The Focus was competitively priced when it was new and it remains great value as a used car. Some similar cars are more generously equipped, but the Focus’s efficiency and great driving experience help to compensate for that. The RS model can look pricey, but it’s already regarded as a collectible among some car enthusiasts.
Reliability & Warranty
The J.D. Power 2019 UK Vehicle Dependability Study put the Ford brand in the top half of the manufacturer rankings, suggesting that its cars are generally dependable.
Ford offered a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty on the Focus from new, although this will have expired by now even on the newest used examples. This is in line with many other manufacturers, but there are several that offer longer coverage. For example, Kia offers seven years, which means some cars of the same age as the Focus will still be covered.
Safety organisation Euro NCAP awarded the Focus a full five-star rating when it assessed the car in 2012. Standard driver-safety features include seven airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control. Some models also have more advanced features like automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring.
Trims & Engines
There are 10 trim levels available on the Focus, starting with the affordable Edge and Studio models. Next is the popular Zetec and sporty-looking Zetec S, followed by the more luxurious Titanium and Titanium X. There are also three ST models – ST-1, ST-2 and ST-3. The higher the number, the more equipment the car has. The RS model sits at the top of the range.
All Focus models have air con, DAB radio, a CD player and front electric windows, and most have Bluetooth. Titanium and ST models also have cruise control and rear parking sensors. Titanium X models have heated front seats and a reversing camera. Some models sold since 2014 have a touchscreen infotainment system with built-in sat nav, and a system that measures the length of a parking space as you drive past it, indicating whether the car will fit.
There are six petrol and three diesel engines available in the Focus. There are yet more variations as some of those engines are available with different amounts of power, giving different levels of performance.
The 1.6-litre Ti-VCT and 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engines are both available with power ranging between 83bhp and 123bhp. The 1.5-litre and 1.6-litre EcoBoost engines are available with 148-179bhp. The 2.0-litre EcoBoost in the ST model gives 248bhp and the RS model’s 2.3-litre EcoBoost gives a whopping 342bhp.
Of the diesels, the 1.5-litre and 1.6-litre Duratorq TDCi engines span 93-118bhp and the 2.0-litre Duratorq TDCi engine gives 138-182bhp.
Every engine is available with a manual gearbox; only the 1.6-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel engines are available with an automatic. The RS is the only model that has four-wheel drive.
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