- Much improved infotainment
- Really comfortable and enjoyable to drive
- Roomy in the back
- No plug-in hybrid or electric models
- Interior could be a bit plusher
- Won't impress the neighbours
Ford recently announced it'd be pulling the plug on the ubiquitous Ford Focus in 2025. That's a shame because, during its 24 years on sale, it's evolved to become one of our favourite family cars. We'd say it's as good (if not better) than the latest Volkswagen Golf, while it also provides stiff competition to the revamped Vauxhall Astra and stylish Mazda 3.
The latest Ford Focus has been on sale since 2018 but it's recently been given a mid-life update to keep it fresh. While cosmetically not a great deal has changed, the biggest upgrade has been the addition of a fancy new 13.2-inch navigation display on the dashboard. This is standard across the entire range and, not only does its size give it some visual clout, it's also brilliant to use.
Tech aside, the interior of the Ford Focus is officially 'a nice place to be'. It's more spacious than many of its competitors (although the Skoda Octavia wins if you need outright versatility), while even the most affordable trim levels aren't exactly sparsely equipped. A few more plush materials wouldn't go amiss, but there's a reason the Ford Focus is cheaper than premium competitors like the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class.
One of the most appealing things about the Focus is the range of different personalities available. You can get it in sporty ST-Line flavour, which takes styling cues from the sporty Ford Focus ST hot hatch, as well as in more rugged Ford Focus Active flavour (which is a bit like an SUV without actually being an SUV). You can no longer buy a Ford Focus Vignale but it's worth looking out for one on the used market if you fancy a bit of class in your family hatchback.
All Ford Focus models are great to drive, thanks to eager steering and compliant suspension. There's plenty of technology on hand to make your life easier, including a reversing camera and even an Active Park Assist feature which'll essentially park the car in a space for you.
The most disappointing thing about the Ford Focus is the reason why it'll face the axe within the next few years - its lack of electrification. You can't buy an electric Ford Focus, or even one with a significant amount of hybrid power. The closest you'll get is a mild-hybrid, which does little more than capture a little energy ordinarily lost under braking.
That said, there's lots to like about the popular 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine (which is available with or without mild-hybrid electrical assistance). It feels punchy and eager, although its characterful burble does mean it's not the most refined choice. If you cover a lot of miles, you can still buy a Ford Focus with a surprisingly refined diesel engine.
It's a shame the Ford Focus doesn't sell in the same huge numbers as it once did. Many buyers now overlook it in favour of SUV alternatives or, at the very least, hatchbacks with a more premium badge. But if you want a used family car that represents great value for money and offers an impressive amount of versatility, you really can't go wrong with a Ford Focus.
Looking for a used car for sale? We've got 100s of Ford Approved Used Cars for Sale for you to choose from, including a wide range of Ford Focus models for sale. If you're looking for the previous version, you need our Ford Focus (2014-2018) review.
Is the Ford Focus right for you?
Well, the Ford Focus is right for thousands and thousands of other people in the country, so why wouldn't it be right for you? It’s been one of the UK’s best-selling cars for many years, and popularity like that doesn’t happen by accident.
The Focus delivers just the right blend of family-friendly comfort, young-at-heart handling, jack-of-all-trades practicality and penny-pinching affordability, and that’s why it’s found so many homes right across Britain. Yes, there are family hatchbacks that are cheaper, roomier, more versatile and better on quality. However, no rival is better to drive than the Focus, and the Ford does well enough on all these other points to ensure its popularity. It may be one of the obvious choices in the class, but that’s because it’s one of the best.
What other cars are similar to the Ford Focus?
While the world might be moving towards SUVs, there's still a wide choice of very impressive family hatchbacks on the market. The Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf are two direct rivals for the Ford Focus, as well as the stylish SEAT Leon and left-field Mazda 3. We rate the new Honda Civic, too, as well as the ultra-frugal Toyota Corolla.
Then you have premium offerings like the BMW 1 Series, Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class. Then there's electric alternatives like the Renault Megane E-Tech, Volkswagen ID.3 and MG 4. If you're looking for a versatile family car, we'd suggest looking at family SUVs like the Nissan Qashqai and Hyundai Tucson, too.
The interior of the Ford Focus gets the fundamentals right, being reasonably well made, laid out with thought and comfortable for driver and passengers alike. However, it's just a bit dark and dull in there.
Taken in isolation (and particularly when compared to some older family hatchbacks) it's fine, with enough soft-touch plastics and curved surfaces to avoid being completely drab. But when compared with some new rivals - in particular the lovely interior of the Mazda 3 - the dark plastics and absence of colour make it feel gloomy.
By modern car standards, there are also rather a lot of buttons and switches to control various functions, but not too many that you feel overwhelmed by them, and the markings make it clear what everything does.
The seats are very supportive, and there’s loads of movement in the seat and steering wheel to help you find a comfortable position. Go for ST-Line X, Titanium X or Active X trims, and the seat moves electrically. Your view of the road ahead is pretty clear, and while your rear view is hampered slightly by a small rear window, it’s a similar story in many of the Focus’s rivals.
The cabin on pre-facelift models is relatively button heavy and a little cluttered for our liking. But the physical buttons are big and easy to find by feel following a quick glance, not something you’d be able to do if the corresponding function was operated through the touchscreen. The steering wheel is the exception to the Focus’s ergonomic excellence, though, because it’s covered with small, fiddly buttons that are tricky to hit at a glance. At least they're not touch sensitive, though, like the latest Volkswagen Golf.
Quality and finish
The Ford Focus is a mixed bag here. In all the places where your eyes or hands fall most often, there are pleasing soft-touch surfaces and textured finishes, and these bits feel pretty good.
Unless you find yourself an early Style car, you’ll also get nice leather wrappings for the steering wheel and gear shifter. Elsewhere on the dash, however, are plastics that are harder, scratchier and of a considerably lower perceived quality, and many of these are in plain view the whole time.
One or two of the panels don’t line up with quite the precision that they do in rivals, either. This doesn’t give the cabin a low-rent feel overall, but these inconsistencies means that the Ford Focus feels some way behind not only the Volkswagens and Hondas of the world for poshness, but also the very latest Kias and Hyundais.
Each version gets a slightly different ambience, with the odd bit of (fake) chrome, (fake) wood or (very fake) carbon fibre splashed about to tart things up. Find a Vignale and you'll even get a dashboard wrapped in leather to match its full leather seats. Despite that, though, the cheap-looking stuff is still very evident, so there’s still a rather flimsy feel in places.
Infotainment: Touchscreen, USB, nav and stereo in the Ford Focus
Tech fans should look for one of the latest Ford Focus models with the new infotainment setup. Launched late in 2021, this uses the brand's SYNC 4 tech with an impressive 13.2-inch landscape digital display. It's leagues ahead of the infotainment used in earlier Ford Focus models - with sharp graphics, intuitive menu layouts and fast responses we'd go as far as saying it's one of the best systems available in a family hatch. Look for a Focus Titanium X, Active X or ST-Line X for an equally impressive 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.
If you find an early Style-trimmed Ford Focus, you’ll only get a very basic stereo system. It still has DAB and Bluetooth, but it has a tiny 4.2-inch screen that looks a bit cheap these days.
Pre-facelift Zetec and ST-Line cars get an 8.0-inch screen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity. However, while the screen size stays the same, the upgrade to ST-Line X, Titanium or Titanium X trims gets you a more sophisticated system that also includes built-in sat-nav and voice control. Upgrade even further to Vignale trim, and your system is enhanced even further by a reversing camera and an upgraded surround sound system with 10 speakers and an output of 675 watts.
Space and practicality: Ford Focus boot space
This was always a slight weakness for the previous Ford Focus because rear space was always on the tight side compared with rivals. That’s no longer the case, though.
Rear legroom is among the best in the class, and headroom is very good, too, and this allows tall passengers plenty of room to stretch out, even behind a comparatively lofty driver. Bear in mind that cars with a panoramic roof are appreciably shorter on rear headroom, but still, your passengers would need to be pretty gangly to feel short-changed.
Sitting three in the back is comfier than it is in most rivals, too, because the cabin and the middle seat are wide, while the central tunnel running down the middle of the floor is low and flat, so it’s comfy enough to sit with your feet on top of it if you wind up in the middle.
A pair of bulky child seats will also fit in without a worry. What’s more, space in the front is as generous as you expect, and there are lots of storage spaces dotted around, even if the door pockets aren’t particularly large.
The boot is satisfactory rather than class-leading. At 375 litres, its size is similar to that of its main rivals and a good chunk bigger than the old Focus, but down on the biggest cars such as the Honda Civic. There’s a lip that you’ll need to heave heavy items over, too, but it’s only small. The rear seats drop to boost your cargo bay, and they lie almost flat, with no awkward steps in the floor.
In terms of exterior dimensions, the Ford Focus is 4378mm long, 1825mm wide and 1471mm tall. That makes it longer and wider than a Volkswagen Golf, but not quite as tall. It's roughly in the middle of the family hatchback field in terms of size.
Key rivals may be closer than ever to the Ford Focus in terms of its ride and handling, but they're still not able to beat it. The suspension gives really impressive control over unwanted body movements, while there’s also oodles of grip and steering that’s quick, responsive and packed full of feel. This makes the car feel assured and agile as it changes direction, allowing you to scurry along your favourite backroad with a smile on your face, and with a satisfying feeling of stability.
If you’re worried that such nimble handling will result in a car that’s uncomfortable over bumps, you needn’t. The suspension is supple enough to absorb most of what a ragged road surface can throw at it, and the ride is also superbly controlled at all speeds, so your life is comfortable and civilised at all times. Sure, a VW Golf is slightly better at isolating you from big potholes, but it isn't as fun to drive.
ST-Line models sit 10mm lower, which makes them marginally more agile, but happily, that doesn’t put a big dent in your comfort levels. An adaptive suspension was also available through the options list, which varies its behaviour according to which driving mode you select.
All Focuses have a range of driving modes, which make minor changes to things like steering weight and throttle response. You can feel the subtle differences, they don’t really change the character of the car in any way.
What engines and gearboxes are available in the Ford Focus?
There have been a number of revisions to the Ford Focus engine line-up over the years, although the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine has been a mainstay of the range since this model arrived in 2018. It was initially available with a power output of 85, 100 or 125PS but, today, the 125PS model is now the entry-level engine. This will be more than powerful enough for the majority of Ford Focus buyers, with its turbo power providing plentiful performance for joining the motorway or keeping up with traffic on rural roads.
A 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol was also originally offered, available with 150 or 182PS. This was replaced in 2020 by a punchier, mild-hybrid version of the 1.0-litre petrol with 155PS. This isn't a 'full' hybrid - don't expect an electric motor to propel the Focus in silence - but a 48-volt system will provide a small power boost and minor improvement in fuel economy.
You can get mild-hybrid versions of the Focus with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed PowerShift automatic gearbox. We quite like the manual - it feels direct and suits the slightly sporty nature of the Focus, although the PowerShift is fine for those seeking an easier life.
Diesel power is very much out of fashion, but you can still get the Ford Focus with a 115PS 1.5-litre EcoBlue engine. This isn't particularly powerful but the torque on offer means it'll make light work of long-distance motorway driving.
Refinement and noise levels
The 1.0 EcoBoost engine is nice and quiet in the Ford Focus, but it does transmit a bit of vibration through the steering wheel and pedals, especially with a few revs on. The power delivery also has a slightly stuttery, staccato quality that also makes things feel a shade less smooth. It’s noticeable, but it’s not something that’ll annoy you. You could almost call it character.
You’ll have no complaints over the 1.5 EcoBoost, though: it's very smooth and quiet when you want it to be, and emit a pleasant rasp when you work it harder. Special mention, though, should go to the 1.5 diesel, which stays amazingly smooth and quiet at all times. Many executive saloons don’t have diesel engines this cultured.
Other sources of noise are very effectively isolated, too. Wind- and road noise are both audible, but both are kept to very low levels, and you’ll hardly ever hear a peep out of the suspension. It all makes the Focus a very civilised, sophisticated, grown-up way of getting around.
Safety equipment: How safe is the Ford Focus?
Importantly, automatic emergency braking is standard across the entire Ford Focus range, along with lane-keeping assistance, electronic stability control, hill start assist and brakes that lock themselves on after an accident to help prevent any further impacts.
The standard roster also includes MyKey, a programmable fob you can give to your kids when they drive the car, which allows you to pre-set maximum thresholds for things like speed and stereo volume. Clever stuff. Meanwhile, Vignale models add brighter LED lights and a head-up display that beams key driving information onto the windscreen so you don’t have to look away from the road as often.
Optional extras for buyers of new Focuses included blind spot monitoring and a Driver Assistance Pack, which includes traffic sign recognition and adaptive cruise control with lane centring.
The Focus was crash-tested by Euro NCAP in 2018 and scored the full five-star rating.