Long-term Review

Living with a... Ford Focus

Senior road tester Phill Tromans swaps an SUV and a pick-up truck for one of Britain’s favourite hatchbacks.

Words by: Last updated: 27th February 2019
Month One: Welcome
Mileage: 2,250
Costs: £0

The latest addition to the Auto Trader fleet is a common sight on UK roads, and with good reason. The Ford Focus has been one of the country’s best and most popular hatchbacks since it was first introduced way back in 1998.

I have a loose history with it, having run a Focus ST for six months back in the mid-2000s. And my very first car was its predecessor, the Escort, back in my youth.

But that was then. These days, the SUV is king, and I’ve come from a background of much bigger cars. My previous long-termer was the Volkswagen Amarok pick-up truck, and before that I ran a Kia Sportage SUV. So the question is, can a regular hatchback still cut it against the bigger cars? Will I miss the space? Or will I find that small can still be beautiful?

This fourth-generation Focus is an all-new model, launch in mid-2018. Mine is lightly used, with just over 2,000 miles on the clock when it arrived. It’s coated in Race Red paint, and under the bonnet is a 1.5-litre diesel engine, which promises an official combined fuel economy of 80.7mpg (although I’m not expecting to get anywhere near that in the real world).

The trim level is ST-Line, named after the ST badge that adorns several performance Fords. Combined with the Race Red paint name, there’s a definite promise of sportiness, even though this isn’t a hot hatch. The engine develops 120 horsepower, which isn’t likely to blow any socks off, although it should be enough to not feel sluggish. However, the ST-Line package does include stiffer, “sports-tuned” suspension, which should add a bit of zip to the handling and hopefully won’t come at the expense of ride comfort.

The ST-Line trim also means 17-inch alloy wheels and a rear spoiler, as well as a flat-bottomed steering wheel inside, finished in red stitching (which, for some reason, is meant to be sportier).
Ford Focus
Ford Focus
Other standard features include LED daytime running lights and LED fog lamps, which also act as cornering lights. Turn the wheel past a certain angle and the fog lamp will come on to help light your path around the corner. I’ve also got Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment and navigation system, which features an (optional, for £350) 8.0-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard, and comes with DAB digital radio, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay for hooking up with my phone. The standard system has a 6.5-inch screen.

There are a few options added on, including rear privacy glass (£250) and the Driver Assistance Pack (£500). This gives me several extra hi-tech systems, including auto high beam and adaptive cruise control, which should prove useful in slow traffic. I’ve also got the Convenience Pack (£750), which gives me a rear-view camera and door edge protectors that fold out of the doors when you open them and stop you dinking the paintwork on a wall that you hadn’t noticed. It also features Active Park Assist, which will take over the steering when parallel parking (if you want it to).

The final option is something called FordPass Connect (£250), which I’ve yet to try. It involves downloading an app and connecting to the car. More on what that is, and how it works, in a future update.

In addition to the options added to the car when it was built, I’ve added a detachable towbar as well, so that I can fix on the Uebler bike rack (£750). As the Focus’ boot is too small to store a bike easily, I need a way of transporting mine around when I’m not riding it.

I picked up the Focus just before Christmas. Soon afterwards, my wife and I went away to see relatives for ten days, loaded with clothes, food and presents. When presented with the Focus and the alternative of my own Skoda Octavia Estate, we chose the Skoda for the extra space. I suspect the real test of how practical the Focus is will come when I have no choice but to use it for ferrying things around.
Ford Focus
Ford Focus
Month Two: Smiles and woes
Mileage: 3,957
Costs: £0

It’s been a mixed month with the Focus as I get to know it. Most of what I have to report is positive, so let’s get into that first.

Although this isn’t a sporty car, the handling really is first rate. The ST-Line trim comes with slightly stiffened, sportier suspension, but the way the Focus has been put together makes for an agile, nimble and sharp-feeling car that feels great in the bends. If you value a fun experience behind the wheel, short of a proper hot hatch, I’m not sure there’s much that can match it.

What’s particularly impressive is this composure and assured behaviour through the bends doesn’t come at the expense of ride comfort. The suspension is pliable enough to cope with the worst British B-roads can throw at it, never feeling jarring even over rutted surfaces. After some 1,500 miles, I’ve been really impressed with the overall experience.
Less fun have been a few electrical peculiarities. On three occasions so far – including one around three minutes into my first ever journey in the car – the infotainment system has completely frozen, leaving it inoperable. Turning the car on and off, getting out and locking and unlocking it and holding down the on/off button failed to remedy the situation each time, although leaving the car overnight seemed to have sorted it out. It was a bit frustrating to have to spend the remaining journey with no navigation or entertainment.

I’ve also had a couple of issues with the collision warning system – called Pre-Collision Assist – which is a little over sensitive. The idea of it is if sensors in the car detect an impending collision ahead, an alarm sounds and the dashboard flashes red. If you don’t respond, it’ll slam on the brakes automatically. Which is great in an actual emergency.

However, on several occasions the system has reacted in circumstances where no accident was imminent. Once it was an oncoming car on the other side of the road, once it was a parked car I was preparing to drive past. Once was for no discernible reason I could fathom. Thankfully I only got the alarm rather than an unplanned emergency stop. I guess it’s better to err on the side of caution when it comes to safety, but it’s still annoying.

Here’s hoping there aren’t any more unexpected surprises with the Focus to spoil what has generally been a really positive experience so far.
Key specs:
-Model: Ford Focus ST-Line 1.5 TDCI EcoBlue
-List price: £22,850 OTR inc. VAT
-Price as tested: £24,950 OTR inc. VAT
-Engine/gearbox: 1.5-litre turbodiesel, six-speed manual
-Power: 120 horsepower
-Torque: 300Nm
-Top speed: 122mph
-0-62mph: 10.0 seconds
-Economy: 80.7mpg combined (claimed)
-CO2: 93g/km

Everything extra fitted to our long-termer:
-Rear privacy glass (£250)
-Ford Sync3 DAB Navigation System with 8.0-inch touchscreen (£350)
-FordPass Connect (£250)
-Driver Assistance Pack* (£500)
-Convenience Pack** (£750)
-Detachable towbar £TBC

*(Traffic Sign Recognition, Auto High Beam, Adaptive Cruise Control)
**(Rear wide-view camera, door edge protectors, Active Park Assist)

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