Review: Ford Focus

The world's best-selling car

25 May 15 Tim Barnes-Clay

Pros

  • Great handling

  • Comfortable seats

  • Great visability

Cons

  • Not very fashionable

  • Studio version is quite basic

  • A few recalls on older models

Our expert rating

When the Ford Focus was launched in the UK in 1998 it replaced the long-running and much loved Ford Escort. In 2012, the Focus took over the Toyota Corolla becoming the world's best-selling car.

However, an earlier Ford Focus Mk2 still makes a good buy, plus it was face-lifted in 2008 and still looks smart.

Performance

The finest Focus engines are the TDCi diesels; all are first-class, including the basic 1.6 version. Trim-wise, opt for Zetec, Ghia or Titanium if you like lots of equipment.

Entry-level Focuses don’t have as much kit. The relatively ‘green’ 1.6 TDCi pulls strongly in any gear, making it a good commuting vehicle.

Front of Ford Focus in Blue

Ride and handling

The 2008 face-lift Ford Focus was built until 2011 and is still fun to drive. It has a fine quality cabin, comfortable seats and handling is on the ball - especially on corners where there’s very little body lean.

It handles motorway speeds well and it’s generally a comfortable five-up motor, despite a firm low-speed ride around town. It also has a decent boot and a wide range of engines.

Interior space

The Ford is better than many vehicles in the used small to medium family car sector. A big windscreen means visibility is marvellous, and there is a feeling of space that’s absent from challengers like the Vauxhall Astra.

The interior is well assembled and there's lots of head and legroom.

Ford Focus Interior

What to know before you buy

Don’t go for a diesel if you’re a low mileage driver because there’s a known issue with the diesel particulate filters (DPFs), they can become clogged due to short distance driving. To fix them it could cost you up to £3,500.

However, if you do need a diesel Ford Focus, check if the DPF light is on in the dashboard. Also, it’s essential to check the mileage of the used Focus when viewing, because a DPF typically lasts 80,000 to 100,000 miles before it needs to be replaced.

What's more, 13 recall notices have been issued for the 2004-2011 Ford Focus for a range of mainly minor issues. One of the latest notices raised concerns over the nuts used for the rear wheels on cars built between February and April 2009.

It's therefore wise to get the wheels checked over by a professional before you buy.

Rear of Ford Focus in blue

Alternative cars

In many ways it’s hard to do better than the Focus if you want a used mid-sized family hatch. That said, the Mazda 3 is closely related to the Ford and offers comparable characteristics, but there aren’t as many around.

Other rivals include the Honda Civic, which is incredibly reliable, as well as the aforementioned Vauxhall Astra. The terrific Volkswagen Golf, shouldn’t be discounted either. It's an exceptional car but, it’s far more expensive than the Focus.

Alternative car to Ford Focus - Mazda 3

Overall verdict

If you buy a pre-2011 Ford Focus, you’ll have to accept it’s not going to be the most fashionable family motor around. In spite of that, a secondhand Focus can trounce similarly aged competitors.

It's dependable, scored top marks in the Euro NCAP crash safety test – with five stars and, with its big boot and well-dressed cabin, the Ford offers first class storage space. Three door versions make getting in and out of the back seats a pain, but it’s still roomy enough once you’re in.

Five-door models offer extra headroom and obviously, if you have kids, more access points will make your life easier. Indeed, a used Ford Focus is a hatchback that can do little wrong. Its only shortcoming is that it's more common than fish and chips.

Expert rating

Performance

Reliability

Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money

Overall