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2018 Ford Focus review – fun, but no longer flawed, the Focus back to its best

It may not be quite as sharp as its predecessor, but Ford filled in the gaps making for an impressive family hatchback

Evo rating
  • Classic Focus ‘togetherness’ in the ride and handling; much better interior and ergonomics too
  • Less clarity to the steering than the old model, odd styling

The Ford Focus has been a family hatch stalwart for over 20 years now, replacing the iconic Escort with the sharp-looking and sharp-to-drive hatch that took the class by storm. Four generations later, the all-new Focus may have the same mantra, but the market space it finds itself in has never been tougher.

To approach this, the Focus has been stretched in every direction of the hatchback genre, with entry cars joined by sporty ST-Line, luxury Vignale and even pseudo SUV Active models. A hot ST model will follow next summer, and eventually an RS too, but for now let’s focus on the standard car, no pun intended (got it out of the way there).

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As the Focus continues to be squeezed by premium rivals above, and value-driven options below, mainstream hatches more than ever need a strong USP to stand out among the crowd. Luckily, the Focus has always been endowed with a better driving experience than all its rivals. So does it still lead the pack, or have its rivals caught up?

Ford Focus: in detail

Performance and 0-62mph time > Petrol models are adequately fast, although the range-topping 180bhp doesn’t feel as fast as it should

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Engine and gearbox > Alongside the all-new chassis is a new engine range. Automatic transmissions are new too.

Ride and handling > Insatiably competent, even entertaining, the Focus’s driving experience doesn’t disappoint

MPG and running costs > High MPG and low running costs mean the Focus is still a strong value proposition

Interior and tech > The last Focus’s interior was a major low point, but the new cabin is smart and functional, if not exactly glamorous

Design > The Focus has gone through a big step change in design, trading the previous model’s messy mono-box design for a more in-vogue two-box silhouette

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Prices, specs and rivals:

It comes as no surprise that one of the UK’s highest-selling models is available in a vast variety of engines and specs. It can all be a little bewildering, in fact, but what you need to know is that the Focus generally sits in the middle of the pack in regards to price, as you might expect. Like the previous model, the new Focus is only available in five-door hatch and estate form in the UK.

Prices start at £18,300 for the entry-level 1-litre petrol five-door hatch model with 84bhp, but it’s sparsely specced, not to mention a lot of car to move around with not a lot of power. An extra £350 will get you the friskier 99bhp model, and a further £500 will add another 25bhp to the total, taking it to 124bhp. The larger 1.5-litre, 150bhp and 184bhp options are also available further up the range, but aren’t available in entry Style or Zetec grades.

Upgrading from Style to Zetec will cost £1350 or so depending on the engine, adding alloy wheels, front fog lights, a heated windscreen, leather steering wheel, cruise control and that all-important dash top-mounted 8-inch touchscreen that keeps the interior from looking like a TV cabinet without a TV in it.

A further £2750 over the Zetec will upgrade you to either ST-Line or Titanium models, both of which offer even more kit, the former adding sportier exterior styling, wheels and interior trim. Titanium models keep the standard styling, but add lots of convenience features like all-round parking sensors, heated seats, climate control and keyless entry, amongst other things.

From here, both ST-Line and Titanium models can be upgraded to ST-Line X and Titanium X models, integrating partial leather trim and new alloys. Topping the range is the Vignale model, adding a heap of equipment, including LED headlights, leather interior trim, a head-up display, heated steering wheel and an upgraded B&O sound system. Some of these features are also available as options on lesser models, but only the Vignale can be optioned with proper big-car tech like adaptive LED headlights and double-glazed front windows.

The crux is that it’s entirely possible in this day and age to specify a standard Ford Focus beyond £30,000, which is a lot of money to part with without a premium badge on the nose. Model for model, Estate versions cost £1100 more, and are available in all model variations, including the high-riding Active, making it a sort of miniature Audi A6 Allroad.

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As for its rivals, spec for spec the Ford is more expensive than an equivalent Vauxhall Astra, Hyundai i30 or Kia Ceed by a few hundred pounds, sits just underneath the Honda Civic and Peugeot 308, but is a fair way below the Volkswagen Golf. Using an automatic 148bhp Focus ST-Line model as an example, an equivalent Golf R-Line is a hefty £3500 more expensive.

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