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Ford Focus review – engine, gearbox and technical highlights

All Focus models have three-cylinder engines with manual or dual-clutch transmissions

Evo rating
  • Gets the fundamentals right; handles well; impressive new interfaces
  • It’s maybe a bit austere, despite it now being quite expensive

Ford has consolidated the Focus’s engine range by removing the extremes of the previous spread and expanding into mild-hybrid tech. This leaves a single 1-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine available in two power outputs, and with two transmission options. All but the entry-level variant fitted with the six-speed manual use a 48V mild-hybrid system that integrates a small ISG electric motor into the powertrain to reduce parasitic losses and function as the engine’s starter motor.

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The two power outputs are 123bhp and 153bhp, with very limited figures of 125lb ft and 140lb ft respectively. Cars fitted with the mild-hybrid system add a further 16bhp, but Ford has not revealed the added torque of the ISG which will assist the combustion engine’s tame figures. The fundamental design of the EcoBoost three-cylinder engine is a good one, too, being the recipient of multiple International Engine of the Year awards in its specific engine category.

A fast-spinning turbo and flat torque curve are some of the EcoBoost’s trademarks, prizing flexibility over outright on-paper performance. Overall powertrain refinement is impressive too, and comes with smooth calm running right up to the redline. However, the excessive engine inertia that many three-cylinder engines suffer is present, and makes it feel a little soft-edged and unresponsive.

The manual’s throw is short and direct with little slack and a tightly controlled movement. The Focus’s original Powershift dual-clutch wasn’t much to write home about, with slow shifts and a tendency to slip the clutches too much on take-off, but its recent pairing to the mild-hybrid system should help smooth out the slurred shifts.

The chassis is nothing unusual for the class, pairing MacPherson strut front suspension with either a rigid torsion beam or independent rear suspension. As one of the first mainstream family hatchbacks to introduce independent suspension – previously called control blade from the first-generation Focus – it might come as a surprise to see it’s only fitted on higher-specification model variants of the current generation, but this isn’t unusual in the class today.

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