In-depth reviews

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

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

Engine and gearbox

The whole engine range’s general refinement is impressive, displaying little vibration or gruffness in any model. The 1-litre Ecoboost is an engine we’ve been accustomed to for a while now, and it’s just as good in this latest Focus. The linear power delivery and response is typical Ford, and matches the Focus’s larger packaging well, even if it’s not exactly fast.

The 1.5-litre three-cylinder is shared with the new Fiesta ST, and we like that car. Here, the smaller turbos combined with the Focus’s extra mass doesn’t give these engines quite the kick it does in the Fiesta, but they are smooth, torquey, yet still will happily spin right up to the red line with more alacrity than a three-cylinder Golf, although the Golf still pips the Focus for overall refinement. The Golf’s 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine also feels a more robust and sophisticated engine, which is important when you’re charging over £25k for a family hatchback.

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All engines are fitted with a slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox as standard. The throw is short and direct, with little slack, and a tight, controlled movement. An eight-speed automatic is also available depending on the specification, which is a dramatic improvement on the previous Focus’s dual-clutch gearbox, which was slow to react and jerky between shifts. The new eight-speed is far smoother, quickly and decisively shifting through the ratios in automatic mode.

A second benefit of the automatic is the redesigned centre console as Ford has moved to a small, Jaguar-like rotary gear selector, opening up space in the centre console, but some may find it a little counter intuitive to use. Most models are also fitted with paddles behind the steering wheel to change gears manually, but it’s here that the changes can be sluggish and languid when you want to press on.   

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Diesels, frugal and refined, are up to par, but not class leading. They are quite happy to trundle along at very low rpm, which you’ll generally do anyway thanks to the long gearing. The automatic is a good match, too, and probably the preferable option to the manual if you’re more into a ‘relaxed’ driving style.

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