Ford Focus 1.0 Ecoboost, 2018-now: Less is more
Second Hand Style, with Richard Cooke
THE Ford Focus is so much a part of our automotive furniture that it’s hard to remember what a giant leap forward it was from the appalling ‘that’ll do’ Escort. I drove a 1.8 petrol Mk1 Focus in 2001, and it was a revelation. Almost as well built and certainly far better to drive than the contemporary VW Golf, it was positively fun on the roads between Edinburgh and St Andrews. Twenty years after the Focus was first launched, Ford released the Mk4 tested here. Used models are therefore only a year old at most, so if you’re in the market for a Focus should you pay the extra over the previous Mk3?
First impressions are that yes, you should. The new Focus is lower and wider than its predecessor, and visually at least that’s a good thing. Not many manufactures are doing this at the moment – top heavy SUVs are the order of the day. So well done Ford for going down this route, as the Focus looks planted and purposeful. Inside it gets even better. The dash is well built, functional and feels almost premium in quality. The satnav is simply the best I’ve seen in a car at any price point, Tesla and Volvo included. The resolution is superb, it is intuitive and quick to programme. Full marks here and evidence of Ford’s enormous investment capability versus smaller firms. The seats are comfortable, there is plenty of room front and rear (although the boot is far too small) and the cabin generally feels light and airy. The only mark against the interior is the stereo, which comes with standard issue Ford speaker covers that they’ve persuaded Bang & Olufsen to glue their badge onto. The sound is far too boomy, and the cheapness of the materials used is brand stretch gone too far: like scrawling ‘Petrus’ onto a can of Carling.
That aside, it is a case of so far, so good. On the move Ford pull out their ace card: the engine. This Focus comes with a 1.0 litre 3 cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, producing 125hp. It is linked to a 6 speed manual gearbox and it is a tiny, thrummy, zingy marvel. At no stage do you imagine you are driving anything smaller than a 2.0 litre, until you either pop the bonnet and wonder where the engine actually is or when you fill up with petrol and realise you’ve been using no more than a gallon of fuel every 45 miles. There is no turbo lag at all and, whilst I’d be pushing it to say the Focus is fast, it certainly never feels short on power. Under load there’s that delightful slightly off-beat 3 cylinder thrum that boring old 4 cylinder engines just don’t offer. I loved it, and that’s good because the 3 cylinder is here to stay, as manufacturers develop smaller more fuel-efficient engines. The last time I tried one was years ago in a Daewoo Matiz, which also had a charm of its own, but Ford have moved the game on tremendously. Don’t bother with the lower powered 1.0 alternatives though, or you’ll be wondering why you didn’t pay extra for the 125hp every time you climb a hill.
It’s still a bit early to say what might go wrong with the Mk4 Focus longer term, but the previous Mk3 had several issues with this 1.0 engine that you would hope have been properly resolved. This included turbo problems causing the car to go into the dreaded ‘limp home’ mode. There were also problems with the automatic gearbox option, which I would avoid on this sort of car anyway. Going from the older model to this one, it is clear that the real leap forwards is in the design of the cabin – once you’ve experienced that excellent satnav you won’t want to trade down. As ever, depreciation is your friend, as buying a year-old Focus will save you about £9k over new and that is my recommendation. Great car.
Ford Focus Ecoboost 1.0 125hp: From £18k for a 2018 ‘ST-Line’ model with 15k miles