The Ford Focus completely rewrote the rulebook for family cars when it was introduced in the dim and distant days of 1998. And, just like a certain US manufacturer and their smartphone, Ford has been making its product better and better with every new generation launched. For solo drivers, couples and families, it doesn't get much more impressive than this.
For some status-seekers, only a VW Golf will cut the mustard in this class. But let’s leave badge snobbery - sorry, we mean badge brinkmanship - to one side for now.
Ford introduced the new fourth-generation Focus in 2018. With its deep grille and sharp headlamps, there's almost a hint of Aston Martin about it.
The Mk4 may not have cascaded down to your price budget just yet. But here's the kicker, plenty would argue the earlier Mk3 version - which ran from 2011 to 2018 with a facelift in 2014 - is even sharper looking than the latest model. With its elongated headlamps, crisp lines and elegant curves.
With its deep grille and sharp headlamps, there's almost a hint of Aston Martin about it.
What’s it like to drive?
Excellent – next question, please. Seriously though, Ford’s engineers learnt a trick with the very first Focus. If you make a car great fun to drive, make it more nimble and agile than it actually needs to be, you’ll get great reviews from the critics.
Ever since then, Ford has stuck with that formula for the Focus. Be warned, though, it might make you late for appointments. Not because it's slow – because the Focus will tempt you to take the longer route to enjoy the way it zips through corners on country roads. The cabin is well insulated from outside noise, so even though it might be blowing a gale on the motorway, you'll arrive at your destination feeling refreshed and relaxed.
The Focus will tempt you to take the longer route to enjoy the way it zips through corners on country roads
Compared with the outgoing Mk2 Focus, the Mk3 grew a little in length. Wherever you are in the car, you will be sitting pretty thanks to impressive head and legroom front and rear. Three adults can fit comfortably into the rear seats.
Getting comfortable behind the wheel before you drive off is a doddle, thanks to the excellent range of driving positions on offer and the comfortable and supportive seats. Again, you get the feeling that with the Focus, Ford's designers and engineers raised the bar that little bit higher than they strictly had to.
The steering wheel looks great and feels just right to hold. There's a cheeky little hint of sportiness to the instrument dials that ties in nicely with the exterior's dynamic looks and the fun handling.
If you choose one of the ultra-sporting ST or RS models, that ‘racing car’ feel is amped up higher – a lot higher. You don't have to go for an ST to enjoy a generous equipment specification. Even early Mk3 entry-level models come equipped with air-conditioning and digital radio, enabling you to 'chill' in every sense of the word.
With the advent of the Mk3, the range got streamlined to the five-door hatchback, alongside the estate model, of course.
All models feature split rear seats, and when you fold them down you get an excellent flat base. This makes it easier to slide flatpack wardrobes in and out. The boot holds enough soft-bag luggage for five occupants. It’s not the largest in the class - both the Astra and the Golf offer more space. Cabin stowage is fine with large door bins and a big central cubby.
Running costs and reliability
While early versions of the new Mk4 Focus may still be just out of your budget range, the good news is that its arrival caused a dip in Mk3 prices, making that version more affordable.
There’s an impressive range of petrol and diesel engines to choose from. Even the smallest 1.0-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol packs an impressive punch. Still, if you will carry many passengers and luggage on board regularly, we’d recommend the 1.5-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine. If you’re in danger of making the Guinness Book of Records for the longest commute, the 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine, with its 80mpg plus claimed fuel economy, is your best bet.
What we love
The Focus's styling always puts a smile on our face. It still looks like a model that you would find sitting in a new car showroom. With its five-door format, the Focus makes for a safe, efficient, comfortable family car, but it also has the panache and performance to please those who really enjoy their driving.
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Town and country drivers
This review was