What is the Ford Focus Mk 3?
The original Ford Focus taught us that a fabulous driving experience didn’t have to be sacrificed by drivers in the market for a mid-sized family hatchback. So it is mildly disappointing that the latest car, while a higher quality, more rounded offering, doesn’t have the same driver appeal.
As ever, the latest car goes head to head with the Volkswagen Golf, its long-term nemesis. Just two body styles are available, a five-door hatch and an estate — Ford decided to bin the three-door versions that featured in the first two generations of Focus. The third gen car was launched in 2011 and had a major facelift in 2014, with both exterior and interior design updates.
And for those feeling a little spice has been removed from the standard car, Ford has created ST models that, in their no-prisoners attitude to the open road, are closer in character if not outright performance to the Focus RS; an RS version of the Mk3 arrives in Spring 2016. The RS is a hooligan’s car if ever there was one.
With engines ranging in power from 84bhp to 247bhp for the ST (or as much as 317bhp with the RS), how much fun you have with your Focus is decided primarily by the size of your wallet.
As suggested earlier, however, this generation of Focus has surrendered some of its dynamic edge in the successful pursuit of world-class ride quality. Diesel-engine models also suffer from blunted handling because of the extra weight of that diesel motor. The lighter petrol engine cars are far more responsive, though for higher-mileage drivers they will be more expensive to run.
And then there are the ST models that provide all the proof that the Focus can still entertain the enthusiast driver long as they’re prepared to pay for it. Performance from the 2-litre turbo engine is competitive for the class, but its handling, which can feel like that of an only slightly sanitised rally car at times, is extraordinary and inspirational.
Whatever the standard Focus loses on the road, it makes up for in the showroom. Compared with previous generations, quality appears to have skipped a generation to the point where the cabin feels almost as luxurious as that of a Golf.
It’s not as well laid-out as its German rival but the multiude of buttons and switches on the early Mk3 were streamlined in the higher specification models in the 2014 facelift. With high equipment levels, including a DAB radio standard on every model, the Focus has immense static appeal.
The Focus also has the interior space to closely rival its nearest competitors.
What to look out for when buying a used Ford Focus Mk 3
So far, the new Focus has a clean nose: Ford has yet to issue any official recalls on the latest generation. On the whole Focus owners seem a happy bunch, which is no mean feat when you consider how many cars there are out there and the millions of miles they’ve covered. There have been one or two moans about leaky sunroofs and audio glitches but no consistent flaws.
There have, however, been reports of turbo failure on the 1-litre Ecoboost. Ford dealers recommend that the EcoBoost engine is left to idle for a short while at the end of a trip to allow the turbocharger to slow down and cool before the engine is switched off. Not doing this could lead to premature wear.
Some owners also report ECU problems that can make the 2.0 TDCi engine sluggish to pull away from a standstill.
Additional reporting: Jason Dawe
The one to buy
Ford Focus ST2 2.0 Ecoboost 250PS
- Price: £23,995 (correct at time of publishing)
- Engine: 1968cc, straight four
- Power: 247bhp @ 6000rpm
- Torque: 265 lb ft @ 1750rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Acceleration: 0-62mph in 6.5sec
- Top speed: 154mph
- Fuel: 41.5mpg
- CO2: 159g/km
- Dimensions: L 4337mm, W 2019mm, H 1500mm
Ford Focus rivals
- Honda Civic (click for used car prices on driving.co.uk)
- Volkswagen Golf (click for used car prices on driving.co.uk)
- Vauxhall Astra (click for used car prices on driving.co.uk)