The Ford Focus is now into its third generation and its popularity shows no sign of waning. Ever since the days of the Ford Escort, family cars with the 'blue oval' badge have always been big sellers, partially thanks to there being a Ford dealer in almost every major town, but also because Ford is very good at judging what buyers want.
The Focus doesn't have an easy job to do - it needs to attract customers away from some extremely capable rivals, the list of which is getting ever-longer. The Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Astra and Renault Megane are well established, while the sporty-looking SEAT Leon, elegant Peugeot 308 and practical Skoda Octavia have their own distinct appeal. Beyond those, the hi-tech Honda Civic and Mazda3, the style-conscious DS 4 and Alfa Romeo Giulietta, as well as the value-focused Nissan Pulsar, Kia Cee'd and Hyundai i30 each have their eyes on a slice of the market.
With such an army of opponents, the Focus has to have a unique selling point and this has always been the way it drives. Ever since the Focus took over from the Escort its driver appeal has come in for plaudits, and the latest generation is no exception. It feels lively, agile and responsive, with clever suspension design to make sure this doesn't come at the expense of comfort. This means that driver and passengers will be equally content on a long journey, provided those in the back - where space is a little tight - aren't too long-legged.
All models are well equipped - although some offer better value for money than others. Even the entry-level model has air-conditioning and DAB digital radio, but upgrading to Zetec brings smart alloy wheels, Ford SYNC 3 colour touchscreen infotainment system with voice control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as smart alloy wheels. We reckon this is the best value model in the range.
Going for the lavish Titanium gives you more engines to choose from, as well as adding dual-zone climate-control, parking sensors and autonomous emergency braking. Titanium X adds heated front seats, part-leather trim, a rear-view camera and parking assistance and is distinguished by xenon headlamps and 17-inch wheels.
If you want sporty looks, the ST-Line shares the styling of the Ford Focus ST hot hatchback (which we've reviewed separately) combined with fuel-efficient petrol and diesel engines.
Ford Focus RS hatchback 2016 review - Carbuyer
All trim levels can be chosen as a hatchback or as the Ford Focus Estate, while enthusiastic drivers can opt for the impressive ST, or the incredible Ford Focus RS for real road-burning performance. You can also choose an electric Ford Focus hatchback, although it's rather expensive and a bit compromised compared to cars that were designed as EVs from the outset, like the Renault ZOE.
All of the petrol and diesel engines are respectably economical, though. The petrol range opens with two slightly old-fashioned 1.6-litres with 84 or 103bhp, but the modern 1.0-litre turbocharged 'EcoBoosts' are where things start to get interesting. They have 98 or 123bhp and both manage almost 59mpg. A 1.5-litre comes next, with 148 or 179bhp, and both of these manage over 50mpg. Fitting a six-speed automatic gearbox brings a 4mpg penalty.
Star of the diesel line-up is the 103bhp 1.5-litre ECOnetic, which can return 83.1mpg. At the other end of the range, even the 182bhp 2.0-litre diesel returns 67.3mpg as a manual. With those power outputs, you can be reassured that any Focus has the power to make the most of its engaging road manners.
Ford knows that quality and attention to detail is key to the success of its VW Golf rival, so the latest version has been given a far more impressive interior than before, with soft-touch surfaces and a classy feel. This matches the exterior looks, which are dominated by that Aston-Martin-style grille and swept-back 'teardrop' headlamps. One drawback compared to the Golf, though, is that the Focus' boot is a little on the small side - but there's always the Focus Estate if you need an extension.
The Focus should be a safe way for your family to travel - independent crash-testing by Euro NCAP delivered a five-star verdict. It comes with all the usual airbags and safety electronics and journeys are further safeguarded by a lane-departure warning system and driver fatigue monitor. Adaptive cruise control is also available on some models.
The Ford Focus finished 51st out of the 75 cars ranked in our 2017 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK and certainly deserves consideration for anyone looking for a fine-looking, great-driving car that offers plenty of equipment at a reasonable price.
MPG, running costs & CO2
4 / 5
The new Ford Focus has impressive range of engines, with low running costs across the board
Engines, drive & performance
4.5 / 5
The Ford Focus is, as ever, the most fun car to drive in its class
Interior & comfort
3.5 / 5
All Ford Focus models get an uncluttered dashboard and smooth suspension
Practicality & boot space
3 / 5
The new Ford Focus boot is small compared to rivals
Reliability & safety
3 / 5
Quality and safety are improving, but the Ford Focus isn't as well built as a Volkswagen Golf
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