GETTING into a Ford Focus recently was a return to what used to be normality.
Normal being not electric, not hybrid, not automatic, not crossover SUV. It felt … strange, but nice.
And just in case you thought the Focus as a compact hatch is now representing an insignificant segment, it isn’t, for Ford so far anyhow.
In Ireland this year, it’s the second best-selling Ford, albeit only single digits different from the Puma above it, and the Kuga below. Between them they are 75% of all Fords rolled out of showrooms in 2023.
I’m late to this particular refresh of a nameplate that has been a main product from the Blue Oval brand ever since 1998.
This one is a revision of the fourth generation that debuted in 2018. It has held its style well, still looks handsome in a body of curves and smooth edges. Supply chain issues meant that I’m only now reviewing the version released in October 2021.
Also, notwithstanding its continuing level of popularity, it IS the last Focus — the model will be discontinued in 2025. It’s arguable that the coming end will see a spike in demand for those many to whom Focus has been a continuing choice of change ever since the model was introduced.
It is fair to say that the interior has begun to date. Though not in a bad way, and certainly everything about the fit, fittings and materials retain the durable and quality feel that has long been a part of the Focus popularity. This is a family hatch designed to handle the ravages of family life.
The revision is mostly with the infotainment screen, now wider than the previous versions of Ford’s SYNC connectivity systems. The layout of virtual buttons is clear and uses large graphics. There are also proper physical controls for key areas, including climate and volume control. The main instruments are in traditional format but with the clarity and brightness that digital brings.
Good driving position and ergonomics are part of what made Focus the main model in the compact hatch stakes, where it was deliberately targeted to unseat VW’s iconic Golf … and succeeded in that. So settling myself behind the wheel of this one was a pleasure revisited. Even after all the automatics of the last year, the manual shift was perfectly to hand, the pedals in their proper place, and the gear-changing immaculate.
The engine was the [125hp] 1.0 3-pot which Ford has made a champion motor in a crowded field of similar ICE units. Happy in traffic amble or revving in acceleration, its distinctive warble was good to hear again. A sound that in the relatively near future will go the way of the corncrake’s rasping call (the rousing crackle of the RS Focus has already disappeared — there’s not going to be an RS version of this one before it is made extinct).
On the road this Focus also re-created the crisp handling that helped it topple Golf. Something that we don’t get any more because of the bottom-heavy attitude of all the electric cars that have been parked outside my home. For that joy alone, there will be people snapping up the last copies of the Focus as they are rolled off the line.
This was a plain motor, without even the mild hybrid electrification that is available in the range. Yet it returned a very decent fuel consumption of 5.7 L/100km during the week I had it. A matter which prompted the thought that when I began driving in a Ford Consul 61 years ago, the four-cylinder engine used petrol at the rate of 10.5l/100km on a good road.
We have come quite a way, and yet we haven’t, I suppose.