Ford does it again

with new Focus

Ford Focus ST-Line, 2018, front, action
Ford Focus ST-Line, 2018, side, action
Ford Focus ST-Line, 2018, rear, action
Ford Focus ST-Line, 2018, interior
Ford Focus ST-Line, 2018, boot
Ford Focus ST-Line, 2018, head up display
Ford Focus ST-Line, 2018, engine

FORD has done it again with the all-new Focus which arrives in showrooms here next month as it is the best family oriented model they have ever produced.

Make no mistake the homework done by the various Ford backroom teams on this fourth generation model has paid clear dividends and with prices generally cheaper than the outgoing versions (the entry-level £17,930 Style is £2,300 less) it's going to be a definite winner.

Based on a new platform and apart from the expected cosmetic styling changes and loads of suspension, engine and chassis tweaks underneath this new Focus has three major plus factors going in its favour.

First it has a far better ride for passengers and better driving experience for the driver, secondly it's so much quieter and more refined out on the road with improved handling and thirdly all versions have far more standard equipment on board and both the front and rear seats provide much more comfort than the old model.

In terms of those looks it's completely different from any previous Ford medium sized model with its sleek style five-door hatchback and estate bodies sitting lower on the road and overall it has a more aggressive look about it along with bags more interior space although it's only a mere 18mm longer than the outgoing model.

Key here was that engineers managed to extend the car's wheelbase by 53mm, which may not seem much to most motorists, and they used this extra width to created a roomier interior so much so that leg and head room both in the front and rear.

In terms of engines the award winning one-litre, three cylinder Ecoboost petrol engine remains with three different outputs - 84bhp, 99bhp and 123bhp - but an all-new 1.5-litre Ecoboost with either 148bhp or 180bhp.

A six-speed manual gearbox is standard across the range although there is an excellent quick and smooth feeling eight-speed automatic gearbox with a Jaguar-style rotary gear selector available on the 123bhp and 148bhp petrol and the 118bhp diesel engine.

There is a new 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel engine with either 94bhp or 118bhp plus a 2.0-litre 148bhp but Ford expects petrol powered models to be the best seller with the second up trim level Zetec the most popular.

Apart from the cheapest Style and then Zetec (prices start at £19,300) trim levels moving up market there's the ST-Line (from £21,570), ST-Line X (from £24,050), Titanium (from £21,550), Titanium X (from £22,820) and topping the range the rather overpriced in my view Vignale starting from £25,450.

At the end of the day whatever model a motorist buys there's the obvious question: What's it like to drive and particularly over the outgoing model?

Driving three different versions on the media launch - first, the 1.5-litre petrol hatchback Vignale, followed by the 1.5-litre 118bhp Titanium diesel and lastly the ST-Line 180bhp petrol - one clear factor emerges from all three is that this new Focus is better handling, has more agility yet with a much smoother ride and they are quieter too - even the diesel.

The pick of the three was obviously the sportier ST-Line. It's a real driver's car and was equally at home driving in and around busy urban traffic but came into its own out on the motorway where it cruised so efficiently.

Driving around twisty, hilly mountain roads and it excels, sticking to the road like the proverbial pot of glue, coping with any potholes or bumpy road surfaces without any trouble.

Naturally helping here is the 10mm lower body and different suspension set up but in fairness like the other two models briefly tested this new Focus has far more agility and overall more composed than the previous version.

The ST-Line obviously has some different styling touches compared to others in the range and these include and upper and lower grille, rear spoiler and polished twin tailpipes while for the driver there's a flat-bottomed steering wheel, aluminium gear knob, alloy foot pedals and of course lots of red trim stitching around seats and the like.

As for the interiors of this new model there is a distinctive touch of the new Fiesta about it all, which in itself is not a bad thing bearing in mind it's won plaudits from all and sundry over its supermini rivals.

Standard equipment levels are high - even the entry-level Style has air conditioning, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth, emergency assist, electronic parking brake, hill start and lane-keeping aid - while obviously moving upmarket there's far more standard kit included.

Apart from the Style all other models have SYNC3 infotainment system with Android Auto, Apple Car Play using a 6.5-inch simple to use touch screen and then more expensive models have an 8-inch touch screen (as on the ST-Line driven here) and all have a nice high position, are nice and clear for the driver to see and re quick to switch between different functions too.

One first for Ford on the dearer new Focus models is a head-up display - that's a mini glass screen that pops up reflecting on to the windscreen directly in front of the driver's eyes that gives an instant read out of speed, navigation and road sighs ahead.

This is an excellent driver safety aid in my view, already exists on some rival car maker's models, but this Ford one is excellent and engineers say their version overcomes a regular problem for drivers wearing polarised sunglasses as it counteracts glare. All clever and sensible which will be welcomed by many drivers.

The Focus has been an incredibly big seller for Ford, particularly in the UK with over two million sold and regularly number two to their all conquering Fiesta, and this latest incarnation looks set to carry on in that vein.

The only decision for most Focus buyers will be which version to go for - in my book the ST-Line with that bigger 180bhp engine would be the choice - but over the whole range this latest model is quite outstanding.

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