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Ford Focus ST-Line X 2019 long-term review

Autocar Sunday, 19 May 2019
It has already proved itself in Autocar's road test, but what is Ford's all-new Focus like to live with? We're finding out

*Why we’re running it: *To find out if Ford’s all-purpose hatchback remains the driver’s car of choice in the family car class

-Month 1 - Specs-

-Life with a Ford Focus: Month 1-

*Welcoming the Focus to the fleet - 23rd May 2018*

Since it was first launched 20 years ago, the Ford Focus has been entrenched as a core part of British motoring. On any motorway, the Focus is as ubiquitous a sight as road signs and traffic cones.

That’s because, throughout three generations, the Focus has always been a true all-rounder: an affordable, refined and thoroughly decent machine that can work as family transport, company car, motorway cruiser and even, in certain forms, hot hatch.

That versatility is why the car’s name has always seemed something of a misnomer. In an era when models are increasingly laser-targeted to ever-narrowing market niches, the Ford Focus never had such a singular, well, focus. It’s a laudable and proudly mainstream car, with the widest possible target audience – although the Ford Lack of Focus doesn’t sound so good.

That broad approach applies with the new fourth-generation Focus, launched late last year. And, in a bid to reach a huge number of market segments, the Focus is available in a head-scratchingly wide array of variants. There’s the ‘standard’ hatch, an estate, the upmarket Vignale edition and the SUV-inspired high-riding Active version, all of which are available in a number of trims with different bodywork style. Oh, and there’s a hot ST model on the way, which is likely to be followed eventually by a hotter RS.

Add in multiple different suspension and engine options (even before a mild hybrid arrives next year), and a Focus buyer has plenty of decisions to make. And that’s before you start ticking boxes for the myriad option packs and extras.

That incredible breadth is reflected in differing abilities across varying specs. So when it came to putting the Focus through Autocar’s exacting road test, our testers spent considerable time ensuring they secured the spec most likely to appeal to Autocar readers, the most dynamically capable version on offer.

They settled on the ST-Line X trim, running on 18in alloy wheels, powered by the 180bhp 1.5-litre three-pot Ecoboost engine through a six-speed manual ’box, riding on optional ‘continuously controlled’ adaptive dampers. Sounds good, right? Our testers thought so, awarding it a class-leading 4.5 stars.

So when considering a car to add to our long-term fleet, rather than battle through the configurator and spec sheets, we took the easy option. We asked for a car just like the one our road testers specced. Ford took that a step further: for the next few months or so, I’ll be driving around in AE68 VYB, the exact car we road tested.

It’s worth noting that quite a few option boxes were ticked in the process of speccing that car. Among the extras added on are a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights, heated steering wheel, head-up display, wireless charging pad and plenty of supplementary safety kit. All additions that will doubtless make my life more comfortable in the coming months, but they do raise the price of our car from £25,650 to £31,145.

That’s stretching it a bit for a mass-market family car, so I’ll be pondering hard which of those extras, if any, are actually worth the cash.

It’s those sorts of questions we’ll be out to answer. We know the Focus is good to drive – great, even – but will it still shine with the familiarity that comes after thousands of miles? The early signs are positive. While it’s an all-new design on an all-new platform, the fourth-generation model still has that familiar Focus styling – but it’s definitely sharper and fresher, especially in ST-Line trim. I’ve noticed it drawing the odd admiring glance, which isn’t something you’d expect from a Focus.

The interior doesn’t quite live up to the bodywork. There’s nothing really wrong with it, but it doesn’t feel special, even taking into account the faux carbonfibre and other ST-Line flourishes. It feels like the mass-market car it is, lacking the sheen of, say, a Volkswagen Golf.

That said, some of that relative lack of visual appeal is because the Focus retains a good number of physical buttons and switches, and I’m happy to forsake a bit of sheen for the ease of use and functionality they’ve offered so far – especially since Ford’s Sync infotainment isn’t particularly special.

While the Focus may look familiar, one major difference is how big it feels inside. The switch to Ford’s new C2 platform has allowed the wheelbase to be extended by 52mm, which Ford claims allows for an extra 40mm of rear leg room. I’ve mostly been sitting up front, so haven’t put that fully to the test yet, but expect us to start cramming family, friends, flatpacks and other assorted oddments inside soon.

We’ll be loading up the Focus for journeys long and short, and on all types of road. Basically, we’re intending to treat our Focus the way thousands of owners have theirs over the past 20 years – which is to be used for pretty much everything.

*Second Opinion*

Knew I’d love the Focus and I did. That 1.5-litre Ecoboost powertrain is so far ahead of where affordable cars used to be, it’s ridiculous – smooth, strong, willing. And the gearbox stirs my interest in pure manuals again. Only drawback is this Focus feels unnecessarily big. Time to slim?

*Steve Cropley*

*Back to the top*

-Ford Focus ST-Line X specification-

*Specs: Price New* £25,650 *Price as tested* £31,145 *Options* Ruby red colour £800, blind-spot monitor £400, head-up display £400, keyless entry £250, wireless charging pad £100, LED headlights £750, heated steering wheel £150, continuously controlled damping £650, Convenience Pack (rear-view camera, active park assist) £500, Driver Assistance Pack (traffic sign recognition, auto high beam, adaptive cruise control) £500, panoramic roof £995

*Test Data: Engine* 1498cc, 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol *Power* 180bhp at 6000rpm *Torque* 177lb ft at 1600rpm *Kerb weight* 1369kg *Top speed* 137mph *0-62mph* 8.3sec *Fuel economy* 51.0mpg *CO2* 127g/km *Faults* None *Expenses* None

*Back to the top*

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