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REVIEW – Ford Focus ST Line X

Editor-in-chief, Senior Reviewer


Ford Focus 1.5 EcoBlue 120 ST Line X Auto
  • Exterior Styling
  • Interior Finish
  • Engine / Performance
  • Ride / Handling
  • Economy
  • Practicality
  • Equipment
  • Value For Money
4.5

Summary

The new Ford Focus looks fantastic. By far the biggest improvement is the cabin quality: it’s on a par with the VW Golf and Mercedes A-Class. There are a host of new engines, and a new 8-speed automatic gearbox you’d actually want to choose. Space is in plentiful supply, especially in the back. The only downside: the price is also on a par with the VW Golf and Mercedes A-Class. And the options lists are longer – and pricier – than before.


Image Gallery

Exterior Styling

Given the amount of time and effort that goes into replacing a car, it’s only fair that we sit and admire the design work that’s gone in to the new Ford Focus.

This is one of Ford’s more drastic re-stylings, but it has worked a treat. The overall body shape is sleeker than the outgoing car, with softer, smoother lines.

The model being tested here is the Ford Focus ST Line X. It is the sportiest-looking model, barring the Focus ST which will join the range later this year.

And the ST Line X adds sharp, aggressive features. I mean, just look at those front fog light surrounds. The ventilation holes in them are real, too!

The ST Line X body kit is a cracking addition to the new Ford Focus. It gives a broader, more muscular feel to the car. 18-inch alloy wheels fill the arches nicely, and a twin exhaust pipe and large rear spoiler finish off the rear end.

Finished in Desert Island Blue, our test car was a real head-turner. When you catch the car’s reflection in a shop window you can’t help but appreciate it.

And it’s because we spent so long looking at it that we noticed the rear door line is remarkably similar to a BMW 1 Series. Fitting really, because this new Focus is gunning for the likes of the BMW 1 Series, VW Golf and Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

Interior Finish

The biggest improvement to enable this Ford Focus to be a serious contender amongst premium brands is most evident when you take a seat inside.

Good job really, because this was the area where the old car felt most dated. It was due an update and an upgrade, and Ford has delivered it.

The cabin is greatly improved in terms of both quality and design. The plastics are soft-touch, with a nice variety of textures and finishes.

The leather featured throughout the cabin is of good quality. There’s even a leather panel at either side of the centre console where your knee rests, which is a lovely touch.

The dashboard is slim, which creates a more spacious feel in the front. The finisher in the Ford Focus ST Line X is a faux carbon trim. Although nowhere near realistic, it still looks better than a plain black plastic. Some brushed aluminium or real carbon fibre would have been better though.

Gone is the cumbersome multimedia screen surround, and that’s a cause for celebration! It has been replaced by a much thinner touchscreen ‘perched’ on top of the dashboard.

This is a popular trend at the moment, and whilst not everyone may be a fan, there’s no denying it looks pretty sleek.

Also sleek is the gear selector for the automatic gearbox: it’s a twist dial. This not only frees up space around the centre console, but impresses passengers too.

The only thing missing, in our opinion, is a digital instrument cluster. For a car that’s so heavily-laden with new technology – more on that later – it is a notable omission. And given how slick the SYNC 3 multimedia system is, the traditional dials with multi-function trip computer just seem a bit old hat now.

Engine/Performance

There are four engines available in the new Focus ST Line X: 1.0 and 1.5 EcoBoost petrol engines with 125PS and 182PS respectively, and 1.5 and 2.0 EcoBlue diesel engines with 120PS and 150PS respectively. All are available with a choice of 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic gearboxes.

Our test car had the 1.5 diesel, with an 8-speed auto. The performance figures don’t exactly make for exciting reading: 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds and a top speed of 120mph.

If you want your Focus ST Line X to go anything like the way it looks, then the 1.5 EcoBoost will be the obvious choice: 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds and a top speed of 138mph. And if you’re really looking for a performance Ford Focus, then join us in eagerly awaiting the arrival of the ST.

But then again, it’s not all about speed. Some people will choose the ST Line X because it looks tremendous, but the 120PS diesel engine will be plenty.

And, when mated to the 8-speed automatic gearbox, it is delightfully smooth. Gear changes are seamless, and there are plenty of ratios to make the most of the limited power available.

On the motorway the 8-speed auto brings further benefit; keeping the revs to a minimum. Coupled to a hefty amount of noise insulation the Focus is incredibly quiet. You can barely hear the diesel rattle from up front, and can converse with fellow passengers at 70mph without raising your voice at all.

The previous Powershift automatic gearboxes have never really been good enough when compared to the likes of a Volkswagen DSG unit or Audi S-Tronic. Now though, an automatic Ford Focus is easily recommendable.

Ride/Handling

When a car looks as exciting as the Ford Focus ST Line X does, you hope for a driving experience to match. And it seems Ford know this, because from behind the wheel the new Ford Focus feels like it was designed with the driver at the forefront.

The seating position is spot on. All the controls are easily reached, and there’s enough adjustment in the seat and steering column to ensure you find a comfortable position in no time.

The chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel encourages you to throw the car into some corners. But when you do, you’ll notice that it lacks feel, and is too light in normal mode.

The new Ford Focus does have selectable drive modes, and in ‘Sport’ mode the steering is perfectly weighted. But this also puts the gearbox into sport mode. It is reluctant to change up, and keeps the revs higher.

Really a ‘custom’ drive mode, allowing you to set up the car yourself, is needed. This would especially be the case if you opted for the Continuously Controlled Dampers.

Our test car had the standard suspension setup, and we found it well-balanced. It was forgiving enough to absorb bumps and potholes, even on 18-inch rims with low-profile tyres.

The Ford Focus is also a comfortable motorway cruiser. Yet on a spirited drive the suspension controls body roll effectively. It corners reasonably flat, thanks to that low, broad body shape.

Economy

The 1.5 EcoBlue diesel engine featured in our Ford Focus ST Line X is the most economical of the bunch. It may not have the performance credentials of the 1.5 Ecoboost, but it would easily beat it on economy figures in a game of top trumps.

With start/stop technology and an ‘Eco’ drive mode, the Ford Focus 1.5 EcoBlue ST Line X Auto returns fuel consumption of 50.4mpg on the combined cycle.

It’s worth noting that this is under the new WLTP testing regime, which seems to be producing more realistic economy figures.

CO2 emissions, as an NEDC equivalent, are 122g/km. That means that first-year VED is £170, which is absorbed into the purchase price.

We take some issue with the price of our test car – although we’ll save that for later. It is still less than £40,000 though, so there is no VED surcharge in subsequent years. You’ll pay the standard £145, as you would hope to do with the Focus’s rivals.

The only downside of the 1.5 EcoBlue is that its lack of power can sometimes mean you need to drive harder if you’re in any sort of a hurry. And we found that when you’re in a rush the fuel consumption took a big hit.

On the flip side, the 8-speed automatic really helps improve economy on a long run. In ‘Eco’ drive mode it keeps the revs to an absolute minimum.

Practicality

With the new Ford Focus it’s hard to know what to expect in terms of practicality. On the one hand, it’s a big family hatchback. The new body looks wider. But then it also looks lower, and sleeker, which could impact head room.

The boot is reasonably spacious. It does look a little smaller than the previous car, but its 273-litre capacity is only 4-litres less than before.

The noticeable downsizing comes with the boot width: you might struggle to get a set of golf clubs in it, and if your buggy is on the larger side that too could be an issue.

It would appear that Ford had sacrificed a bit of boot space for the passengers. Cabin space is more generous than ever before, particularly in the rear.

There is an abundance of leg room in the back of the Ford Focus. That being said, the seat base is a little on the low side. This means that when you put your feet on the floor there’s no support behind your knees. This will be especially noticeable for taller adults.

To live with, the Ford Focus ST Line X is a great companion. Aside from a seemingly longer bonnet than before, it’s easy to judge while driving.

Visibility is great, and parking is no problem at all. And if you still don’t believe us, you can opt for Active Park Assist which will do the job for you!

The Ford Focus seems like the ideal family car. The only drawback with the hatchback could be that boot space. If you have multiple children, then the Ford Focus Estate may be more suited to you.

Equipment

The new Ford Focus is the most technologically-advanced to date. Standard specification of the Focus ST Line X includes, amongst other things: front and rear parking sensors, power-adjust driver’s seat, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless start, 8-inch touchscreen and cruise control with speed limiter.

This makes the new Ford Focus an easy car to live with. The creature comforts will ensure that any journey is as pleasant as possible, and also earn you kudos when you pick your mates up in the car.

Unlike its predecessor, this new Ford Focus has a host of impressive gadgets available as optional extras.

Take the the Driver Assistance Pack as an example. With it you get adaptive cruise control and lane centring assist.

The former maintains a safe distance to the car in front. It will slow you down from your set speed if necessary, and speed you back up once the distance permits.

Lane centring assist operates the steering to keep you in your lane. Together, they make the Ford Focus somewhat autonomous on the motorway, and that’s a really big step forwards.

Other available options include opening panoramic roof, B&O premium sound system, heated steering wheel, active park assist (self-parking), an adaptive damping system and keyless entry.

The only downside to this large extras list is that it’s hard to know where to start. Perhaps more critically, it’s hard to know where to stop, being all too easy to get carried away and end up with a Ford Focus that has the equipment list of a Bentley…

Value For Money

All the improvements to the new Ford Focus have, inevitably, had an impact on price. The base price of the Focus ST Line X 1.5 EcoBlue with 8-speed automatic is a whopping £26,800. Yikes!

What’s more, the test car sent to us included a further £5,000 of optional extras. And there were further options that could have been added. That’s why we say it’s hard to know where to stop. Adding £5,000 to the price is done quite easily.

Good job then that this new Focus has the substance to back up its style. It has the refinement and quality to go head to head with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and BMW 1 Series.

The biggest challenge for the Ford Focus is to tempt people away from those types of car. If you compared any side-by-side, the Focus has the style, quality and refinement to match. But it remains to be seen how many people would walk out of a Mercedes-Benz dealer and then head to Ford to see the Focus.

It will also be interesting to see how this new Ford Focus fares with depreciation, given a higher base price and lengthier options list. This is another area where the more premium rivals have bettered the Ford.

We won’t know the answer until further down the line. But if you’ve just spend upwards of £30,000 on a new Ford Focus, that’s going to be a nervous wait…

Facts and Figures

Engine 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Max power 120PS at 3,600rpm
Max torque 300Nm at 1,750-2,250rpm
Drivetrain 8-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive
0-62mph 10.5 seconds
Top speed 119mph
Fuel tank size 47 litres
Fuel consumption 50.4 mpg combined, WLTP
CO2 emissions 122 g/km NEDC equivalent
Kerb weight 1,454kg
Towing capacity 1,400kg braked / 725kg unbraked
Luggage capacity 273 litres
NCAP rating 5 stars
Base price £26,805
Price as tested £32,100
Company website www.ford.co.uk/cars/focus

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