Ford Focus review: a cracker nearing the end of the road

The latest iteration of the Ford Focus — in ST Line trim above — is an update on the 2019 release and as such it will be the last of model which will cease production in two years
Ford Focus review: a cracker nearing the end of the road

Ford Focus ST Line





from €32,541 - €37,452 as tested


a truly brilliant 1-litre turbo petrol engine

The Spec

really impressive in ST-Line trim


a cracker nearing the end of the road

There are certain occasions in this gig when you step out of a car, give it an affectionate pat and utter a silent ‘wow’ as you walk away.

Sometimes that car might be a supercar that’s so special you feel you need a heart transplant after driving it; other times it might be a stupendous electric that signposts where the automotive business is headed; or, very rarely, it might be an ordinary workaday car that’s so good at its job you’re left nearly speechless.

In fairness, very few ‘ordinary’ cars ever reach this standard, but those that do quickly become legendary, even over generations of model variants. The Volkswagen Golf is one such beast and one that has redefined the way we think about everyday modes of transport and also how we get emotionally engaged with such things.

The Ford Focus is another. Although its predecessor the Ford Escort was a hugely popular beast with the buying public and had a career that stretched across decades, it never became an ‘everyman’ car in the same way the Golf did. The Focus changed that.

Launched before the turn of the century, the Focus immediately became a best-seller not only for its practicality and good looks, but because it was actually spiffing to drive and even if you were in a bog standard one, you felt like you could be Colin McRae – or any one of a number of rallying superstars that drove the car to international success.

Even in basic turbodiesel mode, the car displayed exemplary driving chops and encouraged you to be a lot braver than your modest driving abilities allowed. And, of course, in subsequent ST and RS modes, it also became a performance legend as well.

If there is a certain poignancy in those words, it is because the age of the Ford Focus is set for a curtain-call. In two years or so the Ford Focus will no longer be with us. It will be no more than a fond memory, pretty much as the Escort now is.

Ford’s electrification plans have already seen the announcement of the death of the Fiesta which, for many people, is almost as sad as any similar forthcoming announcement of the demise of the Focus.

Ford Focus ST-Line stylish interior
Ford Focus ST-Line stylish interior

That the Golf and the Focus are soon to be history is a sobering thing because two of the best – and best-selling – cars ever seen will be gone as we face into a revolutionary period of the development of the motor car and embrace the electric era fully.

The demise of these cars is not just wretched for signed up petrolheads as the era of the internal combustion engine is seemingly at an end, but that’s not where the changes will stop. We have already seen the dilution of the traditional dealer network and both Tesla and Polestar have pioneered a sales machine with no dealers whatsoever.

Indeed, the Ford dealer network in Ireland has already been trimmed back considerably and it will be interesting to see how much further it changes as we go forward.

But that’s for the future and for now we are testing this week a car which seriously thrilled us – even if it might be the last time we drive one.

The fourth generation Focus was launched in 2019 and last year it was given something of a wash and brush up with a revised look and uprated equipping levels. You might not have seen many of the facelifted versions on the roads as yet because a rescheduling of Ford’s build priorities has seen Focus production put on something of a backburner.

This is because of the worldwide shortage of semiconductors and the company’s need to make more vans to meet demand. Focus, as well as other traditional consumer vehicles, have therefore had their sails trimmed in production terms.

Factor in the falling demand for traditional family hatchbacks – as the world moves inexorably towards the ubiquitous SUV – as well as an increasing hunger for EVs and you can see why Ford will shortly be announcing that the Focus is being wound down.

None of this is particularly good news, but there is good news in the fact that it is possibly the best Focus – outside the realm of the legendary RS versions – we’ve ever driven. This, with one or two minor quibbles, is a cracking beast.

While I had the car, I was approached by a lovely lady of my acquaintance who is a committed fan – “I love my Focus” – who was distressed at the thought the car might be at the end of the road. “Will I still be able to get one,” she inquired pleadingly.

I was delighted to report that she still had roughly two years of production to make sure there would be a Focus in her driveway for a while yet, but I was struck by the fact she was so passionate about the car and – frankly – relieved that I was not alone in my opinion of its greatness.

Ford Focus ST-Line
Ford Focus ST-Line

The tester was the ST-Line X specification model with the brilliant 125 bhp three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. This model is, aside from the ST version itself, the top of the current specification chart in the model range and I thought it was brilliant.

Interior upgrades have seen the introduction of a 13.2” infotainment/climate control screen and this means there are no longer any buttons or dials to manage the air con, but such is the quality of the design, this is not an issue. The quality of the interior materials is universally excellent and there is a very upmarket feel to the décor.

Interior space – particularly in the back isn’t class leading anymore and the boot space is a little on the tight side, but it is the driving of this car that stands it out as a winner.

The steering is sharp and really responsive and that makes the handling a joy to experience, while the ride is also on the money and this thing will tackle a rutted urban environment as easily as a rural one. For a car its size and price, it is very definitely a stand-out in what is, in fairness, a vanishing class.

On a good surface this thing – a front driver – is painted to the road and although lacking the limited slip diff. in the ST version, it is still a joy. Even on poor surfaces it retains its composure to an amazing degree and that means you can extract the max from the diminutive engine without bother.

While the little one litre might lack top-end punch, you will still have great fun getting there and the six speed ‘box is an ideal – and slick – companion for this engine. Sure you will find it labouring a little if you’ve got a full compliment on board, but when you’re on you own you really can have fun with this.

One quibble was with the totally useless heads-up info display which you cannot really see given the low driving position and even tall people will find it pretty much redundant – and especially so as the digital instrument display is so good and effective.

It is rare enough these days for me to say I enjoyed every moment of my time with this car, but that’s exactly what I did. For the money, this is a great car – no discussion.

That it has been awarded a 5-Star rating by Examiner Motoring is possibly pushing things a little, but given that it is probably the last of its kind we will see, it deserves it.

More in this section


The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up
Cookie Policy Privacy Policy Brand Safety FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Examiner Echo Group Limited