2018 Ford Focus International First Drive Review

Caroline gets an exclusive drive of the new Focus in France!

2018 Ford Focus
The new Ford Focus at the international press launch in France

It’s 20 years since Ford first launched the Focus hatchback. The Ford Focus is now a household name and is consistently one of Ireland’s bestselling cars. A new Focus is big news.

Now Ford is back in summer 2018 with an all-new generation of the Focus hatchback and wagon. I travelled to Nice, France, to drive the new Ford Focus at the international press launch. The new Focus arrives in Ireland later in July.

Styling

The new Ford Focus is lower and wider than the car it replaces but keeps the same exterior dimensions. Visually it has a longer wheelbase with shorter overhangs. The A-pillar has also been pushed backwards and there is no side quarter glass. The new Focus has cleaner and more sophisticated styling overall and is now the most aerodynamic in its class. The Focus comes in a distinct ‘flavour’ depending on what trim you go for: the stylish Focus Titanium, sporty Focus ST-Line and upscale Focus Vignale. There will also be an all-new Ford Focus Active crossover model arriving in Ireland in early 2019. It has rugged SUV-inspired styling that includes a raised ride-height, roof bars and extra plastic cladding.

Interior

Inside, the Focus has a more modern and streamlined dashboard layout with 50% less buttons according to Ford. The dashboard has been pushed forward and the centre console is slimmer and lower. It’s a far more pleasing layout to the eye and the fit and finish has been improved also. A touchscreen is new in the centre of the dashboard and the new system has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Unique features and materials include fine-grain wood-effect finishes and premium leather for Vignale, sporty carbon fibre-effect finishes and red stitching for the ST-Line, and more rugged, textured materials and surfaces for the Active.

The interior of the 2018 Ford Focus
The interior of the 2018 Ford Focus

Practicality

The new Ford Focus feels roomier inside, especially in the rear. There is more than 5 centimetres additional length between the front and rear wheels so rear seat passengers get more legroom and all occupants benefit from the wider interior – there’s 6 centimetres more shoulder room in the rear. The boot volume is now up to 375 litres with a tyre repair kit. The impression of spaciousness is enhanced with a rear door design featuring windows that stretch further back.

Engines

The new Ford Focus will be available in Ireland with an upgraded 1.0-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engine with 125hp and improved fuel efficiency and emissions. There’s also a new 1.5-litre EcoBlue turbo diesel with 120hp. Both are three cylinder engines and meet the very latest and most stringent emissions standards. In Europe a new 1.5-litre turbo petrol and 2.0-litre turbo diesel will also be marketed but these will be special order models for Ireland.

A six speed manual gearbox comes as standard while a new eight speed automatic gearbox is also available.

On the road

The new Ford Focus is lighter and stronger than the car it replaces. The steering is fluid and elastic and the car handles with real verve. There are now two different suspension set-ups in the Focus range. The more standard models get a lightweight twist beam while higher output vehicles and wagons get an independent rear suspension.

2018 Ford Focus
The new Ford Focus will go on sale in Ireland priced from €24,900 for a 1.0-litre petrol in Zetec trim

At the launch in France I drove a 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol and 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel on the twist beam, and a 1.5-litre petrol on the independent rear suspension. The 1.0-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel are both refined units with good flexibility through the rev range while retaining the classic fun-to-drive quality the Ford Focus is famous for. The Ford Focus 1.5-litre had 182hp and ST-Line suspension tuning but it will be a niche car in Ireland. Still for enthusiasts it was nigh on perfect in terms of a controlled, engaging drive and power delivery.

The new Ford Focus now also features Drive Modes (Eco, Normal and Sport) that adjust the throttle response, shift timings, steering, traction control and adaptive cruise control.

Equipment

At launch in Ireland the new Ford Focus will be available in four trims: Zetec, ST-Line, Titanium and Vignale. The Ford Focus Active will arrive in Ireland in 2019.

The Focus Zetec features 16” alloys, LED daytime running lights, 6.5” SYNC 3 touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, selectable drive modes, cruise control, and pre-collision assist including vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist detection.

The Focus ST-Line adds 17” sport alloys, ST-Line body kit, twin polished tail pipes, keyless start, interior sports trim, and sports suspension.

The Focus Titanium adds front and rear parking sensors, 8” SYNC 3 with navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, FordPass Connect, keyless entry and start, and LED rear lamps.

The Focus Vignale adds 18” Vignale alloys, unique Vignale body-styling, 8” SYNC 3 B&O Play with navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, full leather seats and armrest, head-up display, privacy glass, and Vignale chrome tail pipes.

Adaptive cruise control, lane centring assist and speed sign recognition are available as an option pack.

The new Focus introduces FordPass Connect onboard modem technology for customers in Europe, turning the vehicle into a mobile WiFi hotspot with connectivity for up to 10 devices. FordPass Connect also enables Live Traffic updates for the navigation system, and using the FordPass mobile app drivers can easily locate their car, check fuel levels, remotely lock and unlock their car, and even start it remotely.

2018 Ford Focus
The Ford Focus just got very competitive again

Pricing

The new Ford Focus will go on sale in Ireland from €24,900. More complete pricing detail will be issued when the car arrives in Ireland.

Rivals

The new Ford Focus will go up against rivals like the Volkswagen Golf, Renault Megane, Citroen C4 Cactus, Opel Astra and Toyota Auris.

Verdict

The Ford Focus has gone through a timely revolution with a significant technology, interior and space upgrade where the current car was really starting to fall behind newer rivals. Buyers can be confident that they are getting two of the best petrol and diesel engines on offer in this segment while both engines are ‘future-proofed’ for the forseeable future too. There’s plenty to explore in this new Focus range from sporty ST-Line models to stylish and premium Titanium. I look forward to putting the Ford Focus through its paces on Irish roads later in the year.

Caroline Kidd