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Ford Focus engines, driving and performance

How does the Ford Focus drive?

Very well. In fact, it probably drives better than it needs to, but its sweet handling is a selling point in this competitive class. Whether or not you consider yourself to be a keen driver, the Focus serves up a fantastic driving experience.

First up, the steering is quick and reactive. This humble hatch is a joy to weave down a winding road, and you feel like an integral part of the action – plenty of rivals leave you feeling disconnected from the driving experience. Marginally heavier steering would probably sweeten the deal even more, but the fact it’s responsive and accurate is arguably more important.

The engines are very quiet at speed, so the Focus is just as excellent on long motorway journeys. And it’s not hard to park in town, either – basically, the Focus is great regardless of the roads you tend to drive on.

Is the Ford Focus comfortable?

Sporty cars often have firm suspension to achieve their keen handling, while comfortable cars can flop around and feel unprepared for a fast corner. The Focus manages to strike the balance between these two extremes perfectly, with sporty steering and a compliant ride.

Active versions sit three centimetres higher than a standard Focus, so you’re a little bit further away from scruffy road surfaces. ST-Line cars, meanwhile, have slightly lower, slightly firmer suspension, but you probably still wouldn’t call it uncomfortable.

What’s the best Ford Focus engine to get?

For its blend of performance and economy, and its sheer availability on the used market, the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is our pick of the range. Halfway through the car’s life, mild-hybrid technology was added to the range to marginally improve fuel consumption. Just don’t expect the electrical system to be as potent as the ‘hybrid’ badge on the bootlid might suggest – it plays a more behind-the-scenes role.

The six-speed manual gearbox is fantastic and is well worth test-driving. Ford’s latest seven-speed automatic gearbox is a pleasant surprise, too, with smooth gearchanges and a feeling that it’s always ready for the next gear. It might not sound like a compliment to say that the automatic completely blends into the background, but that’s exactly what a good automatic gearbox should be like.

There was previously a 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol with either 150hp or 182hp, for slightly faster acceleration and a better initial response. High-mileage drivers are catered for by a 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel engine, or the 2.0-litre 150hp diesel that you’ll find in some used Focuses.

A more powerful diesel was available in the ST until 2022, offering a brisk 0-62mph time and 50mpg. But the headline engine for the ST has always been the 2.3-litre petrol engine, a fizzy, exciting unit that’s constantly encouraging you to go faster.

Ford Focus performance

A 0-62mph time that starts with a ‘10’ means the 125hp 1.0-litre petrol engine isn’t a rocketship, but its performance is plenty for everyday driving. We liked the extra punch and eagerness of the 155hp mild-hybrid version, which knocks the 0-62mph time down to a brisk nine seconds. Both these engines can return over 52mpg when driven carefully.

The 1.5-litre diesel nearly matches the lowest-output petrol engine for power and acceleration, yet achieves up to 63mpg. It’ll need routine AdBlue topups, and regular long journeys to make sure you don’t suffer DPF issues, however, so this engine won’t suit every driver. Note that choosing the automatic gearbox adds a whole two seconds to the 0-62mph time and reduces the engine’s efficiency.

Sitting clear above the more sensible engines is the Focus ST’s 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol engine, which enables a 0-62mph time of just 5.7 seconds. That makes the Focus ST one of the fastest front-wheel-drive hot hatchbacks on sale and a thrill to drive in almost any circumstance.

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