Revamped family hatchback takes renewed aim at the Volkswagen Golf with a higher-quality interior and loads of kit
On sale: July
Price from: £19,500/$27,690 (est)
The Cayman Islands are, for many, an idea of paradise: baked in the sun, well versed in the art of mixing cocktails and with a rather liberal attitude to taxes. Just over 60,000 people live in the Caribbean nation, and a Ford Focus was sold in the UK last year to cover every one of them – with enough left over for a hefty rental fleet.
The Focus was the third best-selling car in the UK in 2017, behind the rival Volkswagen Golf and Ford’s own Fiesta but some way ahead of the Vauxhall Astra. Despite its popularity, though, it’s not at the front of the pack in today’s family hatchback market.
Its list of rivals is huge, including the Astra, Peugeot 308 and Seat Leon, as well as premium alternatives such as the Golf and Audi A3 Sportback. And at the very top of the pile is the Skoda Octavia, our current Family Car of the Year.
Ford isn’t content to be part of the chasing pack, though, so this new Focus is tasked with retaking that top spot.
2018 Ford Focus features
The fourth-generation model has a curvier exterior than its predecessor, as well as being slightly lower and longer, with more space inside for occupants and luggage. In fact, Ford has improved rear knee room by more than 50mm and rear shoulder room by almost 60mm – both areas where the previous car fell down next to rivals.
The Mk4 Focus sits on new underpinnings that are claimed to be a lot stiffer yet also lighter. You’ll only be able to buy the Focus in five-door form; the three-door version has been axed due to declining sales. Indeed, the Astra is also only available in five-door form.
2018 Ford Focus interior
The interior of the Focus is less button-heavy than before and features more soft-touch materials to help the car compete against its premium rivals.
The dashboard is dominated by an 8.0in touchscreen that has already been seen in the latest Fiesta. Running Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment software, the system features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, can act as a wi-fi hotspot for up to 10 devices and offers all the sat-nav and media functions you’d expect. There’s also wireless charging for your phone and a 10-speaker stereo. In the Fiesta, we’ve found the screen to be bright and the menus simple to use, but the system is occasionally sluggish to respond.
A smaller screen nestles within the Focus’s instrument cluster, offering drivers some degree of customisation in terms of what they see alongside the usual dials.
For the first time, a head-up display is being offered in the Focus. This projects the most relevant information onto the windscreen, directly in the driver’s eye line. There’s also a self-parking system that can help drivers exit parallel parking spaces as well as enter them.
An app for your smartphone called Ford Pass Connect can show you the location of your Focus and display how much fuel and oil it has. You can also use the app to lock and unlock the doors remotely and even start the car (if you opt for an automatic gearbox).
2018 Ford Focus engines
Engine options include Ford’s turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol unit with 84bhp, 99bhp or 123bhp. It’s the 99bhp option that we recommend in the current Focus, chiefly for its peppy performance around town. CO2 emissions start from 108g/km in the new car.
There’s also a new 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine with 148bhp or 180bhp and CO2 output starting from 120g/km. These three-cylinder units now feature cylinder deactivation, allowing the engine to shut down one of its cylinders while cruising on the motorway in order to save fuel.
Diesel buyers can choose from a 94bhp 1.5-litre or 148bhp 2.0-litre engine, with the cleanest option emitting just 94g/km of CO2. Gearbox options are a six-speed manual or a new eight-speed automatic that’s controlled by a rotary gear selector like those in some modern Jaguar and Land Rover cars.
The new Focus has Normal, Sport and Eco driving modes, which adjust the accelerator, steering and gearbox responses. A further two modes are offered if buyers opt for Ford’s new Continuously Controlled Damping (CCD) suspension. The current Focus is among the best family cars to drive, with engaging handling and a comfortable ride, so Ford will be looking to repeat that experience.
Driver assistance technologies on the new car include lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, adaptive headlights that adjust themselves while you go around a corner and an automatic high beam function that prevents you from dazzling other road users. Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection is offered, as are blindspot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and evasive steering, which automatically steers the car around obstacles that the driver has failed to react to.
2018 Ford Focus equipment
While UK specifications for the new Focus are still being decided, we know that the options list will include a panoramic roof and a programmable key for younger drivers that can inhibit incoming phone calls, restrict the car’s top speed and reduce the volume of the stereo. Meanwhile, a new rear-view camera is said to provide a full 180deg field of vision to aid parking.
Ford is expected to keep its current trim line-up, with entry-level Style trim gaining alloy wheels. In the current Focus, our favourite mid-range Zetec Edition gets a heated windscreen, front foglights and a central armrest.
However, it’s the sporty ST-Line model that’s expected to be the biggest seller. This sits lower to the ground, gets sportier exterior styling and has carbonfibre-effect trim and red stitching inside. The range is topped by the luxurious Vignale, which features plush interior trims, including fine-grain wood and leather.
2018 Ford Focus Estate and Active
The hatchback will be joined by a new Focus Estate. This has a longer and wider boot that’s designed to take a dog-carrying crate. Owners can open and close the tailgate by waving a foot beneath the rear bumper and store the car’s parcel shelf under the new variable-height boot floor.
In addition, Ford is introducing a model called the Focus Active. This has a raised ride height and protective plastic cladding around its lower edges, as well as a different front bumper and new interior details. While it’s not a serious off-roader, the Focus Active is intended to help Ford capture a larger slice of the small SUV market and is aimed at people who don’t want an Ecosport or Kuga. Multiple versions of the Active are expected, some of them coming with four-wheel drive.
Those seeking hot hatch performance will be pleased to know that a new Focus STwill arrive some time after the standard Focus goes on sale. There has been no official confirmation of a new version of the Focus RS mega-hatch yet. However, recent photos of a development car testing in Germany suggest that one could be on its way, with a power output that surpasses the 345bhp of the current model.
2018 Ford Focus price
Ford hasn’t revealed prices for the new Focus yet, but it’s expected to offer entry-level versions for less than £20,000/$28,400 to better match its competition. At that price, the new Focus will be cheaper than the current car, but will remain more expensive than the majority of its rivals, although the price gap will shrink if you buy on a PCP finance deal. Ford routinely offers big discounts on both cash and finance purchases, too, so it shouldn’t be long before you can snap up a great deal.