Long-term review: Ford Focus Titanium X

24 Sep, 2019 10:15am Stuart Milne

Third report: We reckon the Ford Focus is a perfect all-rounder

Verdict

4.5
The Focus is no sports car, but its agile chassis and impressive damping ensure the hatchback is entertaining across a broad spread of roads. Only an injector fault stopped us from enjoying it, briefly.

Mileage: 2,470
Economy: 50.6mpg 

For most of its time on our fleet, our Ford Focus has been looked after by automotive managing editor Stuart Milne. However, he’s been off on holiday this summer, so the rest of the office has taken turns behind the wheel in his absence.

I managed to have a go in the Focus for the first time recently, so I’ve been comparing my own impressions with some notes Stuart left me before his time off.

• Best hatchbacks to buy

He says our Ford has already proved to be more than up to the task of cosseting and entertaining in equal measure. In fact, Stuart argues that it’s one of the best cars to drive in its class – and I totally agree.

What the Focus really gets right is that it’s a tremendous all-rounder. Our Titanium X model is far from being the sportiest model in the range – the ST Line and full-fat ST cover that off – yet it’s a car you find yourself going for a drive in for no particular reason. It’s not the kind of model you take for several hours when buying a bottle of milk, but Stuart told me he often finds himself taking the long way home, such is the agility and responsiveness of the chassis. I certainly found myself doing the same, because the Ford’s quick steering and lively chassis mean it’s great fun.

Yet on the rest of the commute home, its superbly set-up suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels and chunky tyres make the Focus comfortable, quiet and relaxed, too. Even the EcoBlue diesel engine plays a part. There’s not much vibration transmitted through the cabin, and impressively, it’s barely any noisier than a petrol motor from the outside.

Stuart thinks it’s a shame that the car’s drive modes don’t have a more dramatic effect on the Ford’s character (they alter the steering and throttle responses), but I’d go one step further and say that they shouldn’t exist at all. Given that there aren’t any adaptive dampers fitted to our Focus, there’s really no reason to ever change driving modes, so why even have them? 

I’ve not spent enough time in Eco mode to see whether it makes a difference to economy, but even in the Normal setting, the Focus is efficient. Over the past 2,000 miles with Stuart behind the wheel, it’s returned 50.6mpg on a mix of motorways and round-town driving.

• Best family cars to buy 2019

Life hasn’t been trouble-free with the Ford so far, however. Last week senior staff writer James Brodie took the car and was heading up the M40 when it started to judder and hesitate at about 3,000rpm. 

He managed to get the car parked safely at the next junction in ‘limp-home’ mode, but a call to the AA was needed because he wasn’t able to make it much further than that. The helpful patrol wasn’t able to fix it at the roadside, so the Focus was taken back to Ford’s garage for inspection and repair. 

The final diagnosis was a blocked injector, possibly the result of some dirt in the fuel tank or poor-quality diesel. In any case, the car now has a new injector fitted and it drives beautifully again.

Ford Focus: Second report

We get some sound advice on setting up the Ford Focus' B&O audio

Mileage: 2,036
Economy: 44.2mpg 

Are audio upgrades really worth paying extra for? Making a decision is often harder because there’s no guarantee your dealer will have a demonstrator in stock with the audio system you want. And even then, it’s hard to judge which is best. 

Ford has made much of its relationship with Bang & Olufsen, the Danish audio company best known for making high-end stereos and speakers. And with an asking price of £550, the B&O Play set-up in my Focus looks like a very good deal. 

In terms of specification, the B&O Play impresses: 675 watts, a digital sound processor and 10 speakers, including a subwoofer that sits on top of the spare wheel (and robs a bit of boot space). 

While I love music, I’m no audiophile. I know what I like, but I don’t have the finely-tuned ears of Christopher Minasians, deputy reviews editor of our sister title expertreviews.co.uk, who I asked to put the system to the test. He was immediately struck by the B&O Play’s price tag – more so after connecting his phone to play some of his music. While I’ve not really fiddled around with the tone, balance and other audio settings, Christopher jumped straight in, switching between ‘Stereo’ and ‘Surround’ modes, and the difference was stark. 

Christopher explained that the Surround mode takes out some of the mid-range frequencies, but he was pleased that the benefits of having a 360-degree ‘sound stage’ didn’t affect it overall. “It’s like being in the middle of a small nightclub,” he said.

Even when cranking up the volume to antisocial levels, the speakers sounded crisp to my untrained ears, although there was some rattling around the cabin – possibly from the door cards. But you’d have to drive everywhere with the volume turned up to 11 for that to be a problem. Next, Christopher switched to a bass-heavy R&B track. Straight away he noted how the system sounded warm. “The sub-bass extends really well, but while the mid-bass is present it sounds a little uncontrolled, like it’s a bit wobbly,” he said. 

Away from the R&B track’s big bass notes, Christopher praised the frequencies in the centre of the audio range, which are responsible for delivering voices, adding: “The mid-range is very accurate, which makes the vocals sound very lifelike, and at high frequencies, there isn’t any harshness.”

Christopher’s advice has led to me tweaking the sound settings to suit my musical tastes. I’ve always tended to turn the bass levels up a little, but his advice of reducing them by one or two steps is really paying dividends, and it feels like I’m making the most of the system.

Audio test over, I ask the all-important question: should buyers choose this option? “For £550? Absolutely. It’s a great add-on,” Christopher replied. And who am I to argue?

Ford Focus: First report

The Ford Focus Titanium X is one of the best hatchbacks around, but how does it compare to its first-generation predecessor?

Mileage: 340
Economy: 44.2mpg 

It’s hard to believe that the Ford Focus has been with us for more than two decades. Over four generations of the model, Ford has shifted more than two million of them in the UK alone. And although the design is more than 20 years old, even the earliest versions seem fresh, with an eager chassis, steering that’s full of feel, and a sharp design. So much so that I’ve driven dozens and even owned two over the years, including the estate version in our photo.

As a cheap, spacious family runabout, the car is hard to beat. Despite the lack of power from its 1.6-litre engine and decidedly old-school ‘slush box’, I like it very much indeed. So the very latest Focus already has a tough act to follow in the Milne household.

First impressions count, and the new car scores well. Slightly awkward front end aside, it could pass for a much more upmarket car, particularly at the rear, where it bears comparison with Mercedes’ latest A-Class.

The interior looks the part, too, especially with a crisp touchscreen and clear dials, although some of the touchpoints lack the last degree of finesse. The optional dark grey metallic paint, called Magnetic, has a deep sheen, which goes some way to justifying the rather steep £700 cost.

The doors shut with an Audi-like solidity, and the whole driving experience feels more polished than in the past couple of generations. The 2.0-litre diesel engine in our car is smooth and punchy, and quiet, too, both inside the cabin and outside.

In Titanium X spec, the ride is excellent. While the original Focus sought to rob sales from the Vauxhall Astra and Honda Civic, this new model feels quite a lot like a VW Golf.

And so it should, because our car costs £25,555. But in fairness, Titanium X models like this come with more or less everything you really need, including part-leather trim, an electrically operated driver’s seat, 17-inch alloys and tinted rear windows.

That’s in addition to the Titanium’s LED rear lights, front and rear parking sensors, heated front seats, powered mirrors with puddle lights, and the SYNC 3 infotainment system with voice control, which is operated through a responsive and clear touchscreen.

One of the most prosaic features found on high-spec Focus models is probably one of the most important. That’s because, like many new cars, the Focus comes with the kind of keyless entry system that is a much-publicised security risk

The latest set-up removes the need to store the key in a Faraday pouch, by entering a sleep mode after movement stops for 40 seconds. It’s then claimed to be impervious to scanners and Ford says the key will only work within a two-metre radius of the car.

Our Focus has a few well-priced options fitted, too. The £500 Driver Assistance Pack bundles traffic-sign recognition, auto high beam and adaptive cruise control, while the BLIS pack (blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert and braking) is a further £400. The Convenience Pack is perhaps the best value, with a remarkably clear wide-angle reversing camera, clever door-edge protectors and automatic park assist.

The decision whether to choose the B&O Play audio upgrade is slightly harder. It has 10 speakers and a 675-watt amplifier, and sounds superb, with the kind of quality and volume you’d pay a great deal more for in other cars. But it’s a shame that it eats into the boot space significantly because the subwoofer sits in the spare-wheel well. 

A reasonable 341 litres is cut to just 273, which may well be a deal-breaker for some – even if it swallows my daughter’s scooter, son’s buggy and other bits with relative ease. 

Still, none of that matters when you’re behind the wheel, because the Focus is as agile as C-sector hatchbacks come. It has the tied-down feel and stability that marked the original out as the driver’s choice in its class. 

The game has moved on, though, and the Focus and its rivals in 2019 are much closer. However, it’s still superb fun. As is the way in an economy-focused world, the original Focus’s hydraulic power-steering has been replaced by an electric set-up. This masks a fraction of delicacy – but you’ll be enjoying yourself too much to notice.

Key specs

  • Model: Ford Focus 2.0 EcoBlue 150PS Titanium X
  • On fleet since: June 2019
  • Price new: £25,555
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl diesel, 148bhp
  • CO2/Tax: 114g/km/£145
  • Options: Metallic paint (£700), wireless charging pad (£100), Driver Assistance Pack (£500), blind-spot assist (£400), Convenience Pack (£500), B&O Play audio upgrade (£550)
  • Insurance: Group: 18
  • Mileage/mpg: 2,470/50.6mpg
  • Any problems?: Blocked injector