Ford launched the latest Focus in January 2011 to critical acclaim, delivering a car that was brilliant to drive, packed with technology and -- once you grew accustomed to the edgy modern styling -- interesting to look at. Its only problems at the time lay in the fact it came with engines that offered neither sensational performance nor remarkable fuel economy.
Ford has rectified both those issues recently with the release of the brilliant, and exceptionally quick Focus ST and more recently a new Focus 1.0 Ecoboost that, despite sporting a tiny turbocharged engine, promises high fuel economy as well as the power required to extract the best from the Focus' excellent chassis.
The Focus 1.0 Ecoboost sports the same sharp distinctive styling as the rest of the range. The design is a little busy in places -- the highly sculpted rear lights are a real departure from the slim, simple light clusters on the previous generation Focus -- and some elements are arguably overstyled. The base model will attract little attention but if you fancy making more of a statement, or you'd like to disguise the fact you're actually riding in one of the most economical petrol cars on the road, Ford will also sell you a sporty-looking Zetec S model replete with a more aggressive front bumper, spoiler and larger alloy wheels.
The Focus 1.0 Ecoboost offers good all-round practicality. The rear doors open wide, making it easy to get in and out of or to place a youngster into a child seat. The cabin is long enough to provide excellent knee and headroom for five six-footers, there are plenty of cubby holes, cup holders and storage binnacles to stash your flotsam and the boot is large. The 316 litres of luggage space doesn't sound like a lot on paper (the Vauxhall Astra offers 351 litres of space) but it's plenty big enough to accommodate the bulkiest of child push chairs (the Bugaboo Cameleon folds in without fuss) plus a fair haul of shopping. With the seats folded down, the load area opens up to 1,101 litres.
Up front, the Focus Ecoboost has comfortable, supportive and adjustable seats. The driver's seat, steering wheel and pedals are well positioned to provide a good, confidence inspiring driving position that'll keep you sitting pretty on very long journeys.
Performance & Handling
1-litre engines won't ever be the last word in performance, but the 1.0 unit in this car is remarkably willing for for its size. Developed here in the UK, the engine features three cylinders instead of the usual four, which would ordinarily equate to miserly performance. However the use of direct fuel injection and a turbocharger means it isn't anywhere as lethargic as you may imagine.
The engine, in its 125PS (125bhp) guise -- there's also a 100PS version -- offers 170Nm of torque. An 'overboost' function gives you up to 200Nm of torque for up to 30 seconds -- ideal for when you need to pull off an audacious overtake. The engine proves just as powerful as the 125PS 1.6-litre petrol engine in other Focus cars, giving it the highest power density (or brake horsepower per litre) of any Ford engine to date.
At idle, you can barely hear the thing ticking over, making this the most refined Focus for city driving. Rev it at a set of traffic lights and it delivers a meaty thrum, the turbo whistling gleefully with every stab of the accelerator pedal. Pull away in first gear and it'll head for the horizon with intent. Those around you will need to be riding in more powerful vehicles and be in one hell of a hurry to get away from you. It's responsive at higher speeds, too, even managing to feel at home on motorways.
This being a Focus, it handles superbly. The suspension is beautifully judged, offering a compliant ride over speed bumps and broken road surfaces, while staying level through corners.
Equipment & Value
Ford Focus cars ordinarily come in one of six trim levels: Studio, Edge, Zetec, Titanium, Zetec S and Titanium X. However Ford has rejigged things slightly for the 1.0 EcoBoost, dumping the Studio option for this engine type. The 100PS version is available in Edge guise and up, while the 125PS car can only be specified in Zetec guise and above.
Edge cars include a stop-start system, remote central locking, a Thatcham category 1 alarm, 16-inch steel wheels, air conditioning and a radio-CD player with USB and iPod connectivity. The Zetec spec gets you all the above plus 16-inch alloy wheels, body-coloured door mirrors, DAB radio, sports-style front seats as well as a driver's seat with lumbar adjustment and Bluetooth. Titanium spec brings cruise control, hill start assist, better alloys, automatic headlights, LED rear lights, a nicer front grille, automatic wipers, a push start button, Sony-branded stereo with DAB and an auto-dimming rear view mirror.
The cars come in Colorado red as standard, with other colours available at extra cost. Frozen white will set you back an extra £200, while metallic paints (blue, micastone, silver and black cost £525 on top of the standard price. Candy red metallic, the most exclusive hue in the range, commands a £745 premium.
Economy & Environment
The Focus 1.0 Ecoboost's party piece is its high economy and low emissions. The 100PS car spews a mere 109g/km, an exceptional figure for a petrol car of this size. This means you'll only need to spend a mere £20 taxing the thing. You won't need to spend too much at the pumps, either, as it returns nearly 59mpg. The 125PS model emits 114g/km and returns 56.5mpg. For reference, the 1.6-litre Focus manages just 44mpg.
The latest Focus received an impressive 5-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests, achieving a 92 per cent score for adult occupant safety. It also fared extremely well for child occupant and even pedestrian safety, scoring 82 per cent and 72 per cent in these areas respectively. It achieved this rating thanks to a vast array of airbags as well as an impact absorbing body and a steering wheel that collapses away from the driver to minimise the chances of injury. Moreover, the Focus features some highly impressive active safety features. Lane departure warning tells you when you're drifting out of your lane, lane keeping aid will actively take control to steer you back into lane if it thinks you've lost control and blind spot alert tells you when other motorists or cyclists are lurking just out of view.
The active city stop feature, an optional extra, will even automatically apply the brakes if it detects you're about to crash.
On paper, the Focus 1.0 Ecoboost doesn't make sense -- a car this large with an engine this small should be absolutely awful. However, Ford's engineers have pulled off a minor miracle. Not only does the little engine help the 1.0 Focus Ecoboost deliver all the fuel economy and eco efficiency expected of a much smaller car, it also manages the improbable task of delivering better performance than you'd get with a much larger engine. So it's frugal, but also fun, allowing you to take advantage of the excellent driving dynamics offered by the Focus' brilliant chassis. All things considered, this Focus is the pick of the bunch.
Model tested: Ford Focus 1.0 Ecoboost 125PS Zetec
Engine: 1.0-litre petrol (125PS)
Acceleration: 0-62 in 11.3 seconds
Top speed: 120mph
Emissions: 114g/km CO2