The epic battle between the Ford Focus and the Volkswagen Golf has raged for decades, with the latest skirmish taking place between the super-frugal Focus 1.0 Ecoboost and Golf Bluemotion 1.2 TSI. Both use tiny engines, promise excellent economy and offer better performance than many would expect, but which of this pair deserves your hard earned cash? We hopped behind the wheel of both cars back to back to decide if there is a clear victor.
Both the Focus Ecoboost and The Golf 1.2 TSI are built ostensibly for the same purpose – they’re C-segment hatchbacks designed to ferry families around in relative comfort with decent amounts of practicality. Both have very different images, however. The Focus is seen by many as a something of a car for the everyman, while the Golf’s image is a little more upmarket.The Golf wins the practicality war thanks to its 380 litres of luggage space.
Both cars are attractive in their own way. The new Golf is typical of the brand, which has seen only incremental changes since it first appeared in 1974. The latest Focus has a slightly more adventurous design, with plenty of daring curves etched into its otherwise generic hatchback shape.
Inside, both cars are well laid out and practical. The Golf has a cleaner, more contemporary interior design compared to the slightly busy Focus cabin. Up front, both offer plenty of room for stashing the general flotsam of family life; a pair of cupholders each, a large glove compartment and door bins, and plenty of space for rear passengers.
The Golf wins the practicality war, however, thanks to luggage space of 380 litres with the seats up and 1,270 with them folded down. The Focus can only manage 316 litres with the rear pews up and 1,016 in full Ikea mode.
Design winner: Golf.
Both the Focus 1.0 Ecoboost and Golf 1.2 TSI come with a pair of engine choices. The Focus’ 1.0 unit comes with a choice of 100PS or 125PS outputs, while the Golf’s larger 1.2-litre lump is available in 85PS or 105PS flavours. So while the Focus Ecoboost has the smaller engine displacement, both varieties appear more muscular than their respective Golf counterparts.
Don’t let these numbers fool you, however. These Golfs weigh roughly 110kg less than their Focus counterparts and have a slight edge where straight line performance is concerned. The 1.2-litre 85 PS car accelerates from 0-62mph in 11.9 seconds, while the baby 100PS Focus Ecoboost takes 12.7 – nearly a second longer. The gap between the higher rated engines is larger still – the 105PS Golf manages the sprint in 10.2 seconds, while the 125PS Focus gets the job done in 11.5.The Golf is faster in a straight line but the Focus gets its own back in the corners.
The Focus gets its own back in the corners. The steering response in the Ecoboost is noticeably sharper. It is more go-kart-like in nature, responding more urgently to the driver’s inputs, which gives it a more sporty feel. The Focus Ecoboost also has theoretically better suspension. All Golf models with engines smaller than 1.4 litres use semi-independent rear suspension, while the Focus gets the fully independent variety. As a result, the Focus rides better over bumpy roads and feels more agile and alive when pushed to its limits.
Since the Golf is faster, but the Focus feels better around bends, we’ll call this round a draw.
Economy & Environment
Both the Focus Ecoboost and Golf TSI are marketed by their respective manufacturers as highly efficient runabouts that are easy on the wallet. On paper, there’s not much difference between the cars. Both varieties of Golf 1.2 TSI return a claimed 57.6mpg, while the Focus Ecoboost 100PS and 125PS manage 57.7mpg and 55.4mpg, respectively.
It’s a similarly tight story where emissions are concerned. The Focus’ 100PS and 125PS cars spitting 112g/km and 117g/km, respectively, while the Golf 1.2 TSIs manage 113 and 114g/km. All four cars cost exactly the same amount to tax, sitting in the £30 per year band C.
Both cars are evenly matched here, so this round is a stalemate.
Whereas the entry-level Focus with a 1.6-litre engine and Studio trim costs £13,995, the cheapest Ecoboost (100PS) comes in the slightly pricier Edge spec and costs £16,795. The faster 125PS car is only available with the pricier Zetec trim and above, and costs £17,545.
Edge models include 16-inch steel wheels that look like alloys, body coloured door handles, a Thatcham Category 1 alarm, steering wheel audio controls, a trip/fuel computer, and a display on the dashboard that tells you when to change gear in order to maximise fuel efficiency.
Zetec cars include 16-inch alloys, quickclear heated windshield, front fog lights, chrome finish on the upper door line, sports style front seats, driver seat lumbar adjust, leather on the steering wheel, a DAB radio with six speakers, voice control with emergency assist, Bluetooth and heated door mirrors.Ford will sell a Focus to you in any colour as long as it’s red. If you want something different, you’ll have to pay between £250 and £745.
Ford will sell a Focus to you in any colour as long as it’s red. If you want something different, you’ll have to pay between £250 and £745 depending on the colour and whether it has a metallic sheen.
The cheapest Golf costs £16,495, but if you want the Golf BlueMotion Technology 1.2 TSI, you’ll have to fork over £17,150 for the 85PS car or £18,160 for the 105PS model. If you want 16-inch alloys, you’ll have to pay an extra £830. Leather trimmed multi-function steering wheel? £400 please. Keyless entry? That’ll be £355. VW will sell you a car in Grey, red or black without a premium, although white will set you back £250, and metallic paints command £525 extra.
To VW’s credit, every Golf Bluemotion 1.2 TSI comes with the firm’s Composition Media System, which includes a gorgeous 5.8-inch colour touch screen and DAB radio with 8 speakers.
Winner: Ford Focus Ecoboost
It might sound like a bit of a cop-out to call this battle a stalemate, but that’s the reality of it; both cars are so evenly matched, there is no clear overall winner. There’s little to choose between these cars where fuel economy is concerned, and performance is much of a muchness, seeing as the Golf is quicker in a straight line and the Focus feels better when going around corners.
The Golf probably has a slight edge where everyday usability is concerned, as it offers more luggage space, but the Focus gets its own back where affordability and equipment are concerned. With all this in mind, we genuinely believe that whichever of these excellent cars you choose, you’ll be onto a winner.