FOCUS HAS SHIFTED
six-speed torque converter automatic, so buyers sidestep the dreaded PowerShift.
You could be truly radical and buy a used Focus with three pedals and manual shift.
With the new fourth-generation Focus due in showrooms by November, plenty of current owners will look to upgrade. Expect their preloved examples to flood the classifieds.
The LZ launched in May 2015 with the sporty ST grade, followed in October by the everyman versions.
Used examples (bar very early STs) will have some factory warranty remaining if they have covered less than 100,000km.
Choose between a four-door sedan or more popular five-door hatch. All have EcoBoost four-cylinder turbos (1.5 or 2.0-litre) and use a six-speed manual or six-speed auto gearbox.
The ST, solely a manual hatch, had exclusive use of the tasty 184kW 2.0 turbo engine.
We’ll exclude the all-wheel drive Focus RS here as its buyer is a totally different type .
Entry level is the Trend hatch and sedan, the latter coming only with an auto gearbox, and specification is good.
Included are 16-inch alloys, daytime running lights, rear parking sensors, cruise control, eightinch colour touchscreen running Ford’s smart infotainment (post-April 2016 cars get the even better SYNC3), Bluetooth, audio streaming, voice control, satnav and rear camera.
Next rung up, the Focus Sport hatch lives up to its name with a bodykit, 17-inch alloys, sports tuned suspension, LED tail-lamps, dual zone climate control, ambient lighting, leather steering wheel and gear shifter, Sony audio, auto lights and wipers, keyless entry and pushbutton start.
Luxury Titanium grade is auto only, adding 18-inch alloys, front parking sensors, leather sports seats, blind spot and rear cross traffic alert, parking assist and auto emergency braking.
The ST really dials up the sportiness. Its 184kW/345Nm engine makes it a genuine warm hatch, while it gets gorgeous 18-inch alloys, red brake calipers and some funky colours including Tangerine Scream and Race Red.
Inside you find Recaro partial leather sport seats and ambient lighting, and some owners may have optioned a technology pack ($2000) bringing a host of active safety extras.
Look out for super-rare Mountune Focus STs for even more oomph. This $4135 factory upgrade fettled the engine to produce a chunky 202kW/400Nm.
No matter what your choice of Focus, you’ll get assured and balanced handling and satisfying turbo performance clad in goodlooking bodywork. The ST in particular is a great value thrill ride.
The dashboard is a lot cleaner and with a higher-tech feel than the older Focus. Rear seat and boot space aren’t huge but should be ample for many, including small families.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Such new cars should have full Ford dealer service history. Aim for one with less than 100,000km to get the remaining warranty.
Test drive over a variety of road surfaces. The Focus’s excellent handling is in part down to quite stiff suspension, so harsh bumps are really felt in the cabin, especially on the higher grades’ bigger wheels and lower profile tyres.
Ensure you can tolerate the ride — and the cabin noise, which is a bit louder than some core rivals.
Some owners report the turbo engines are thirstier than Ford’s quoted figures and, as it recommends at least 95RON, it won’t be the cheapest car to run.
There are some hard plastics in the cabin and instances of trim coming away in places. Check all is perfectly screwed together in any potential purchase.
If you’re shopping for an ST, remember some will have been bought by Dan Ricciardo wannabes. Check tyre wear, excessive brake dust on the alloys and any dodgy noises from the engine, gearbox and underneath suggesting it’s been thrashed. A specialist mechanical check would be a wise investment.
Automatic cars don’t have steering wheel paddle-shifters, so don’t neglect the manual versions for a more engaging drive.
Reliability overall has been very good (as you would expect from such recent arrivals) but check any manual MY15 and M16 Focus you’re considering was recalled in May for a clutch assembly fix.
After the disastrous PowerShift saga in pre2015 cars, these unaffected LZ models have restored the badge’s reputation and are far better used buys.
All are fun to drive and have decent specification, so even entry-level Trends are a fine choice. Move up the grades and you get real sportiness and luxury. ST models are true performance bargains.
Don’t pay too much for these still young Focuses. The new higher-spec generation will be here in a couple of months (probably from $23K) with a new five-year warranty.
ANNE SCOTT: We have a 2017 Trend sedan which we bought to downsize from a larger car, and find it a good choice for we “young pensioners,” especially for parking. It’s compact, drives great, has good acceleration and manoeuvres well. There’s good outward vision and enough room in the boot. STEPHEN: My2016 Titanium hatch is very smooth and refined to drive. The engine reminds me of a torquey Ford six, plus it’s very economical. The ride is firm on the 18-inch wheels with very low-profile tyres. The SYNC3 infotainment and eight-inch screen are superb. No reliability issues so far, but it is early days. I’m surprised they don’t sell more.