Ford’s ubiquitous Focus was revamped for 2015 with fresher looks, an improved interior and a new range of economically-minded engines. Richard Gooding drives the frugal ECOnetic.
Despite an initial lukewarm reaction to its unveiling in 1998, the Focus has gone on to be a runaway success for Ford. A continued best-seller in the UK, the replacement for the Escort was named European Car of the Year in 1999 and set the motoring press alight with its class-leading handling and ‘New Edge’ styling. It provided driving enthusiasts with a family car which was genuinely fun to drive, yet aimed a practicality punch straight at the Volkswagen Golf.
With emissions of 132g/km, a 1.8-litre TDCi initially catered for eco-conscious buyers. The third-generation car in 2012 ushered in Ford’s impressive 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine with 114g/km, eventually dropping down to 99g/km. The later 1.6 TDCi Edge ECOnetic lowered that still further with 88g/km, and it’s the successor to that car we have on test here.
Tuned for economy
The 2015 Ford Focus ECOnetic is fitted with a 1.5-litre TDCi engine which delivers 103bhp with 270Nm (199b ft) of torque. A ‘torque vectoring control’ unit helps feed the power through the front wheels, which enables the Focus ECOnetic to post an 11.9‑second 0-62mph time. The engine itself feels very peppy and makes overtaking very easy. As you’d expect from a car aimed at the eco-conscious motorist, the six-speed manual gearbox is tuned for economy, with top gear not asked for until 62mph.
Ford claims the 88g/km ECOnetic Focus is capable of 83.1mpg on the NEDC testing cycle, but out in the real world, our average over a 330-mile test equated to 64.2. What is impressive, though, is that the car is one of the easiest to coax good fuel economy figures from: on more than one occasion we recorded a high value of 76.4mpg (our absolute highest was 79.4), which equates to around 838 miles on one tank of diesel. That’s impressive.
The Focus is a true multi-skilled car. It might have one eye on economy, but as with those first-generation models, it still handles like a sporting car – it just feels right and well-sorted dynamically. It’s very easy to place on the road and feels very fluid when the road turns twisty. The ride on the 16-inch steel wheels with low‑rolling resistance tyres is superb: firm but perfectly damped. It all just feels sorted.
On the move, the latest Focus offers superb refinement and is as quiet as some electric cars we’ve driven, with no engine noise at all when cruising on the motorway. Ford still gets the basics right: it’s very easy to find the perfect driving position and get comfortable and while the cabin may not be quite in the Volkswagen Golf league for perceived quality, the Focus’ refresh earlier this year brought upgrades in both trim and materials and the new Focus’ interior is a very pleasant place to be.
A 4.2-inch TFT display ahead of the driver is very clear and offers a plethora of information including Ford’s EcoMode driver information system which tells of gear-shifting, anticipation and speed ‘levels’, awarding a greater number of flower ‘petals’ as more economical driving is completed. In the centre console, a new eight-inch colour touchscreen is a much-needed improvement over the previous model and offers Bluetooth/DAB/CD/USB and voice control functionality. The Ford SYNC systems also features emergency assistance, which offers quick contact to local emergency services, too, based on GPS coordinates from the car itself.
Despite being an ‘eco’ model, in Style trim, the Focus ECOnectic is well-equipped. As well as a multifunction steering wheel, there is cruise control with speed limiter, remote central locking, electric front windows, and air conditioning. Out test car also featured A £500 Ford SYNC DAB navigation system which worked very well, adding directions to the 4.2-inch TFT display ahead of the driver. The optional Rear Park Assist system adds a further £225 to the price, while other safety kit includes front, side, and curtain airbags, Ford Intelligent Protection System, Hill Start Assist and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
The biggest clue to the Focus ECOnetic’s parsimonious nature is its external appearance. Devoid of alloy wheels and exterior chrome brightwork, the Style ECOnetic can look plain, but the optional £525 Deep Impact Blue paint finish of our test car made it stand out, helped by the body-coloured door handles and rear spoiler. To keep that paintwork looking new, Ford offers £85 pop-out plastic protectors which extend out when the doors are opened to curl around the door edge.
The Focus Style ECOnetic is the lowest‑emitting version of Ford’s C-segment family car. Priced at £19,145 with a Benefit in Kind rate of 16 per cent, it offers more power than the equivalent than the Euro 6-standard Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion TDI. Usefully cheaper, too, than the £21,435 VW, the Focus ECOnetic also costs less to tax, with 20 per cent rate payers charged £50.91 per month against the £58.75 of the Golf. All in all then, the monetary and driving sums for the eco Ford adds up. The Focus ECOnetic TDCi offers a very compelling answer to the low-emission, eco-hatchback company car question.