The ST and RS versions of the Ford Focus Hatchback are crazy fast and loads of fun, but the Mk3 Ford Focus in its lower trims sheds the fast-paced mask of hot hatchery to focus, pun unintentional, on being a good civilian vehicle. In the US, it's proffered in sedan and hatchback body styles with the wagon derivative only for sale on the European market. As a compact-class vehicle, the Focus slots in above the larger Fiesta within the Ford range. The segment isn't an easy one, however, with the Hyundai Civic and VW Golf offering a dash of premium, and the Mazda 3 having dynamic appeal. In this company, the 2018 Ford Focus's age - the nameplate having debuted in 2012 - could count against it. Could its European engineering counter that, however? There's only one way to find out...
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The standard variations of the Ford Focus Hatch carry the sporty, sleek, and aerodynamic look that's synonymous with the nameplate, but only kept a little more casual to differentiate it from the more performance-oriented machines. Nothing's changed too much since the 2014 facelift; the front of the SE and SEL models are set apart by a large black grille with chrome trim and underscored by a black lower diffuser. The Titanium flaunts a silver grille and chrome exterior accents, including the beltline. Every model comes outfitted with halogen headlights with LED signature lighting and daytime running lamps, as well as with a rear high-mounted spoiler. The SE rides atop 16-inch sparkle-silver aluminum wheels with machined aluminum units available within the SE Appearance Package. The SEL and Titanium both roll on 17-inch aluminum wheels; machined on the former, and polished on the latter.
Every model comes outfitted with halogen headlights with LED signature lighting and daytime running lamps, as well as with a rear high-mounted spoiler. The SE rides atop 16-inch sparkle-silver aluminum wheels with machined aluminum units available within the SE Appearance Package. The SEL and Titanium both roll on 17-inch aluminum wheels; machined on the former, and polished on the latter.
An electric variant is available in the form of a plug-in hybrid, but for most, the combustion-powered models will be the default choice. A 2.0-liter inline-four engine develops 160 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque to drive the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox (a five-speed in the base Focus S Sedan) or a clunky six-speed Powershift dual-clutch automatic transmission - the latter being the only option in the hatch. No AWD is offered. The optional 1.0-liter turbo three-cylinder develops 123 hp and 125 lb-ft, but both engines feel overwhelmed by the Focus's size. The manual stick-shift is the way to go considering the Focus's motive for driver engagement and fun.
As with most compact cars, the Focus hatch feels pleasantly peppy and nimble when driven around urban roads. It always feels firmly planted to the asphalt and in control at the corners, where little to no body roll is exhibited at any speed. Of course, it doesn't have anything on the more performance purposed RS and ST derivatives, but it's still a very fun hatch to maneuver and a highly accessible entrant to the semi-hot-hatch class. 0 - 60 mph is cleared in 8.5 seconds or so, regardless of the powertrain setup.
In terms of ride quality, the Focus is acceptable, but it's also nothing to write home about. Typical undulations and speed bumps are felt through the cabin but to a tolerable degree. It's otherwise mostly steady and smooth once on the move. This is a result of the tauter-sprung underpinnings the Focus utilizes to be so fun, which usually comes at some cost to comfort. Still, the Blue Oval seems to have the balance generally right here.
The Ford Focus's gas mileage estimates are on par for an FWD car in the compact segment. The 1.0-liter turbo-four engine, when paired with the manual gearbox, boasts the best-claimed gas mileage figures of 30/40/34 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. With the 2.0-liter nat-asp four-cylinder engine and the auto gearbox, the SE returns 26/38/31 mpg on those same cycles. The extra equipment means more weight for the SEL and Titanium models and sees the Ford Focus mpg ratings drop to 24/34/28 mpg for these trims. With its 12.4-gallon gas tank topped up, the Focus should see around 420 miles in its most efficient guise before running empty.
Ford hasn't quite caught on to the notion of developing a premium interior in a sub-premium segment. The Focus Hatchbacks' interior is one of the dreariest in the class, with lots of gray, scratchy plastics all over. That said, the dash layout is simple and easy to use and understand, and, if you select the right trim level, you'll get Ford's intuitive and easy-to-use SYNC 3 infotainment system with a touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto integration.
The driving position is great, low enough to sink into the car, but commanding enough to give great visibility. Up front there's also plenty of interior space. Sadly, that doesn't continue to the rear where the Focus hatch is one of the most cramped in class, with taller occupants finding legroom to be particularly tight. Trunk space is ample, though not extraordinary, with 23.3 cubic feet offered in the hatch, expanding to 43.9 cu. ft. with the 60/40-split rear seats folded down.
For the price of a new car like the Ford Focus, one expects to have the basic necessities equipped off the factory floor. The Focus ticks this box, for the most part. There are three trim lines presented for the 2018 Ford Focus Hatchback; the SE, SEL, and Titanium. The SE gets cruise control and an optional heated leather steering wheel, while SEL models get dual-zone climate control, and SYNC 3 as standard. The Titanium trim gets all SEL amenities, plus heated leather seats and shift lever, and remote start. Seven airbags are standard in every model with the driver getting a knee-protection airbag, too. Optional safety features on the Titanium include blind-spot assist and a lane-keeping system.
Both of the leading authorities in the USA have evaluated the Ford Focus hatch. The NHTSA's review of the Ford Focus for its crashworthiness resulted in a five-star overall rating. The IIHS's review of the Focus resulted in similar ratings, with the hatch earning top scores of Good for the majority of its tests.
Though still a very engaging driver's car, both engines, and the Ford Focus's transmissions feel severely outdated and unrefined. As a whole, it's also beginning to feel its age against fresher rivals, and Ford Focus reliability ratings are quite average, with a 77 out of 100 overall score from JD Power. As such, it's slipped down a rung or two on the ladder of what to choose in this segment. It's just not as cut out as it used to be, at least in comparison with newer competitors. Even so, the 2018 Ford Focus is priced appealingly with the SE coming in at a starting price of around $20,540.
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