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All-conquering Focus has impressed with every version yet tested – and now we sample a mid-range diesel with the automatic gearbox. Is this the one to go for?

Our Verdict

Ford Focus ST-line X 2019 road test review - hero front

Focus retains its position as the best-in-class to drive – spec dependent – while adding extra space, functionality and connectivity

Mark Tisshaw
29 October 2018

What is it?

Legend has it Enzo Ferrari once said that with a Ferrari you buy an engine, and the rest you get for free. Perhaps the opposite is true of the all-new, fourth-generation Focus – you buy a great chassis, and it doesn’t really matter what else there is.

That’s somewhat flippant, of course, as early tests of different versions are revealing quite different characters depending on the car’s propulsion and trim – yet with that great chassis thankfully remaining a constant. 

The latest version of the Focus to arrive at Autocar HQ for test is this 1.5-litre diesel version. It’s the mid-range of three diesels – a 94bhp 1.5 sits below this 118bhp version and a 148bhp 2.0-litre above it. You can have it with either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox, the latter tested here. 

Whatever gearbox or version of the 1.5-litre diesel you go for (and, let’s be honest, a diesel Focus still holds huge appeal for so many car buyers who cover the kinds of distances such five-door hatchbacks have always relished), you do get the ‘lesser’ of the two rear suspension options – a torsion beam, the multi-link reserved for the 2.0-litre range-topper. 

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What's it like?

There’s little in this Focus that blunts the driver appeal we’ve already become so fond of in other versions. It rides, handles and steers like no other rival in the class can match, even with the supposed poorer-relation suspension, yet other versions of the Focus do get a bit more out of the chassis, the extra weight of the diesel engine over the nose noticeable, alongside the less crisp throttle response that’s exacerbated a touch further through the automatic transmission. 

Whereas the chassis is excellent, the powertrain is adequate. Performance-wise, you’ve got to really plant your foot to make brisk progress, that plant bringing the full 221lb ft of torque on the overboost function into play. Otherwise, responses are a bit sluggish at low revs, and the turbo has really got to be spinning to keep momentum down the road. 

The engine is a bit loud and grumbly at low revs on start-up, but then what diesel in this segment isn’t? Some of that din is still audible at higher speeds, though, with a background hum that’s evidence of an engine working harder than a larger-capacity one might.

That’s reflected in the economy too. We struggled to get over 45mpg even on long runs. The 2.0-litre diesel has marginally worse economy on paper, but I’d bet that wouldn’t translate to the real world.

That mid-40s figure is, of course, with the auto box, which suffers quite the economy hit over the manual version, both on paper but more pertinently in the real world. Claimed is 64.2mpg in this ST-Line version (78.5mpg in the manual), and less in the real world as we’ve discovered. Given that the auto costs £1400 more than the manual, and CO2 emissions are also higher, there’s little case to be made for this powertrain for either peppy performance or better economy – you’re effectively paying more for less. 

Shame, as the auto is a smooth shifter with the habit of always being in the right gear when the engine is warm and you’ve moved off from stationary, at which point you don’t have to concern yourself with one of the more pointless stop-start systems in recent times. To get the stop-start system to kick in when you need to give a rather firm press of the brake pedal. Think quite a bit harder than you think you need to, and then push a bit more. Odd. 

Elsewhere, the interior’s a bit plain still and familiar from the previous Focus, even loaded up in the sporty ST-Line trim, which also brings with it some bigger alloys and a sportier suspension tune that all combine to make you care a bit less about the cabin when it’s so nice to experience in other ways through the way it drives.

Another five-grand of options were fitted on our test car, much of them to do with active safety features that have a rather nervous, jumpy habit of making the instrument binnacle light up like a Christmas tree in November – a bit too early and presumptuous. 

Should I buy one?

It’s a three-star powertrain with a five-star chassis, a chassis that other versions of the Focus simply get more out of. The main reason for buying a diesel is nearly always the big economy that comes from big miles, yet that’s not true with this automatic version. 

The nature of ranges of popular, big-selling cars like the Focus means there will always be imperfect versions, as well as more complete ones, in trying to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. With this case of this mid-range diesel auto, the best of the Focus lies elsewhere. 

Ford Focus ST-Line X 1.5 TDCI EcoBlue 8 Speed Automatic specification

Where Winchester Price £26,410 Price as tested £31,450 On sale Now Engine 4 cyls, 1499cc, turbodiesel Power 118bhp at 3600rpm Torque 221lb ft at 1750-2250rpm Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 1394kg Top speed 120mph 0-60mph 10.2sec Fuel economy 64.2mpg CO2 116g/km Rivals Volkswagen Golf, Mazda 3

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Comments
18

29 October 2018

How come my 11 year old 2 ton 7 seat 155BHP 2.2 diesel SUV with an old fashioned torque converter 5 speed auto can see over 40mpg, but this high tech super modern 1.5 with less power, hugely less weight to pull around and 8 speeds is barely beating it? I'm referring to you test mpg of 45 not the claimed 64 by the way.

If you prevent javascript from running on this site, you can use adblock without it being detected.

A34

29 October 2018
Leslie Brook wrote:

How come my 11 year old 2 ton 7 seat 155BHP 2.2 diesel SUV with an old fashioned torque converter 5 speed auto can see over 40mpg, but this high tech super modern 1.5 with less power, hugely less weight to pull around and 8 speeds is barely beating it? 

Because you drive carefully, while a car tester always likes to think they need to thrash cars they review?

29 October 2018
A34 wrote:

To answer your question, The website doesn't allow me to remove the image or alter my profile in anyway. I don't think it's cool by the way, I just do it to annoy tossers.

 

If you prevent javascript from running on this site, you can use adblock without it being detected.

FMS

29 October 2018
Leslie Brook wrote:

A34 wrote:

To answer your question, The website doesn't allow me to remove the image or alter my profile in anyway. I don't think it's cool by the way, I just do it to annoy tossers.

 

 

Your thoughts on annoying those that you would not consider such beings?

29 October 2018

Hang on, I thought the new WLTP emissions and real world fuel consumption test, were supposed to give customers a more realistic and “real world” achievable fuel consumption from the manufacturers? So your test reveals a real world figure of struggling to get mid 40’s mpg, instead of the manufacturers claimed 64.2 mpg! 

So the new WLTP test procedure, is not realistic and “real world” then?

29 October 2018

You're not the only one to notice this. Anyway £26.5k for a car with that poor performance, poor mpg and poor civility. Poorest Focus yet!

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

FMS

29 October 2018
xxxx wrote:

You're not the only one to notice this. Anyway £26.5k for a car with that poor performance, poor mpg and poor civility. Poorest Focus yet!

 

Eagle eyed are you...no, just standing on the shoulders of giants. To describe you as moronic, with your judgemental, ill conceived, nonsensical comments, would be a reat dis-service to genuine morons, who would surely baulk at having you join their ranks. TwIT, the w is silent, as you should be.

29 October 2018

As a family car the Focus is surely flawed. Rear seat passengers don’t benefit from the multi link rear suspension unless it’s a top end version, and neither are they allowed their own air vents.

From the drivers seat I’m sure it’s a fine vehicle. For others, not so much.

FMS

29 October 2018
scrap wrote:

As a family car the Focus is surely flawed. Rear seat passengers don’t benefit from the multi link rear suspension unless it’s a top end version, and neither are they allowed their own air vents.

From the drivers seat I’m sure it’s a fine vehicle. For others, not so much.

 

You have such a finely tuned a**e, that can tell the difference between the two types?...not given their own air vents...there should be a discrimination case about this and pronto!

29 October 2018

I'm pretty sure that the 64mpg figure quoted is what's known as the "NEDC Equivalent" . So although this car would have been tested under the new WLTP regime, it is my understanding that manufacturers are allowed to quote NEDC equivalent figures (derived from the WLTP data using a fiddle factor) for the next two years. It is these derived figures that are the ones used in registration and taxation documents and in promotional literature until further notice from the authorities. 

I know none of this makes sense, but that's our government for you!

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