James Ruppert
10/11/2011 10:24 | By James Ruppert

Expert guide to buying a used Ford Focus

Expert guide to buying a used Ford Focus (© Ford)

Ford Focus "Mark 2.1", which was sold between 2004 and 2008

The Focus in a nutshell?
The Focus is as good as a small family car can get. On the one hand you have low running costs, which you expect from a Ford, but on the other there is real style and substance when it comes to performance and handling. The Focus effectively does it all and at a keen price too as ex company cars fill up the supermarket sites.

Review: Ford Focus (1998-2005)

Review: Ford Focus (2004-2008)

Review: Ford Focus CC (2007-2008)

Review: Ford Focus (2011 onwards)

Read more Ford reviews

What are the Focus stats?

Fastest - top speed 150mph/0-60mph 6.8 seconds (2.5 ST - 2005)
Slowest - top speed 106mph/0-60mph 14.4 seconds (1.4 - 2000)

Best - 60.1mpg (1.6 TDCi 90 - 2007)
Worst - 30.3mpg (2.5 ST - 2006)

CO2 emissions
Best - 104g/km (1.6 TDCi Econetic - 2009)
Worst - 225g/km (2.5 RS - 2009)

Insurance group
Lowest - Group 4 (1.4 CL 2001) Group 5 (1.6 Zetec - 2001)
Highest - Group 17 (2.5 ST - 2005)

NCAP safety rating
Five stars (2007 maximum), four Stars (2002 maximum)

How much for a Focus?

£500-£600 buys a 1999 1.8 Zetec 5-door, air conditioning with 118,000 miles
£1200 buys a 2004 1.4 LX with 123,000 miles
£2000 buys a 2004 1.6 Ghia 5-door with 62,700 miles
£4000 buys a 2005 1.6 TDCi LX Estate with 47,000 miles
£6,000 buys a 2008 1.6 Style Automatic with 32,300 miles

Why buy a Focus?

Ford Focus 2011 (© Ford)

Ford Focus 2011

For many Ford buyers the mere fact that the familiar blue oval is bolted to the grille means they are guaranteed to get their car looked after cheaply and easily for the rest of their time together. That's important, running costs are very keen indeed and an important part of the Focus appeal.

It's a safe car too, which has consistently scored top marks in the Euro NCAP crash tests. The seats are comfortable and there's enough legroom. A family of five can fit in easily and there's room for their luggage too. Drivers enjoy a superbly good seating position, especially as the steering wheel adjusts for height and reach, while the controls are perfectly laid out.

Keen drivers will also enjoy living with a Focus because of the agile and responsive handling. It is always safe, but fun too - the perfect combination. The steering is light and precise, making the Focus great on the open road or around town, and the smooth suspension provides a very refined environment. There is also a good overall range of engines with eager 1.6 and 1.8 petrols and some of the most economic diesels around.

What's the best spec Focus?
In the early days the basic CL and equivalents had a two-way adjustable steering column, central locking, twin airbags, electric front windows and a height adjustable seat. Zetec added alloy wheels and sports suspension, however, only an LX or Ghia would have air conditioning as standard. If it is working this will always help the cars to resell more easily.

Later Studio and Zetec models also did without air conditioning as standard but could have been fitted as an option. Sport and Titanium though will have air con and are aimed at sportier drivers, which may have higher insurance implications. The 2008 specification models have air con from the Style upwards, while the top-of-the-range Titanium has automatic lights and wipers. There are lots of engine options with very good petrols and a TDCi 1.6 that may average up to 60mpg.

Focus updates

Ford Focus CC 2006 (© Ford)

Ford Focus CC 2006

1998 - launched at Geneva Motor Show, two- and four-door hatchbacks, saloon and estate.
2001 - revamped with new headlamps and bumpers available in CL. LX, Zetec and Ghia trim.
2002 - Duratorq diesel engines are a big improvement.
2004 - new-generation with redesigned body and new coupe' cabriolet model. New Duratec engines and the hot hatch 2.5 ST.
2006 - new specifications from the base Studio, followed by the Style, Zetec and Zetec Climate, Ghia and Titanium.
2008 - restyled model, with revised specifications as the Ghia is no longer part of the lineup but the Titanium range is extended. High-performance RS version.
2011 - new-generation Focus launched.

What should I look for on a used Focus?

Ford Focus Estate 2005 (© Ford)

Ford Focus Estate 2005

Sometimes the Focus could need a simple tune up by a garage, or more comprehensive reprogram of the engine's Electronic Control Unit. Look through the service history to see if there has been any work of this nature. Also the problem of engines cutting out intermittently has been traced to the alternator, the item that charges your battery and distributes power to the car.

In newer Focus diesels there are diesel particulate filter issues (DPF). The DPF can get clogged when used mainly on short local runs. Look for the warning light, which stays on, and below-par engine performance. Rough-running engines signal an overdue visit to the service bay.

Many Focus models will have had a hard company car life and could be in need of new tyres, shock absorbers, brake pads or exhaust work. A scruffy interior may also tell of hard fleet use. That is the worst-case scenario but always try to buy the best you can.

The air conditioning should always be checked; the engine revs will drop a little bit when it's turned on but the engine should not stall or splutter, otherwise it could indicate that the belt, which drives the air conditioning, needs attention. Alternator problems have been mentioned, although there is no way of telling if there is a fault unless the battery is not charging and you can't start the Focus.

What's the marketplace like for the Focus?
Busy. There is no shortage of models in circulation and it is the default purchase for those after a family hatchback to do all the commuting and school run duties, on a budget. Diesels have never been more in demand, of course, whether it is the early 1.8 TDdi or the later TDCi options. A Zetec with air conditioning is a popular option while a 1.4 CL is regarded as underpowered and under-equipped but could be bargain as a banger!

Which Focus?

Ford Focus Saloon 2005 (© Ford)

Ford Focus Saloon 2005

For many though the 1.6 petrol would be adequate enough especially for those who only cover a modest mileage each year. Air con is a minimum for most users, but as mentioned a banger 1.4 would make sense as a cheap car to run and not worry about. LX specification for early models is fine and later Styles have the essentials.

Where do I shop for a Focus?
The Focus is absolutely everywhere but it is important to make a distinction between the well-cared-for private examples and some of the very tired ex-fleet examples. The Focus is easy to find at car supermarkets, in private ads and at main dealers. Go to car supermarkets and dealers for more recent examples, which have depreciated in the first year or so to a more affordable level but still have the reassurance of the manufacturer's warranty. However, it is vital to buy condition and never price. Private cars with a full service history are the pick of the bunch.

Any alternatives to the Focus?

Ford Focus 1998 (© Ford)

Ford Focus 1998

The number of credible Focus alternatives seems to multiply by the year but there are always some perennial rivals against which it will always be judged.

Volkswagen's Golf is always popular. Its upmarket image, and build quality used to be enough to set the Golf apart from the much more common Focus, but it doesn't any more. The adequate specification levels and relatively expensive prices do not make up for older Golfs being dull to drive and offering an utterly conventional approach to hatchback motoring. Things got better in 2005 when the Golf became good again. Those who are prepared to pay for the privilege and badge won't complain about the superb interior and the general VW feelgood factor.

The Vauxhall Astra is the most direct rival to the Focus as it is good to drive, refined and spacious, but up until 2003 was a little dull to look at and sit in. If you want value though, the Astra has always been consistently cheaper than the Focus so in sheer value-for-money terms it has to be worth considering.

And finally one of the newest kids on the Focus' busy little block is the Kia Cee'd, which is roomy, well built, easy to live with and comes with a persuasive seven-year warranty that you may well get the balance of. There is a 60mpg diesel and an effective 1.4 petrol and does not cost much to run. As the budget rather than the exciting alternative to a same-year Focus, which is bound to cost less.

Review: Ford Focus (1998-2005)

Review: Ford Focus (2004-2008)

Review: Ford Focus CC (2007-2008)

Review: Ford Focus (2011 onwards)

Find a used Focus on Auto Trader
On Bing: more Ford Focus pictures


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