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Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost review (2012 onwards)
Model: Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium, £19,195, £22,240 as tested
Bodystyle: five-door hatchback
Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol, 125hp @ 6,000rpm, 125lb ft @ 1,400 - 4,500rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Efficiency: 58.5mpg combined, 114g/km CO2
Performance: 0-62mph in 11.3 seconds, 120mph top speed
Date of test: August 2012
What is it?
This is Ford's super-frugal petrol-powered Focus, and it's giving its diesel stable mates something to think about, plain and simple. The 1.0 EcoBoost engine now accounts for 30% of all new Focus sales and the latest car comes wading into the family hatchback warzone carrying some serious ammunition.
We're talking a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine that's supposed to give performance akin to a conventional 1.6-litre petrol motor but will return 56.5mpg on average and CO2 emissions of just 114g/km - that's nearly 20% more frugal and less polluting than the less powerful 1.6.
Apart from the new ultra eco motor it's standard Focus fare, which means a roomy cabin up-front and average levels of space in the rear, as well as a sizeable boot that'll accommodate most items a compact family can throw at a compact car.
Where does it fit?
The EcoBoost effectively makes the standard 1.6 petrol obsolete; who'd go for a car with the same power but worse fuel economy, especially when it's a fiver more expensive?
It's not a car for trawling motorways though. It'll be best around town and on the school run - exactly where most potential EcoBoost owners will use their cars - so if you want economy in the high 60s, you'll have to turn to the diesel.
The new three-pot is available in entry-level Edge trim right up to the top-spec Titanium X guise, but it's all about the engine rather than the gadgets inside.
In Titanium trim - as tested here - it's not cheap, costing £19,195 as standard or £22,240 for our specced-up test car. Even the base vehicle costs £150 more than the £17,795 67.3mpg 1.6 diesel.
Is it for you?
But that's not necessarily a fair comparison. The EcoBoost has been designed for people who want that revvy petrol feel and the driving enjoyment that the lighter fuel brings, but with a decent dollop of fuel economy for around town and on mundane journeys.
It sets it stall out as a decidedly petrol-focused, er, Focus - if you fit into the category outlined above the EcoBoost is about your only option.
The closest you'll get to its economy in the Vauxhall Astra petrol range is the 100hp 1.4, returning 51.4mpg combined with 129g/km CO2. Even the 105hp 1.2 TSI VW Golf can't match the Focus at 49.6mpg with 134g/km.
What does it do well?
As you can tell, efficiency is the EcoBoost's strong suit. But that's not all the Focus has to give. The original car released in 1998 was known for its excellent chassis and involving drive. The second generation Focus repeated this, and so does the third.
Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost: frugal and fun? http://cars.uk.msn.com/blog/inside-track-blogpost.aspx?post=68eddf3c-f6ed-46bd-8956-e665af97fefa
A move to electronic power assistance for the steering in the latest car means some of the feel has been filtered out, but by family car standards the level of feedback from the wheel and chassis is good.
It's this that makes the Focus such a connected and fun drive. Add into the mix that a heavy diesel engine has been replaced by a lightweight triple whose architecture will fit onto an A4 piece of paper and things get even better.
The nose feels light meaning turn-in response is quick, with direction changes benefiting from the weight reduction, too.
The engine isn't wheezy or asthmatic as you might imagine such a frugal unit to be. Instead its forced induction gives a great slug of torque - 170lb ft between 1,400 and 4,500rpm - inviting you to rev the engine further.
It sounds nice as well. What can often be a harsh four-cylinder thrash has been replaced with an intriguing three-cylinder thrum. We like it.
What doesn't it do well?
Arguably, steering feel is an area the Focus lets itself down in - even though in isolation it's good, using its predecessor as a yard stick, its dropped a few inches.
Inside the cabin, rear-seat legroom is fair, but those longer in the leg will find it cramped even sat behind a modestly proportioned driver. Boot space is ok - it'll accommodate plenty at 316 litres in capacity, but it's smaller than the second-gen Focus and 10% down on arguably its biggest rival, the VW Golf.
The dashboard is also a little busy. With the optional £750 Sony DAB system the interface seems to have been scattered with buttons and the screen for the sat nav is on the small side of squint-inducing.
You get to know the layout pretty quickly though, and even though there are plenty of them, the buttons all feel sturdy and solid.
What is it like to live with?
Decent efficiency, a decent chassis that involves to the right degree plus a raft of safety systems means the Focus should be a pretty capable tool all round to live with.
Ford's £820 optional Driver Assistance Package fitted to our test car - including Blind Spot Info, Traffic Sign Recognition, lane departure warning with lane keep assist and Active City Stop - does its best to keep you as safe as possible and means the Focus gets a five-star Euro NCAP rating.
There's a torque vectoring system, too, that brakes individual wheels to reduce understeer when you're pushing on in search of some fun.
Beyond that, it's practical enough, roomy enough, fast enough - it has enough of everything (when was the last time you fully loaded your boot) except for efficiency, which it has in spades. It'd be a synch to live with.
How green is it?
For a petrol vehicle, extremely. Not many mid-sized hatchbacks can get close to the EcoBoost's efficiency of 56.5mpg combined and £30 road tax CO2 emissions total of 114g/km.
And that's for the more powerful 125hp unit. Opt for the 100hp version - which is not really any less powerful than the slowest 1.6 - and this'll stretch to 58.9mpg with 109g/km.
After a week behind the wheel including a motorway blat at higher speeds and some keener driving down back roads to explore the little motor's deceptively large-lunged turbocharged torquey feel, we averaged 48.5mpg. Good going we reckon.
Would we buy it?
If we were decidedly against the idea of buying a diesel but efficiency was the main thrust of our agenda, it'd be hard to plump for anything other than the 1.0 EcoBoost - and it'd be this more powerful version we'd go for.
Next to its petrol-engined competition it sips fuel like a water-rationed infantryman but it's not completely devoid of life or fun as a result. You can still engage with the Focus, even if it has arguably lost some of that steering feel that made the previous two generations so good.
The Focus has still got that important USP, combining everyday practicality with mature and enjoyable dynamics.
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