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Ford Focus 1.6 review (1998-2005)
Engine: 1.6 in-line 4-cyl
Fuel type: Petrol
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Date of Test: June 2002
What is it?
Ford’s family hatchback, the Focus has consistently topped the sales charts, both in the UK and worldwide. Introduced to replace the unloved but equally high selling Escort, the Focus was a quantum leap over its then competition. Available in three and five-door hatchback body styles, there’s also a saloon (popular in America), and a useful estate model. Like many Fords, it has numerous engine and trim choices; the 1.6-litre version being a UK top seller.
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Where does it fit?
The Focus has become such an important car that the class it’s situated in is often described as ‘Focus-sized’. Slotting between the supermini Fiesta range and the larger Mondeo, the Focus competes against rivals like Vauxhall’s Astra, the Toyota Corolla, the Honda Civic and the VW Golf. While not offering the prestige of the Golf, the Focus has become a benchmark car in its class with its combination of qualities. The 1.6-litre version is a key model in the range, offering the perfect balance between performance and economy.
Is it for you?
The Focus is for everybody. The extensive range encompasses numerous body styles, transmissions and engine choices. All are impressive to drive, the diesel choices offering the best combination of punchy performance and wallet-friendly frugality. The 1.6 offers 40mpg capability and performance that’s only fractionally shy of that of the 1.8-litre petrol engine, at a sensible price. Little wonder then that it sells so well. The styling, which caused a stir when it was launched, has stood the test of time very well, with the high mounted rear lights improving access to the boot.
What does it do well?
It’s a hugely competent all-rounder. The excellent chassis is not only a boon for keen drivers: both passengers and those less enthusiastic at the wheel benefit from its keen responses, compliant ride and superb overall composure. It comes reasonably specified, particularly for safety equipment, with numerous trim levels and options available for those wanting to be more specific with equipment levels. It’s a comfortable drive, with firm seats front and rear giving good support; bootspace too is good, and access in all but the three-door models is class competitive.
What doesn't it do well?
There’s little to criticise on the Focus. It’s widely regarded as the leader in its class. Some better it for interior space, particularly in the rear, but unless you plan on carry five adults regularly it’s not a significant problem. The interior styling is a bit hit or miss thanks to rather low rent plastics, and due to its popularity it depreciates faster than some of its rivals.
What's it like to live with?
Living with the Focus should be easy, and you shouldn’t feel short-changed with the 1.6-litre engine. With Ford dealers as prevalent as McDonalds you’re never far away from a service centre should you need it. There have been no incidences of major long term problems and recalls have been few. Early models suffered from patchy build quality, but more recent cars display no such tendencies. Overall a superbly competent package that’s still a stylish head turner - despite the numbers sold. Easy to drive, service and own, the Focus will do everything asked of it, all the time, so long as you keep it well serviced.
Would we buy it?
You’d be mad not to consider the Focus if you’re in the market for a car of this type. Some newer rivals can offer slightly more interior space, but overall the Focus is still the car in this class by which all others are judged. Rightly so, few can offer the complete package on display in the Ford; it’s a great drive, comfortable, spacious and easy to buy new or used. The Ford badge may not be the most prestigious, and depreciation could be relatively costly, but the Focus would still be at the top of our shopping list.
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