It took some waiting, but we can finally drive the new Ford Focus in the Netherlands. Of course, that’s an important car for Ford, but it’s been the pinnacle of handling in the C-segment for years. Ford now adds an intensely improved interior, and more technology to that base. To find out if that makes the new Focus a winner, it’s time to put it up against the best selling C-segment car of 2018. The Volkswagen Golf. The Ford Focus already comes with a big advantage, because for the money you can get a nicely dressed 1.5 TSI producing… producing 150 horsepower at the Volkswagen-dealer, the Ford-dealer will provide you the same nicely dressed sporty version, but with 182 horsepower. I’ll get to that later, but I thought you should know. Let’s move on to the strongly improved interior. Ford really has made some steps compared to the previous version. The building quality and finishing are better, but the usability is the biggest improvement. The SYNC-system which controls everything is a lot quicker, the buttons are now bigger, which means navigating the menu’s is a lot easier than before. Ford really did good by listening to all of the criticism and immediately…Solving it. The non-digital part in the new Ford-interior isn’t annoying either. Sure, they made some slightly unlogical choices. All of the safety systems are controlled with the board computer, except for lane departure. That’s controlled by the lever on the steering wheel. The head-up display is over here, but controlled with the board computer again. Anyway, it just takes some getting used to. Now that I’ve mentioned the HUD, I can show you that even though it’s been improved, the Focus still doesn’t have the best looking interior.A separate screen with data projected onto it, in 2018? That’s kind of stupid actually. Especially if you compare it with the Golf-interior. Sure, that’s older, but it’s got a fully digital instrument cluster. It’s got a NVIDIA-chip with 13 TB of RAM-memory. You can do things with that which would result in a full video game… ten years ago. So yeah, it’s been around for longer, but when it comes to building quality, finishing and functionality, it’s still at the top of its game. When it comes to space, it doesn’t really differ that much. The Focus has the edge when it comes to legroom, but the Golf has more headroom. The luggage space however, is practically identical. Then, the drive. That’s where the differences are
a lot bigger, even despite the fact both cars are fitted with a sports package.That’s called ST-line at Ford and R-Line at Volkswagen, but it comes down to the same. A fancier appearance and a sports chassis, and you should really think about if you want the latter, with this Focus. The good news is, this still is the pinnacle of driving pleasure… in the C-segment, but it comes at a price. Let’s talk about the driving pleasure first. It’s something that Ford has mastered like no other manufacturer. The new Focus is a car with light and direct steering… with lots of feel, which means you can position it exactly the way you want. You get enough feedback from the steering, which feels assuring. And then there’s the chassis itself. Sturdy springs, sturdy dampers, it’s direct, it absolutely tackles the corner, and that’s when you’re in, that’s when you start playing with the steering and throttle.When you suddenly release the throttle in a tight corner, you can feel the rear getting loose. Not as violent as in previous generations, but a lot more than average in this segment. That’s fun, it makes for a very playful car. If your daily commute is more than just getting from A to B, and you like driving, this Focus is a really good choice. It was like that, it will remain like that, and Ford isn’t scared to show that. And I like that, but that also means you’ll be sacrificing comfort. If you enter your own neighbourhood with speed bumps like this… You’ll feel you’ve driven over one.I personally don’t mind, because it’s a sacrifice I’d be willing to make for this amount of driving pleasure. But I could imagine that if you’re living in a speedbum neighbourhood, it could get annoying. Drive both chassis’, but I even think the normal versions still are pretty sturdy. And that’s something you have to like. Then, the engine. A very outspoken one as well. It’s a 1.5-litre EcoBoost, producing 182 horsepower, but it’s a 3-cylinder. That means the base of the engine parts aren’t in balance, like they would be in a 4-cylinder. That means it needs heavy counterweights on the crankshaft.So, the moving parts in the engine weigh a lot, and you’ll notice that when you put your foot down. First those parts start moving, then the turbo spools up and only then you’ll get the power. It’s an engine which likes to rev a lot, which sounds pretty good, so it’s an engine which fits an enthusiastic driving style,
but when it comes to throttle response… It could be better. You really have to wait before something happens in the lower revs. It’s connected to a manual 6-speed gearbox, which is really good machine. It’s a proper Ford-transmission as well. Short strokes, a lot of feeling, a clutch with a lot of feedback… The total package… Well, it isn’t flawless of course, but it’s an outspoken car in the segment, and that’s worth praise… This Golf is an entirely different story. It’s got a sports package as well, but clearly a lot less sporty than the Focus ST-line. It doesn’t have bad handling or anything, on the contrary, because you’ve got lots of grip, but it all feels more distant. Whatever happens underneath the wheels is kept away from you. The steering is very light, less direct, with less feeling…It’s not annoying or bad or anything, but you just feel less involved than in the Focus. The same goes for the chassis. It absorbs imperfections more naturally, there’s less feedback when you steer into the corner. It’ll first move to the outside in a corner as well. It’s not as enthusiastic, but that does make it a lot more comfortable. That’s not a bad thing. Again, the grip is there if you need it, so you shouldn’t worry about that. This will appeal to a broader group of customers, but you’ll be a lot less happy when you’re behind the steering wheel in here.Anyway, it still isn’t bad or disadvantageous. Then, the engine. It’s a 1.5-litre as well, producing 150 horsepower, but it’s a 4-cylinder, and you’ll notice that as I said. The throttle response feels more natural. The moment you put your foot down, the engine kicks in with all of its torque in lower revs. It’s connected to a DSG-gearbox as well, which actually takes all of your work out of your hands. Even with an automatic gearbox, you can feel this engine is spooled up quicker. Sure, it’s down on power, so if you’re looking for power in higher revs, it will be harder to find it, but that’s when the work has already been done. That means the performance of both cars are practically identical. Both cars do 0-100 km/h in 8,3 seconds. The Focus has a slightly higher top speed, but it’s very, very close. Everything put together, it’s a very decent drivetrain which perfectly fits the rest of the Golf.It’s a less outspoken car, it’s more distant, it’s more sensible… It’s a more rational choice really. Speaking of rationality. Driving a
Golf has always been a relatively expensive option. This particular one costs €38.186, but that’s according to NEDC-cycle. If you want an entirely new Golf with exactly the same trim, if would set you back a small €39.000. If you want an honest comparison with the Focus, you should remove the automatic gearbox as well. But even though that saves you €2.400, it’s still €2.000 more than a Focus with the same trim and more power.Does that mean the Focus wins the comparison? Well, personally, I’m leaning towards yes. I think it’s a fun, pleasurable car, but I can imagine that if you don’t ‘like’ driving, but just see it as getting from A to B, this might be a little too uncomfortable for you. However, that has always been the base of the Focus. And the facts are that there has never been anything this good, built on that Focus-base… .