Final focus | 

Ford’s hugely popular hatchback gets one last roll of the dice

Model gets its last hurrah as it nears the end of the road

The Focus exterior has been tweaked

The big screen dominates the dash

Daragh KeanySunday World

The Ford Focus is hurting. No doubt about it. But not for the reason you might think. It has easily been Ford’s best-selling car over the last 15 years and topped the Irish sales figures in 2011 and 2012.

It was consistently in the top five for years after that too, as cars like the Golf, Corolla and Tucson leap-frogged it in respective years, but it never drifted outside the top 20.

Launched in 1998, it was a phenomenon and now that it has had a fourth-generation refresh we are back behind its wheel at the request of Ford Ireland. Amazingly, the once-unstoppable hatchback has slipped to number 2 in Ford’s internal sales rankings.

Irish people’s love of a crossover has seen the Puma overtake the Focus as the best-selling Ford in the country. And that won’t sit well with the Focus team. Nor does it sit well with me, to be perfectly honest.

The big screen dominates the dash

I’ve a guilty-pleasure love affair with hatchbacks, and I think they deserve more attention from car buyers. I can see the justification in the SUV sales making a dent in them, but not the crossovers.

And when Ford announced that this car was due to cease production in 2025 a lot people were upset and mystified.

But the company hasn’t given up on it yet. With one last roll of the dice they have given us all something to think about and weigh up.

This hatchback right here is little firecracker, despite its 1.0-litre EcoBoost 125PS powertrain. It is great looking, it is comfortable, fun and really economical.

Of course, we would all love to have the funds to have a BMW i7 (opposite page) sitting in our drive, but the reality is that the beast you see over there is for a very niche clientele and won’t even feature in the top 150 cars sold in Ireland this year.

This facelifted Focus, however, is an absolute trooper for the masses. At €32,541 it is an affordable car.

Not that the changes on this are hugely apparent. Exterior-wise, you can spot a fourth-gen facelifted Focus from a mile away thanks to the fact that badge on the front is now nestled into the updated grille while the headlights have been tweaked also.

The rear is one of my favourite angles here and, while not hugely different from previous generations, it is still a slick look car no matter which way you approach it.

There are bigger alterations made to the interior with the introduction of a 13.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system which, naturally, dominates the dash.

It uses Ford’s latest SYNC4 software, which is a vast improvement on Fords of a few years ago, but still lags behind other manufacturers in my view.

Thankfully the climate controls are not hidden away in the touchscreen but do require a bit of getting used to. They are not physical buttons but are more of an extension to the display screen.

Space inside a slick hatch is never going to be abundant but Ford does well to offer as much as possible wherever they can.

And I wouldn’t be here recommending that you take long journeys with five in the car (no matter how small your kids are) but four adults would have no problem in this.

The boot comes with a decent 341 litres but can leap to 1,320 litres if you put the rear seats down for those awkward days when you need to move something.

Driving-wise, this car definitely delivers. Power outputs may be a little modest on paper but you do get a sense that this is lighter than it should be as it is quick and nimble around Irish roads.

My ST-Line test car has a slightly lower suspension than the other trim lines and has 18-inch alloys and low-profile tyres. That made it firm yet sharp in cornering.

It’s not a hot hatch though, so don’t go bragging about its insane performance — because it doesn’t have it. But it is still a lot of fun even in slower speeds.

This is not a class-leader because, well, the new Opel Astra is one of my favourite cars of the last couple of years. But what I will happily stand over is that the latest Focus is next in line in a very crowed segment of the market.

As the test week came to an end I found myself rooting for this car. Not against the others in the segment, but against the Puma in its own stable. It deserves to be back on top of that pile. Even if it is only for one or two years.

I truly hope this isn’t the last Ford Focus I ever test, but I fear it may be.

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