Motorcheck Used Car Guide: Ford Focus MkIII

Years built: 2011-date
Bodystyles: Five-door hatchback, four-door saloon, five-door estate
What is it?
Well, it’s the Focus – that perfect everyman’s car which manages to combine economy and practicality with the sort of pin-sharp chassis and steering responses that would put many supposed sports cars to shame. This is the third generation of Focus, and it’s a model which made a great many changes compared to its predecessor. In came striking good looks (the second gen Focus was always a bit blocky to look at) and high-tech new EcoBoost engines, but sadly out went the cavernous interior and boot. Ford seems to think that buyers looking for extra space will simply upgrade to the C-Max, a car which shares almost all of its mechanical parts with the Focus.
High tech is definitely on the agenda though. Apart from the clever little three-cylinder EcoBoost engine, there are lots of optional toys on offer for Focus customers, including Bluetooth phone connection, USB plugs for your iPhone or other media player, trip computers, adaptive cruise control, voice control, lane departure warning and more.
Most of all though, you’ll buy a Focus for the way it drives. Many rivals have had a tilt at matching the Ford in this respect, but no-one has yet come up with a convincing challenger for that silky-smooth steering and the composed and controlled way the Focus deals with even the worst of Irish tarmac.
Which one should I buy?
There’s an easy answer to this – get the 1.6 TDCI diesel with stop-start. There’s a slightly more complicated answer which involves the EcoBoost petrol engine and your driving habits, but let’s deal with the diesel first. Ford quotes 67mpg for this engine, which means you should have little trouble in averaging around 50mpg in everyday driving, and thanks to a turbocharged slug of torque, it feels nicely lively to drive too. Low Co2 emissions will keep your motor tax costs down too.
But it is worth considering the clever little EcoBoost 1.0-litre petrol. A tiny three-cylinder engine might sound like it’s too small to push a car the size of the Focus around, but with 100hp it’s actually as powerful as the old 1.6-litre unit and it’s a delight to drive, with a surprisingly sporty soundtrack. It’s best for low-mileage users though as on longer runs its average fuel economy simply can’t match the diesel.
Almost all Focuses are the standard five-door hatchback model, but if you’re a regular visitor to IKEA it’s worth trying to track down one of the rarer estate versions, which are simply massive inside and which make more sense for a growing family than a more expensive (and expensive to run) SUV.
How much should I spend? Around €15,000 for a good 2012 car from a dealer.
Here’s one we found:
2012 Ford Focus 1.6 TDCI 95hp Edge stop/start, SIMI registered dealer, 52,000km, one owner, €15,250
What goes wrong?
Refreshingly little – the last-generation Focus won several reliability awards from the German equivalent of the AA; the TUV, and this version seems to be following in its predecessor’s footsteps. Obviously, we’d suggest you seek out one with a full service history and make sure that you do a full background check with, but otherwise, there is little enough to be wary of.
All you need to keep an eye on is the clutch (there are some isolated reports of dodgy slave cylinders in the clutch mechanism causing clutch failures), the turbo on the 1.6 diesel (the exhaust gas re-circulation valve can give trouble – if the car seems overly hesitant to accelerate or down on power then this could be the problem) and the interior (some of the cabin trim is a bit cheap and we have heard reports of bits and pieces simply falling off). It’s also worth bearing in mind that most Focus models only come with a space-saver spare wheel, so bear that in mind if your daily drive includes poorly made, pot-holed roads.
More recent Focus models may be covered by Ford’s optional five-year warranty, so it’s worth checking to see if that’s the case, and potentially worth paying a little more to have that kind of peace of mind. There are terms and conditions applying to the warranty though, such as having the car serviced only by a franchised Ford dealer, so make sure that they’ve been adhered to in the past before laying out extra.
Anything else?
Those in need of a massive power hit should consider the tearaway 250hp Focus ST, which was always quite reasonably priced when new, but they’re rare on the ground here so a UK import may well be your only option. It’s also a good idea to try out a couple of differently specced Focuses before you decide on the right one for you – Zetec models have lower, stiffer suspension than others and can be uncomfortably bouncy on badly made roads.