Focus on a brilliant entry-level vehicle

Ford Focus
Ford Focus

The Studio version of Ford’s massive-selling Focus shows quite how brilliant an entry-level vehicle can be. Andy Enright reports.

The Studio might mark the entry-level point in Ford’s Focus line-up but it’s well-equipped and very good value for money. The 85bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine’s no scorcher, but economy and emissions are respectable. A strong all-rounder.

This third generation Focus majors on space, build quality and integration of its advanced control systems. Buying the entry-level car nets you the benefits of this investment at a knock-down price. If you think it’s easy to build a mass-market car, take a good look at the Focus Studio and you’ll begin to appreciate its genius.

The Focus Studio is offered with a 1.6-litre Ti-VCT petrol engine that develops 85bhp. Given that the Focus is a fairly sizeable piece of metalwork, you might reasonably expect the Studio to be a little slow off the mark. You wouldn’t be wrong either. Still, for the price at which Ford is offering this car, it’s unreasonable to expect anything too rapid. The 62mph benchmark (100km/h in new money) arrives in 14.9 seconds on the way to a top speed of 106mph. You’ll have seen a 105PS version of this engine elsewhere in the Focus range, but this slightly detuned version with its five-speed manual box offers much the same refinement and ride quality.

Even this Studio version gets Ford’s fiendishly clever ‘torque vectoring’ system. This works by nipping at the brake of the inside front wheel as you turn into a corner, helping to reduce understeer. You might well notice it drag the car towards the apex on wet roads if you’re pressing on. The ESP stability control defaults to the on position at start up, though a delve through the menu system can switch the traction control off if necessary. The electric power steering system is quick and accurate, if lacking a little something in detailed feedback.

With each successive generation, Ford has loosened the belt of the Focus a little such that it now measures 4358mm in length by 1858mm in width. This means that it occupies a good deal more road space than a Sierra, which was in the class above, and is as wide as a first generation Mondeo. Advances in ergonomics and packaging have freed up additional space such that it’s hard to quibble with the amount of room on offer. The boot is 316 litres and should you fold the rearseats down, you’ll have over 1,100 litres of room at your disposal.

As well as making the car bigger, Ford has aimed to make the Focus feel better built and that applies just as squarely at the entry point of the range as it does elsewhere. The Focus Studio is a good-looking car, the five-spoke 16-inch alloys making it appear anything but bargain basement, although the black door handles do jar a little on the Moondust Silver and Frozen White paint finishes. Go for Panther Black and this little giveaway is neatly disguised.

The Focus feels genuinely well-built. There’s a maturity to the styling inside the car that escapes many of its rivals.

It’s hard to be too disappointed by the Focus Studio. Cheap insurance and very low servicing costs are a given.

There can’t be too many vehicles that have had more hours of development and testing poured into them than Ford’s Focus and in its entry level Studio guise, it stands out as a singular bargain. For less than £14,000, the Focus Studio is the beneficiary of this massive investment and it shows.

The engine will disappoint if you like a car with a bit of muscle in reserve, but other than that it’s genuinely hard to find fault. It’s even notably well-equipped in a section of the market where some manufacturers still ask extra for features such as air conditioning, stability control and a USB-compatible stereo.

Once again, Ford demonstrates that when it comes to building this sort of car, it simply makes smarter decisions.