Ford Focus 1.6 Ecoboost Zetec S (2012) CAR review

Published: 22 June 2012

I do like a Ford Focus. And I do spend a deal of time in the boozer explaining to those who get enough practice to hit the bullseye of a soap-on-mirror target with a freshly squeezed blackhead every single time that they really should spare themselves the price of a knackered old BMW with a sewing machine under the bonnet and consider the Blue Oval alternative.

Which made my recent drive in the new Ford Focus 1.6 Ecoboost Zetec S all the more pertinent.

Why the Ford Focus is the perfect first car

Specifically, I tend to punt an original Mk1 Ford Focus at younger motorists; the car Ford spent so much money developing it nearly knackered the company.

Never works, of course… The only downside to this job is that the man who sidles up to discuss his choice of next motorcar has already made his mind up. He doesn’t want an argument, he simply wants affirmation. Well, he won’t get it from me. Not if the object of his desire is a BMW with an exhaust pipe the diameter of a MacDonald’s milk shake straw he won’t.

A recent hoon in a Zetec S spec third-generation Ford Focus has done much to reaffirm my position… With, however, one or two reservations…

Ford Focus (2012): is it a looker?

Ever since his Audi days, I’ve always been a big Martin Smith (or, given the maw of the impending Mondeo, should that be Aston Martin Smith?) fan. But I can’t help feeling that every successive generation of Focus is just a whisker less easy on the eye than that first, svelte masterpiece.

There’s a whiff of Eastern market-appeasing bling creeping into both exterior and interior styling of 2012’s Focus, and I’m slightly at a loss to explain a radiator grille which appears to blank off a disconcertingly large percentage of its surface area; I don’t see why what works for the VW Up can’t work for a Focus… 

Inside the 2012 Ford Focus

Moreover, though I enjoy the deep-frozen kingfisher bill dial needles of the instrument binnacle, I’m not crazy about the cheap imitation of a Vuvuzela Spice (plastic and annoying) Vertu telephone that is the centre console styling, nor the fact that the instrument binnacle and centre console multi-information/infotainment screens don’t actually match. A bizarre oddity, since they do, perfectly, in the new C-Max…

This also constitutes the first Focus in which I’ve felt the need to reach for the instruction manual… Over and above the gently counter-intuitive switchgear appendant to the centre console screen itself, there are two identical steering wheel-mounted switches – both sport a central ‘OK’ button surrounded by a quadrant of arrows – for the purposes of navigating your way through the endless menus in this car… Then there’s another raft altogether for controlling the stereo.

Do we want all these gadgets?

I know hatchback buyers all want rafts of premium toys these days (well, I actually only know that because that’s what the manufacturers tell me the thoroughly clinic’ed punters want, and I can just hear the key question now: ‘Would you like, a) loads of trick driver assistance and safety systems, b) nothing, c) a smack in the face with a week-old mackerel?’), but must the cost of operating them be a swift punt up the luggage for the car in front?

Granted, buyers will learn to live with, if not exactly love, these control systems, but I wonder how they’ll fare with a couple of other elements which smack of the increasing bent towards design dictatorship…

From an ergonomic perspective, the centre console box/armrest is little short of infuriating. It’s an increasingly prevalent detail in many cars of this ilk and, in a manual, just plain crazy; car dictating gearchange style to driver rather than vice versa, simply because you can’t drop your elbow to the height you’d prefer. I know we need boxes to house our mobile connectivity devices, but really…

This is a continuation of the ergonomic bullying that spawned steering wheels covered in divots, making it possible to hold it comfortably only at quarter to three. Those of us taught to drive with hands at ten to two continue to be unamused…

The driving position in the new Ford Focus

Happily, the driving position’s as good as it ever was, but I’m not sure the seat’s quite as comfortable as I remember it. Is it a new design? Have they taken the money out? Or has my arse just changed shape that much between Mk 1 and Mk 3 Ford Focus?

Oh, and, though we love the wired front screen for rapid demist and defreeze on winter mornings, I do really notice the wires now after dark, when they conspire to distort the image of oncoming headlamps quite perceptibly…


Don’t get me wrong, the new Ford Focus is still a hell of a car for a C-segment hatch, and largely a fantastic drive. But I can’t help feeling that it’s currently just being meddled with for the sake of adding something, anything, new to each successive generation…

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche