• Excellent steering, ride and handling; well-appointed and good looking interior; strong, yet economical engine
  • Interior can't match VW Golf for class and quality; small boot; intrusive stability control; gearbox not perfect around town

9 / 10

Ford Focus Sport Review
Ford Focus Sport Review
Ford Focus Sport Review
by Jez Spinks

The Ford Focus has been one of the best small cars to drive ever since it reached Australian shores in 2002.

Although a $38,290 sticker is plastered across the window of the most dynamic version, the ST hot-hatch, an alternative sporty model is available for significantly less.

The Ford Focus Sport costs from $25,890 before on-road costs – or from $28,190 with auto transmission – and in addition to the Ambiente and Trend trim grades below it brings larger, 17-inch alloy wheels, more heavily bolstered front seats, and a suspension more firmly sprung and damped for even greater disciplined body control.

Its value equation over the from-$22,290 Trend is boosted by extra standard equipment including rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights, satellite navigation, five-inch display, reverse-view camera, dual-zone climate control and a nine-speaker Sony audio system.

Frustratingly, a 1.6-litre version of Ford’s highly praised EcoBoost-labelled direct fuel injection turbocharged engines has still to make it to Australia. The Ford Focus Sport that comes to this country from Thailand continues to employ the non-turbocharged 2.0-litre that is now discontinued in Europe.

The four-cylinder, however, does feature direct injection and produces 125kW of power and 202Nm of torque – outputs bettered by only two direct price rivals, the Holden Cruze SRi and Opel Astra Select that share a 1.6-litre turbo achieving 132kW and 230Nm.

Ford Focus Sport Review
Ford Focus Sport Review
Ford Focus Sport Review
Ford Focus Sport Review

It’s also one of the more economical hatches available. Its official consumption of 6.6 litres per 100km is one of the lower figures in the segment, and the Focus 2.0-litre was the joint second most frugal model in CarAdvice’s eight-hatch comparison test (sharing 8.9L/100km with the Honda Civic, both behind the 7.9L/100km of the Volkswagen Golf 90TSI).

Going with the minority of buyers and opting for the standard manual gearbox brings only five ratios rather than the six that have become the norm, but the auto is a contemporary six-speed dual-clutch system.

Like the Volkswagen DSG version that first brought the tricky transmission technology to the masses, Ford’s ‘Powershift’ gearbox isn’t always as smooth at low speed compared with the average conventional, torque converter auto, but it makes a better partner for the 2.0-litre than the five-speed manual. (The opposite of the base 1.6-litre Focus, which needs the manual to get the most out of the engine.)

Neither Ford of Europe nor Ford Australia made the call on the auto’s pseudo-manual tipshift mode, though, and Ford US’s decision to go with tiny thumb buttons on the gearlever – instead of a proper tap-forward, tap-backward tipshifter – has resulted in an ergonomically awkward approach that doesn’t encourage usage by keen drivers.

Ford Focus Sport Review
Ford Focus Sport Review
Ford Focus Sport Review

It isn’t helped by a Sport mode that doesn’t tend to hold gears long enough or change down gears fast enough. Holden’s engineers have done a superior job on the Cruze SRi’s mode of the same name.

This can occasionally hinder the Focus’s flow on tighter roads, as can a sometimes over-eager stability control system, though neither stop the Ford from being highly entertaining.

The Ford Focus is one of the heaviest cars in the small car segment, but while its weight and body roll is noticeable compared with the tippy-toed Mazda 3 and Cruze, it’s nothing short of well balanced.

Tyre grip from the Sport’s 215mm-wide Michelin Premacy rubber is also abundant, giving the Focus faster cornering speed than similarly priced rivals including the Mazda.

For those buying the Ford Focus Sport as more of a heavily furnished model in the range rather than a practical hatch with driver appeal, the accurate, well weighted steering is as enjoyable to experience around town as it is on a winding road.

The Sport’s sport suspension inevitably has a hint of firmness but it also does a great job of catering for both handling and comfort needs.

The 17-inch tyres also play their part because ride quality becomes lumpier on the more expensive Focus Titanium that also employs the sports suspension but sits on bigger, 18-inch wheels.

If excellent dynamics have long been a Focus trait, good interior design and quality have not.

The cabin of the third-generation Ford Focus, however, improved matters greatly when it went on sale in 2010.

While it can’t match the classy and sophisticated Volkswagen Golf in this department – making it no different to any other mainstream hatchback – the Focus Sport interior can’t be accused of being bland or downmarket.

The dash is an array of hexagons (instrument dials) and skewed rectangles (vents), and where straight lines are generally at a premium.

Ergonomics are strong in terms of seat comfort/support and reachability for buttons, switches and dials, though the centre stack’s multitude of small, fiddly buttons makes it look on the busy side.

A trip computer that includes basic sat-nav instructions sits between the rev counter and speedo directly ahead of the driver, while the central five-inch colour screen displays infotainment and maps.

Smart touches for the Ford Focus Sport that lifts its interior above lower spec levels include sections of gloss-black trim and a metallic-style effect for parts of the console and centre stack. Leather can also be found on the steering wheel, handbrake and gearshift lever.

Ford’s excellent Sync system makes pairing and using smartphones simple – especially the voice-activated command set-up that can be engaged by flicking a steering-wheel-mounted lever.

The Sony audio also provides impressive sound quality for a sub-$30,000 small car

Rear legroom is neither best nor worst for the class, but the three-seater bench excels for plushness and supportiveness.

Boot space of 316 litres is towards the lower end of the small-car practicality scale, though, so while the Focus is far from impractical you’ll fit more in most other hatches.

The Ford Focus Sport is a small car with many more positives than negatives, though.

The ST hot-hatch remains our favourite Focus model, but the Sport is the sweet spot of the regular range and one of the best small hatchbacks you can buy in the $25K-$30K bracket.

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Ford Focus Sport Review
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  • Rick Rocker

    I have 1.6 manual, and while far from fast, it’s getting a little better now it’s done 10,000km. Great steering, handling and ride, interior as mentioned is not huge but great lil cup holders in the back near the seats. Around town I get high 6’s to low7’s L/100km which is pretty. It’s light in features but so was the price, the only thing it really needs is cruise control……and the 1.6 turbo with a 6spd manual!

    • Backyard Enterprise

      Got the same car Rick, been great… more of a car for the bride but when I get to drive it I get to appreciate the wonderful go-cart like handling.

      My mate has the 2L Sport and yes, its got lots more punch, but all the 1.6 needs is a tad more weight on the go pedal and the sweet motor sings…. really happy with this car!

  • JoeR_AUS

    your forgot the Pulsar ST-S

  • Greg

    Nissan pulsar 1.6 turbo sts from $24990 has more power than cruze and focus yet not mentioned as a competitor?

    • Phil

      has anyone yet suggested the STS has competitive handling? Might explain the absence of a mention…

      • Jamie

        How is it not a competitor?? It’s the same class of car, price range and equipment. Fail to see how the focus has better handling means the pulsar isn’t a competitor, by that logic I could argue the focus isnt a competitor of the turbo pulsar as it has superior power and torque figures…

    • Neil_Way

      Doesn’t appear as though the Pulsar handles as well as the class-leaders. Definitely more of a Cerato/Corolla rival than one to challenge the Golf/3/Focus trio.

  • filippo

    Under negatives I would be more inclined to mention the lack of a 6-speed manual than a small boot (which, as you state yourself, is smaller than some of the competitors but not actually small).

    • racrepus

      Not to mention the polarising styling that won’t appeal to a lot of people.

      • Rocket

        The styling is not as pretty as a Mazda 3 but has a more purposeful look IMO.

        • Nick

          The Mazda 3 is not pretty by any standards…

        • gibbut

          3 is ugly focus is nice

  • Autoholic

    Looks like a better car than a Corolla.

    • Zaccy16

      yep the focus is far superior to the sub par corolla! this version of the focus IMO is the best value and best focus excluding the ST, after driving both the titanium and sport the sport is cheaper but has a much better ride and turning circle but still has fantastic handling and steering, if it had a 6 speed manual and a touch screen or more simplified controls it would be very very close indeed to the golf!

  • Andrew

    As an owner I think the biggest problem with this car is its turning circle; makes for a very cumbersome car which feels wider & longer than it actually is. Otherwise it’s an excellent car – I think the reviewer is being harsh on the automatic gearbox.

    • marc

      ..my Magna has the same turning circle as the USS Missouri.

      • Sumpguard

        Take a D40 Navara for a drive and hang a U turn Andrew. They are truly woeful.

    • Rocket

      Most small/medium FWD cars I have driven have had a poor turning circle which makes them no easier to park and do U turns than a large RWD car. Just ask a Taxi driver who has changed from a Falcon to a Camry Hydrid.

      • F1orce

        It’s simple physics. FWD car, unless reversing, will have inferior turning circles and general dynamics.

        • sgf

          It’s simple physics.

          A FWD car will have the same turning circle whether reversing or going forward.

        • Peter

          I’m not arguing, but how is the turning circle physics? I always guessed it was because of mechanical requirements for the drivetrain essentially restricting the amount that the front wheels can turn, I’m genuinely interested if that isnt the case. But having had a number of FWD cars and now RWD I’d agree generally that the turning circles are inferior (especially volvo which have the sideways engine as well) although for some reason the s40 has a fair turning circle and excellent handling, and s60T6 predominantly FWD AWD had brilliant handling but poor turning circle, and the Benz A250 sport had very good turning circle (far better than the s40 or the v40) and handled pretty well too, but I suppose it is pretty small.

          • F1orce

            Yeah the mechanical restriction is also another factor.

            But RWD cars are being ‘pushed’ where as FWD are being pulled. The RWD are generally more nimble and turn-ins are better.

          • Peter

            Cheers. Yes I have the RWD V8 now and find that, especially accelerating through roundabouts where the understeer in FWD can make for a heartstarter

          • gibbut

            a good fwd ( not a cheap fwd ) wont understeer

          • gibbut

            or if you are brave ( and have some power ) try lift off oversteer, damn thats fun!

          • gibbut

            and more fun on a tight track, if you are a good driver :)

      • gibbut

        my jazz can turn in the smallest of areas

      • MisterCritical

        School boy design, I call it. Designed by people that are great on Autocad/Solidworks, whatever, but have never driven a motor vehicle. Interesting to note that on the GKN website, they list a CV joint capable of operation to 50°, which would give my 2003 Rodeo a turning circle radius of around 2.6m. This vehicle is incapable of turning in twice that radius.

    • antant

      I agree, I have the Titanium and it has a turning circle of a boat.

  • Tony Abbotts No1 Fan

    I find the look of the Focus has grown on me & I think its not a bad looker, but styling is a subjective issue & it may not be everyones cup of tea.

    However like all previous Focus models, it does handle extremely well & they are very entertaining to drive.

    Gets down to priorities I guess

  • M

    I bought the Sport a few months back – excellent performance, handles well and a great package for the price. I personally prefer the look of the Mazda 3 but the new Focus’ design I can’t fault.

  • $29896495

    Good compromise on the back seat photo CA. One forward and one back with the person behind the rear set seat. Hope it wasn’t an accident and that you actually thought of it.

  • LM90

    Just spend the extra cash and get a Golf!

    • Rocket

      The only extra cash you will spend will be on out of warranty repairs.

    • gibbut

      ah why? the new golf is dull, at least the focus has some shape

    • pete

      my friend just did that and returned the golf after 3 days after the car would not accelerate past 15khm. Got a full refund.

      • Golfschwein

        Yup. Somewhere else you wrote 24 hours. I’m sorry, but it beggars belief that someone would persist driving a brand new car home at 15 km/h from the dealership without having the smarts to turn around and ask what’s wrong and, secondly, eventually take it back to the dealership who then said “oh, rightio, here’s your money back”, seemingly without question. What was the discussion around warranty?

        • Heinrich

          Yeah, there are plentiful true VW horror stories to go around, no need to be making up fake ones.

  • Jon

    great to see that there’s a decent ‘sports’ hatch (i.e semi warm /warm hatch) … however it’s a let down to see it only comes in a 5 sp manual!!!!!!!!

  • Poison_Eagle

    I think if we got the 1.0 Ecoboost in this, it would gain an unassailable lead for dynamics compared to rivals.

    • fgh


      • Poison_Eagle

        I said handling, from less weight over the front wheels- Not straight line performance…

  • KiddingMe

    I am personally not a fan of the front, but it has grown on me very much and I find the centre console stack to be far too busy.

    If it wasn’t for the front bumper, I’d say it’s a better looking car than the new Mazda 3. I much prefer the interior of the focus too.

    Other than that, I’d own one in a heart beat. Clearly the best small car, by far!

    Such a shame a marketing department doesn’t exist at Ford Australia.

  • aaaaplay

    “Gearbox not perfect around town” slight understatement. I own a 2011 Ford Focus Sport (German Made) with the 2L and Powershift. If your not accelerating into every corner and driving it like a sports car it shudders and tries to find stay in five and six all the time. Feels like a manual during take off. It seems as though you cant relax unless you want shuddering. If you take it to Ford they’ll pull out a memo, ask you if you experience shuddering, grinding noises, if it feels as though your towing a trailer and then says “it is a characteristic of the dry clutch autos”. Diesels use wet clutches and so do MK2 Focus’s and Volkswagen. Petrol Powershift’s however don’t, Ford Australia needs to acknowledge a problem like Ford in the US did. I love everything about the car the only thing that ruins it for me is the TRANSMISSION!!!

  • Brian

    Why do motoring journalists here and elsewhere regard the Golf as the holy grail of cars. Why compare the Focus with a Golf? Which brand recently recalled tens of thousands of of Golfs in Australia because of safety, reliability and transmission problems? Which brand has very expensive repairs/servicing? Which brand has tee’d off its customers with poor response to notable problem? Which brand has had it sales very recently fall by 20-25%?
    I don’t want my Focus compared to a Golf.
    It’s a good car my Focus is.

    • Glenn59

      Look up the respected German TUV Reliability survey on Google and access reliability data for the top cars in reliability. The Golf comes 25th and the Focus comes 40th! VW has badly handled problems with two main components – DSG Transmissions and the Twincharge motors. Both issues have been addressed. Most surveys show VW as ranking above Ford for reliability. Almost all reviews also rank the driving qualities of the Golf above the Focus. The Focus is a good thing but the VW is better according to the bulk of expert reviews.

  • Ian

    The turn signal switch is at the left of the steeling wheel, can FORD tell me why it’s like that for Australia driver? They are that lazy, no wonder their sales figure is taking a dive.

    • Mazza

      The 2013 Focus S (auto) my wife test drove and bought today, had the turn signal stalk on the ‘right’ side. Ford must have changed it recently.

    • Robbo

      Go and tell all the euro cars that are sold here the same issue, see what response you get. Or just deal with it? I find it easier personally. Keep one hand on the wheel whilst operating the stalk and gears. Or just own a BMW in QLD and don’t use the stalk at all hahahaha :)

  • Danny

    My VRX Sportback kicks all their arses FACT

Ford Focus Specs

Car Details
Body Type
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
Engine Size
Max. Torque
202Nm @  4450rpm
Max. Power
125kW @  6600rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
Bore & Stroke
Compression Ratio
Valve Gear
Drivetrain Specifications
Drive Type
Final Drive Ratio
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
Fuel Tank Capacity
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
6.6L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Ground Clearance
Towing Capacity
Brake:0  Unbrake:0
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
Turning Circle
Front Rim Size
Rear Rim Size
Front Tyres
215/50 R17
Rear Tyres
215/50 R17
Wheel Base
Front Track
Rear Track
Front Brakes
Rear Brakes
Standard Features
Auto Climate Control with Dual Temp Zones
Control & Handling
17 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Hill Holder
Adjustable Steering Wheel - Tilt & Telescopic, Cruise Control, Leather Steering Wheel, Parking Distance Control, Power Steering, Satellite Navigation
Radio CD with 9 Speakers
Fog Lights - Front, Rear Spoiler
Cloth Trim, Power Windows
Dual Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Service Interval
12 months /  15,000 kms
36 months /  100,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Country of Origin