The Ford Focus has found a home with over 12 million owners since it was introduced to the world back in 1998, and with the brand new 2015 model about to descend upon our showrooms, we thought it would be appropriate to take a look back at where the legend started. It has created many memories for many people and their families, as the clever video below demonstrates.
Mk1 Focus 1998-2004
As Ford remind us in the video below, the world changed significantly in 1998, and things that had never been seen before are now among the most important pieces of creative technology that we rely upon today. Google was founded, iMacs were invented, and the Ford Focus
Replacing the much-loved Escort, it was an immediate success, and won Car of the Year awards both in Europe and America in 1999. Praised for its fresh looks, brilliant handling, high equipment levels and impressive build quality, it blitzed competition from all over the world, selling over 4 million in 6 years of production. It was Britain's best-selling car for 6 years in a row, prior to the downsizing revolution.
The design of the Focus immediately set it apart back in the late nineties. Its 'new edge design' featured crisp edges and sharp lines, culminating in striking front and rear light clusters. Thoughtful design features included taillights that were at eye level rather than lower down on the tailgate so that following traffic could see them more easily, and creases in the bonnet to show the driver where the front of the car is while parking. The Ford badge on the front grille swivels cleverly to reveal the bonnet lock, and the child locks required a key to turn them off. The packaging was excellent too, and the sizeable boot didn't encroach on rear leg room - even a 6ft 5inch adult can sit in the back in reasonable comfort.
The handling was praised by more motoring journalists than we would care to count, largely thanks to the multi-link fully independent rear suspension that made the Focus a joy to drive, particularly in comparison to the VW Golfs and Vauxhall Astras of the time. It also made the car comfortable and quiet on long journeys, something which road-tripping families were extremely grateful for.
The original Focus was released in a range of body shapes, including the most popular 5dr hatchback, a striking 3dr hatchback, a practical 5dr estate car and the un-loved (but good value) 4dr saloon. Jeremy Clarkson summed it up well on old Top Gear when he said 'it is more spacious, quieter, more comfortable, much nicer to drive, more economical and possibly safer than any other car in its class. It is superb'. Ford will say that remains the case today, and Clarkson liked it so much he bought one for himself and his family to use.
There was a range of engines available when the car was launched, including a petrol 73bhp 1.4, a 98bhp 1.6, a 113bhp 1.8 and a 128bhp 2.0. The 1.6 managed 41mpg, which was remarkable in the day. A brand new 1.8 turbo diesel was also introduced, with the aim of providing good economy on a long journey. Upon launch, 4 trim levels were available, including CL, Zetec, LX and the top of the range Ghia.
The first performance version of the Mk1 Focus came in the form of the Focus ST170, which added a sports styling and racey alloy wheels, as well as a 170bhp engine that propelled the car from 0-62mph in 7.9s. Things really heated up when in 2002, and inspired by the WRC Focus, Ford unveiled the 215bhp Focus RS, which had a top speed of 144mph and hit 62mph in just 6.2s. It had a wild body kit with flared arches and slashes in the bumpers, and an unusually tasteful rear spoiler. It used the same aftermarket suppliers that the rally team did, including OZ alloy wheels, Brembo brakes and Sparco bucket seats.
Mk2 Focus 2005-20011
The Mk2 Focus came about in 2004, and went on sale in 2005 after 6 years of massive success with the Mk1. At first glance, it appeared that Ford had played it 'safe' with the design of the Mk2, especially considering how radical the first generation car looked. Well, it was safe. Literally. It achieved 5-stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests, and the front bumper was designed to be more accommodating in the event of a collision with a pedestrian - scoring full marks in the pedestrian impact test.
It simply had to drive as well as the old model to make up for the more reserved styling, and fortunately it did. It made use of new technology that allowed the driver to choose between 'comfort', 'standard' and 'sport' modes for the steering weight, and the Mk2 just moved the whole game on a bit. The chassis was even sharper, and refinement had stepped up a notch too.
Interior quality had also improved, and the more conventional dashboard and switchgear layout appealed to families more than car nuts, and it just felt a bit more luxurious than the Mk1. Despite the Mk1 also being praised for its spacious interior, the Mk2 was a much larger car and had even more room in the back, and a massive boot, too. It was great value for money, and sold in droves, thanks to a brilliant range of economical and spritely engines, including a petrol 78bhp 1.4, a 98bhp 1.6, a 123bhp 1.8 and a 142bhp 2.0, which could also be specified with an automatic gearbox. Initially the 1.8 TDCi unit was the diesel engine to have, but this was later joined by a brilliantly economical and smooth 1.6 TDCi which managed 64mpg combined.
A performance version of the Mk2 was launched in 2006 in the Form of the 2.5-litre Focus ST, which had a massive 221bhp from its turbocharged 5-cylinder engine. It weighed quite a bit more than the Mk1 RS however, and so performance was slightly blunted - 0-62mph took 6.6s - very fast for what was still a very practical hatchback, as the ST was available in either 3 or 5 door format. Jeremy Clarkson loved it, and you could have it in a very, very bright orange colour that made the ST stand out from the hot-hatch crowd, which featured the likes of the Vauxhall Astra VXR and the VW Golf GTI. It pulled well in every gear, handled brilliantly and was tremendous fun on both road and track.
An extensive facelift in 2007 extended the life of the Mk2 Focus right up until 2011, and kept the car looking modern and fresh until the new generation arrived. Some new engine technology improved economy and reduced emissions, and it remained at the top of its class for value in the C segment. It was available in 3 and 5dr hatchback form, as well as an estate and even a Coupe-Cabriolet, which although it didn't sell in massive numbers still had plenty of virtues.
Ford really pulled out all the stops when, in 2009, the Ford Focus RS was launched. This was a 297bhp, FWD monster, with a huge rear wing and massively flared arches that harked back to the Escort RS Cosworth of the 1990s. It was an absolute animal, accelerating from 0-62mph in 5.9s and on to a top speed of 163mph. It needed a special limited-slip-differential and a new front suspension design to harness all the power, and it has gained a strong cult following, who are keeping residual values high. Even 2010 cars (with a bit of spec) are selling for over £20,000, even though the starting price was £24,995 when the car was new - an total performance bargain in truth. Then again, nobody does blue-collar performance quite like the blue oval.
Mk3 Focus 2011-2014
This is the Focus that the 2015 model (Mk3.5) will be based upon, albeit with a heavily restyled body and advanced new technologies. That's not to say the Mk3 Focus is based upon old technology however. It's a brilliant car, so brilliant in fact it was the world's best-selling car (in a variety of formats) in 2012. Customers can't get enough of the Ford Focus it seems, and this model simply gives you everything you want - and more.
Let's start with the engine range. There's a Focus engine to suit everyone, whether you're looking for ultimate performance ultimate economy or a mixture of both. Ford must be praised for making use of the 3-time Engine of the Year in the Focus, the 1-litre EcoBoost, which can be specified in either 98bhp or 123bhp form and both manage 60mpg on the combined. For the economically minded, the 1.6 TDCi manages 68mpg in regular format, and the Econetic model manages a really impressive 83mpg combined.
Practicality is another strong suit of the Mk3 Focus, as it has been all along. A 316-litre boot is more than adequate for the weekly shop or a family holiday, and there's plenty of room in the back for kids and even adults. Drivability and quality is superb, and it seems that Ford really do know how to make even the regular family hatchback feel special.
Mk3.5 Focus 2015-
The new Focus is set to heat up the C-segment once again when it's launched in the 3rd week of November 2015, and you'll be able to see one in our Ford dealerships across the UK from that date. It's been heavily restyled and includes Ford's new family grille, as seen on the Fiesta and all new Mondeo. Our 2015 Ford Focus prices and specification details
article has all you need to know.