2022 Ford Focus review

Ford Focus review

We road test the new, improved version of the popular Ford Focus – now with mild hybrid assistance available…

The current fourth generation of the Ford Focus five-door family hatchback and estate was launched in 2018 and has just been treated to a mid-life makeover.

Gaining bolder looks, an updated infotainment system and more advanced driver assistance technology, a mild hybrid system is also on offer for the first time.

The update couldn’t have come sooner because the Focus has been slipping down the sales charts as buyers switch to crossovers and fully electric/hybrid cars.

Ford Focus review

It’s also facing serious competition from newer rivals such as the Vauxhall Astra, Peugeot 308, Seat Leon, Mazda 3, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf.

As before, the freshly facelifted Focus is also available as a sporty ST variant or a rufty-tufty Active version which bridges the gap between conventional family cars and SUVs. 

Priced from £22,965, there’s now a choice of three engines – two petrol and one diesel. The three-cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol unit, so familiar to Fiesta and Puma owners, is available with outputs of 123bhp or 153bhp. 

Ford Focus review

Mild-hybrid tech is offered as an option on the less powerful version, and included as standard on the higher-output version, helping to boost both performance and efficiency. A choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic are available on both too. 

Accelerating to 60mph takes 10.2 seconds in the 123bhp car, or just 8.2 seconds on the more powerful mild hybrid model. The latter is the most efficient, returning a decent 54.3mpg, with CO2 emissions of 116g/km. 

If performance is more important to you, then go for the Focus ST hot hatch, which benefits from a 2.3-litre petrol engine delivering 276bhp and a 0-60mph time of just 5.7 seconds.

Ford Focus review

High-mileage drivers still have the option of a diesel – a 118bhp 1.5-litre unit that comes with either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission. 

A 9.6-second 0-60mph sprint time is possible, while Ford claims an impressive 61.4mpg fuel economy figure (CO2 emissions as low as 120g/km).

My test car came in high spec ST-Line Vignale trim and was fitted with the 153bhp version of Ford’s punchy 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine, paired with a six-speed manual gearbox.

Ford Focus review

The refreshed front end adds kerb appeal to the Focus, while overall it has a more athletic stance. The sporty ST-Line models look especially good with a body kit that includes a rear diffuser and spoiler. 

The interior has been smartened up too with all trim levels getting the much improved SYNC 4 13.2-inch landscape-oriented touchscreen infotainment system.

Even though it now incorporates the car’s heating and ventilation controls, it’s slick, colourful and easy to use. Every Focus also now comes with digital dials.

Advanced driver assistance technologies include Blind Spot Assist which can help prevent a driver switching lanes if a potential collision is detected.

Ford Focus review

Before I proceed, let’s just be clear that the 48-volt mild hybrid system used in the Focus is pretty basic. Unlike plug-in and full hybrids, it cannot drive the car alone. 

Instead, it boosts engine acceleration and aids fuel economy (though that’s marginal), and it drives just like an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) car, so no plugging in to charge the small battery.

However, when rivals such as the all-new Vauxhall Astra and Peugeot 308 are available as plug-in hybrids (with all-electric versions to follow in 2023), the Focus is barely keeping up and will lose out in the all-important business sector where lower CO2 levels means big tax benefits.

Ford Focus review

That said, there are plenty of drivers who are not ready (or can’t) make the switch to plug-in and electric vehicles, or simply prefer conventional cars for now, so there is still a place for the Focus.

And here’s the thing – I’ve driven dozens of full hybrid, plug-in hybrid, 100% electric vehicles (EVs) and SUVs with indifferent dynamics, so the Focus’s blend of driver engagement and practicality is a real treat.

Not only does it look the part, but there’s plenty of space inside for five adults, plus the boot is a competitively sized 375 litres (rising to 1,354 litres with the rear seats folded). There’s also a lovely low driving position should you want it – an impossibility in most EVs and SUVs.

Ford Focus review

Then there’s the famed handling characteristics of the Ford Focus. It’s fun to drive, feeling agile and planted with sharp steering and loads of grip.

Push it in faster corners and where some rivals will become unsettled, the Focus takes it in its stride.

That’s not all, the lively little engine punches way above its weight, providing ample power, the slick six-speed manual gearbox is an absolute joy to use and the brakes are reassuringly reactive.

Ford Focus review

The ride is on the firm side, but not uncomfortably so, while the build quality is hard to fault and cabin refinement is excellent.

Three selectable drive modes – normal, sport and eco – add to the overall driving experience.

Verdict: The Ford Focus is a fantastically well sorted car. Fun to drive, stylish, practical, comfortable, economical, and now featuring a  bang up to date infotainment system, it’s still one of the best family hatchbacks on the market.

Ford UK

Peugeot 308 review

Peugeot 308 review

We road test both the hatchback and estate versions of the all-new third generation Peugeot 308

Cards on table time. I had a soft spot for the venerable Mk 2 Peugeot 308. On sale between 2014-21 and winner of the European Car of the Year Award, it was a solid family hatchback (and estate), offering a good, comfortable drive and a choice of solid petrol and diesel engines.

Fast forward to 2022 and Peugeot has got round to rebooting the 308 with the stunning, all-new third generation model which is once again available as a hatchback or estate (branded SW, or Station Wagon).

Unlike its predecessor, the new 308 will eventually be available with a full range of powertrains. So, in addition to basic petrol and diesel engines, there’s a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), with a 100% electric version following in 2023.

Peugeot 308 review

Priced from £24,365, the 308 will once again battle it out with the likes of the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, plus plug-in hybrids including the Mercedes-Benz A250e and Toyota Prius.

Not only does the 308 usher in Peugeot’s latest design language, it’s also the first model to proudly wear the brand’s bold new logo and feature its latest (and much improved) infotainment system.

If it was judged purely on kerb appeal, the 308 would win any group test hands down. The combination of swooping bonnet, large grille, slimmer headlights and lion’s tooth LED daytime running lights give it serious road presence.

Peugeot 308 review

There’s a nod to the Mk 2 in its athletic profile, while its pert rear is adorned with Peugeot’s signature claw-like LED brake lights. And just in case you’re wondering, the new 308 is 11mm longer and 20mm lower than the outgoing car, but more importantly, the wheelbase has grown by 55mm, theoretically delivering more space inside.

I tested petrol, diesel and PHEV versions of the hatchback and estate, and it has to be said, it looks especially cool in Olivine Green.

Peugeot’s also sprinkled some magic dust over the interior. The highlight is the new i-Cockpit system which features a slick “3D” 10-inch instrument cluster ahead of the driver and a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. There’s also an “OK Peugeot” voice assistant which can control functions such as sat nav and media.

Peugeot 308 review

In short, the new infotainment set-up is a huge improvement, and I like the way Peugeot has stuck with short-cut buttons below the main screen. They may add to the “clutter”, but they are much easier and safer to use than tablet-only systems.

Some things stay the same and, like it or not, Peugeot’s driver setup is as quirky as ever, with a dinky, low-slung steering wheel and an instrument panel set back. Finding the perfect driving position is still challenging, so my advice would be to try before you buy (or lease).

The good news is that the cabin feels roomier with the boot benefitting most, though rear legroom is more adequate than generous.

Peugeot 308 review

At launch, you can choose between 1.2 petrol and 1.5-litre diesel engines, with both pushing out 129bhp sent through an eight-speed transmission (there is no manual option!).

The three-cylinder petrol can sprint from 0-62mph is 9.7 seconds and offers fuel economy of up to 52.1mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 122g/km.

The diesel delivers a 0-62mph time of 10.6 seconds CO2 emissions as low as 113g/km and fuel economy of up to 65.4mpg.

Peugeot 308 review

The two plug-in hybrid options use the same 1.6-litre petrol engine, producing either 178bhp or 222bhp. Naturally the PHEVs are particularly tempting for business users looking for tax benefits thanks to low CO2 emissions (down to 25g/km).

The plug-in is the most interesting powertrain option, mating the petrol engine with an 81kW electric motor and 12.4kWh battery and, in theory, offering pure electric travel of up to 37 miles.

Frankly, there isn’t much differences between the two PHEVs – the 178bhp is good for a 0-62mph time of 7.7 seconds, while the 222bhp is 0.1s faster.

Peugeot 308 review

In theory, fuel economy as high as 200mph is possible if your commutes are short and you keep the battery charged up (charging can take as little as 1 hr 55 mins via a 7.4kW connection).

After my test drives, I suspect the real world EV range is closer to 30 miles, which still means your visits to petrol stations could become rare occasions if you’re a low mileage driver.

But remember, PHEVs are most efficient if the battery is charged up regularly. Tackle a long journey with next-to-no charge and you can expect your fuel economy to plummet to 40-45mpg.

Peugeot 308 review

I sampled the 1.2 petrol (hatchback), 1.5 diesel (estate) and most powerful PHEV (estate) and to be frank, there’s little separating the body styles on the road because they drive much the same, even though the hybrids are heavier. Really it will come down to whether you need an estate.

Either way, the hybrid versions have slightly less luggage capacity because the battery pack is stowed under the boot.

Naturally, there’s more divergence when it comes to powertrains. The Stellantis (Peugeot, Citroen, Vauxhall to name but a few brands) group’s ubiquitous three-cylinder 1.2 petrol is a punchy little performer, only becoming vocal if worked really hard.

Peugeot 308 review

And partly because it’s the lightest of the trio of powertrains, it also feels the most agile on the road.

The excellent 1.5 diesel delivers decent torque and is a refined and relaxed cruiser, but is probably best left to high-mileage users.

The plug-in hybrid is arguably the star of the show, offering an impressive blend of performance and economy. In fact, we suspect the cheaper, lower powered PHEV will suit most customers.

In EV mode it’s just like driving an electric car, while the transition to petrol power in hybrid mode is seamless, even if the petrol motor sounds harsh by comparison – especially when pushed.

Peugeot 308 review

The eight-speed auto box used across the range is occasionally hesitant, but mainly smooth, while quick steering, good grip and minimal body lean give the 308 impressive poise.

The ride is generally on the firm side and it’s at its best cruising comfortably along. There’s still fun to be had, and clearly there’s scope for a hot 308 at some stage in the future.

Verdict: Whether you fancy the stunning hatchback or rakish estate, the all-new Peugeot 308 is right up there with the best-in-class. Comfortable, economical and easy to drive, splash out on the frugal plug-in hybrid for a planet-friendly all-rounder.

Peugeot UK

Peugeot 308 review