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

Vauxhall Astra review

2022 Vauxhall Astra hatchback

We road test the all-new Vauxhall Astra hatchback – is it as good to drive as it looks?

When the Vauxhall brand was bought in 2017 it was the best thing that could have happened to the UK’s oldest surviving car brand.

Cynics thought it would be left to wither on the vine while PSA focused on Peugeot and Citroen.

Again in 2021, many thought the worst when PSA merged with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), joining yet more brands including Fiat, Jeep and Alfa Romeo.

The reality is that new ownership has led to a renaissance for Vauxhall. Just look at the latest Corsa and Mokka – the first fruits of the merger. The supermini, which is available with petrol, diesel and pure electric powertrains, was the UK’s biggest selling new car of 2021, and is leading the way again in 2022.

2022 Vauxhall Astra hatchback

The eighth-generation Astra hatchback (it will be joined by a handsome Sports Tourer variant later this year) is a step-up from its dull, but worthy predecessor.

Initially offered as a petrol, diesel or plug-in hybrid (PHEV), a 100% electric version will join the range in 2023.

If a car could jump straight to the top of the class purely based on looks, then the Astra would be a contender.

With a striking new design, it’s a car transformed. Slighter larger than the outgoing model, it has a sporty stance and Vauxhall’s ‘Vizor’ front end design works especially well.

2022 Vauxhall Astra hatchback

It’s also available in some eye-catching colours, including Electric Yellow and Cobalt Blue.

Competitively priced from £24,315, there are three trim levels – Design, GS Line and Ultimate.

You get 16-inch alloys wheels as standard with Design, plus a 10-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, LED headlights, cruise control and keyless start.

GS Line brings 17-inch black alloys, along with adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate and heated front seats and steering wheel.

2022 Vauxhall Astra hatchback

Top of the range is Ultimate adds 18-inch grey alloys, Vauxhall’s new ‘IntelliLux’ LED headlights, a head-up display and Alcantara seat trim.

Under the bonnet there’s a choice of two 1.2-litre, three-cylinder petrol turbo engines (109bhp or 128bhp), the more powerful of which gives you the option of an automatic gearbox. There’s also a 1.5-litre diesel, which produces 128bhp.

The higher output petrol is the fastest with a 0-60mph of 9.7 seconds, while the diesel is the most frugal (up to 62.9mpg) and has the lowest CO2 emissions (as low as 118g/km).

However, if you can afford the range-topping Hybrid-e, it mates a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine (148bhp) to an electric motor, giving a combined output 178bhp.

2022 Vauxhall Astra hatchback

A 12.4kWh lithium ion battery supplies an EV range of up to 43 miles and can be charged in less than two hours courtesy of a 7.4kW home charger.

In theory, economy could be as high as 256mpg, while CO2 emissions are a low as 24g/km.

As ever with any PHEV, it works most efficiently if the battery is kept charged up.

The big takeaway is that if your daily commute is around the 25-mile mark (in line with the UK average) and you can charge overnight at home, you’ll save a stack of money on fuel and your visits to the petrol station could be few and far between.

2022 Vauxhall Astra hatchback

It’s no slouch either, with a 0-60mph time of 7.7 seconds and a top speed of 140mph (up to 88mph in electric mode).

We tested the PHEV, plus the 1.2 (128bhp) petrol, which in mid-spec GS Line is expected to be the biggest seller.

The first thing you notice inside is that it’s spacious and uncluttered up front with the slick new infotainment set-up. Thankfully there are still some short-cut buttons below the centre touchscreen, so accessing the heating, for instance, doesn’t involve flicking through a menu.

The interior is well enough put together, but the Astra won’t be troubling premium opposition when it comes to the quality of materials used (there are very few soft-touch surfaces for one), then there’s the amount of road and wind noise that makes its way into the cabin at higher speeds. That said, the seats are surprisingly comfortable and it’s easy to find a good driving position.

2022 Vauxhall Astra hatchback

It’s a little tight for larger passengers in the rear, while the boot (422 litres) is around 40 litres more than the Volkswagen Golf, Seat Leon and Ford Focus. However, the PHEV version has a smaller 352-litre boot because of the battery storage under the floor of the car.

With the split-folding rear seats down, the hatchback offers 1,339 litres of total space, compared to the hybrid’s 1,268 litres.

On the road, the 1.2-litre engine is thrummy if pushed, but punchy enough for everyday use and settles down nicely at motorway speeds. However, more spirited drivers will have to work it fairly hard to make rapid progress.

That said, it rides well, there’s good grip and the steering is light and responsive. Driven sensibly it will reward you with fuel economy as high as 50mpg.

We’d advise sampling both the six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic gearbox. The manual has a long throw and isn’t the slickest.

2022 Vauxhall Astra hatchback

If you can afford it, the PHEV offers more performance, refinement and potentially hugely reduced running costs.

It’s a little heavier than its petrol-only sibling, thanks to the battery pack and electric motor, so the set-up is a little stiffer, but it feels settled and progress is generally smoother.

The switch from petrol to hybrid and vice versa is almost seamless, while body control in more challenging corners is well controlled in both versions.

The Vauxhall Astra is one of the UK’s most popular cars with a success story stretching back to 1979. The Mk8 is a big improvement and the best yet, even if it’s not top of the class for driver engagement.

Its formidable list of rivals includes the Ford Focus, Mazda3, Kia Ceed, Seat Leon, Toyota Corolla, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf. Oh, and not forgetting it’s French cousin, the new Peugeot 308 (both cars share the same platform).

Verdict: The all-new Vauxhall Astra is one of the most stylish and capable hatchbacks on the market. Competitively priced, comfortable and cheap to run, it handles well and is another winner for the reinvigorated Vauxhall brand.

Vauxhall 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

Revealed: UK’s Top 10 used cars

Gareth Herincx

4 days ago
Auto News

Used car lot

Sales of second-hand cars are rocketing in the UK, according to the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The amount of used cars changing hands more than doubled in the last few months. Year on year, the market grew 108.6% in the second quarter – that’s a near-record 2,167,504 second-hand vehicles.

The boom is being driven by various factors including pent-up demand after successive lockdowns, a global chip shortage that has dented production of new vehicles and people remaining wary of public transport as they return to work.

UK’s Top 10 used cars

  1. Ford Fiesta – 94,206
  2. Vauxhall Corsa – 73,366
  3. Ford Focus – 72,105
  4. Volkswagen Golf – 69,582
  5. Vauxhall Astra – 56,189
  6. BMW 3 Series – 48,849
  7. MINI – 48,140
  8. Volkswagen Polo – 40,372
  9. Nissan Qashqai – 35,897
  10. Audi A3 – 34,888

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Do you live in a UK car theft hotspot?

Gareth Herincx

3 days ago
Auto News

Vehicle crime and car theft

Make sure you take steps to protect your vehicle – especially if you live in London and you drive one of Britain’s most popular cars.

Co-op Insurance has carried out a four-year study based on actual claims and nine out of the Top 10 car theft postcodes are located in London.

Top 20 UK vehicle theft hotspots (by frequency of claims)

1.        Lambeth
2.        Kensington and Chelsea
3.        Ealing
4.        Southwark
5.        Lewisham
6.        Wandsworth
7.        Greenwich
8.        Hounslow
9.        Watford
10.     Westminster
11.     Hammersmith and Fulham
12.     Three Rivers
13.     Preston
14.     Slough
15.     Spelthorne
16.     Stevenage
17.     Barking and Dagenham
18.     Havering
19.     Peterborough
20.     Southampton
*Co-op Insurance, 2016-2020

The research also revealed the makes and models of cars most targeted by criminals, with popular family cars (Ford Fiesta, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Corsa) heading the list.

“Having your car stolen is one of the most distressing experiences a person can endure and sadly, it is still something that blights everyday life, particularly in our cities,” said Paul Evans, head of motor insurance at Co-op Insurance.

“Our claims data shows that car crime rates in London have remained continuously high, but it’s interesting to see that places like Preston and Stockport are also emerging hotspots in the North.”

Top 10 cars with a theft claim reported (as a % of total theft claims)

1.        Ford Fiesta
2.        Ford Focus
3.        Vauxhall Corsa
4.        Vauxhall Astra
5.        Volkswagen Golf
6.        Land Rover Evoque
7.        Land Rover Discovery
8.        Audi A3
9.        Mercedes C Class
10.     Audi A4
*Co-op Insurance, 2016-2020

TV consumer champion and former car dealer, Dominic Littlewood, added: “Whether our cars are parked on the driveway or in an urban car park, they are vulnerable to car thieves who are becoming increasingly well organised in targeting the vehicles on their wish list.

“There are a number of really simple steps that car owners can take to make sure their vehicle doesn’t look so appealing – from simply turning your car wheels to face the kerb and investing in some simple deterrents like steering wheel locks.

“And don’t think it won’t happen to you, cheaper makes and models are becoming more attractive than ever to thieves. It’s also important to get the right car insurance in place so if the worst does happen, you’ll get the money to buy another car quickly and conveniently.”

 Find out the car crime rates in your area – https://www.coop.co.uk/insurance/hub/park-smart.

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