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