It’s no secret that the current Ford Focus is lagging behind the competition in a few areas and is nearing retirement.

The new generation is just around the corner (slated for local introduction later this year) but is it worth the wait? Can the third-gen Focus still take on the class leaders? I put the entry-level Trend model through its paces over the weekend to find out.

Saturday

Day one would be the easiest day faced by the Focus with a road trip out to Colebee (around 50km west of Sydney) followed by a few small trips in and around the area.

First thing to note is the Focus feels a bit tight up front and in the back, similar to a Mazda 3. You’ll find that having two teenagers and a child in the back will result in them getting on each other’s nerves, even during a five minute trip. Maybe not the best car for family duties.

If you’re a lanky bugger you’ll appreciate the generous headroom available, just a pity that’s cancelled out by the squeezy legroom.

The interior also feels like you’re stuck in a black and white movie, it’s incredibly outdated.

Toyota’s relatively bland Corolla has a higher quality feel on the inside. Hell, even an FGX Falcon feels more up-to-date than the Focus.

Unlike either, the 8.0-inch touchscreen comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is a relief as the rest of the multimedia system is showing its age.

The 8.0-inch touchscreen comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk) The 8.0-inch touchscreen comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk)

On the other hand, the exterior has matured well. It isn’t drop dead gorgeous, but the ‘Candy Red’ paint applied to our test car, combined with Ford’s current design language (established by the Evos concept car back in 2011), is enough to keep the Focus from being as forgettable as a tax return. The black plastic side skirts are a letdown though, and overall it has to be said the Blue Oval’s hatch isn’t as appealing, from a design point-of-view, as the Mazda 3.

Although, stepping up to either the Sport or Titanium model improves the styling with bigger alloys, and a ‘sporty’ bodykit. You can argue these are the best looking in the Focus line-up, as the ST and RS hot-hatches can be too ‘boy racer’ for some.

Dubbed 'EcoBoost', Ford’s 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine is, in short a gem.

The turbocharged 1.5-litre four cylinder produces 132kW/240Nm. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk) The turbocharged 1.5-litre four cylinder produces 132kW/240Nm. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk)

Power is rated at 132kW, which is outstanding for this price bracket. And on the torque front only the Golf 110TSI Trendline (250Nm) beats the Focus (240Nm), but the VW still trails the Ford by 22kW on peak power.

The EcoBoost unit is great on the highway with maximum torque available between 1600-5000rpm. The Focus effortlessly overtakes slower cars without needing to wind the tacho needle too far to the right.

Around the suburbs of Colebee it was much of the same story; more than enough grunt to dart from one shopping centre to the next, and the engine wasn't stressed with four passengers on board.

However, if safety is a high priority, the Trend might not be the car for you.

Our test car was fitted with the optional 'Technology Pack' ($2000) which includes adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning and lane keep assist. In 2018 a lot of these features should be standard on a car costing close to $25k (before on-road costs).

The lack of ISOFIX points would also be off-putting for parents, especially when the Ford’s major rivals have these child seat anchors.

Sunday

Sunday was adventure day. We had no destination other than to drive and to see if the Focus has a fun side.

Just driving on the highway you wouldn’t think so, it’s quiet and comfortable, but when taken to the back roads, the Focus becomes a different beast.

I decided to take the exit to Wilton, around 80 kays to the south, taking the long way and exploring the car's dynamic abilities. 

To my surprise, the engine, suspension and gearbox worked together to create a driving experience that  rivals the Mazda 3, without the overly firm ride and with less road noise.

The 16-inch alloy wheels are wrapped in 205/60 Michelin rubber which is big enough for a car of this size, and there's plenty of grip on offer through the corners. In fact, the Focus encourages you to push it that bit further and enjoy the drive.

The Trend comes with 16-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk) The Trend comes with 16-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk)

The six-speed (traditional torque-converter) auto is smooth on up and downshifts, no matter how hard you’re pushing along. But I do have a problem with the shifter.

Buttons on the side of the gear knob allow manual changes, and their location can prove annoying, depending on your seating position. If you like to set your driving position close, or even a medium distance from the steering wheel, it's too easy to (accidentally) elbow your front passenger while reaching for the shift buttons.

Our test car cost $27,190 before on road costs thanks to the inclusion of the ‘Candy Red’ paint ($500), the 'Convenience Pack' ($300), and the Technology Pack ($2000). For this type of money you can get yourself into the next level Focus or its better equipped rivals.

The 'Candy Red' paint is a $500 option. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk) The 'Candy Red' paint is a $500 option. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk)

The Convenience Pack adds auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, 'follow me home' lighting and an auto-dimming rear view mirror. With all honesty, it’s worth saving that $300 and putting it towards something else.

It’s also worth considering that for similar money more performance-focused options such as the Mazda 3 SP25 and Hyundai i30 SR are available. Both are currently the best offerings in the warm hatch segment and will outshine the Trend.

Ford claims average, combined cycle fuel economy of 6.2-litres per 100km, and over the weekend I averaged 6.9L/100km, and with a light foot there is no reason why you couldn't achieve the factory number.

However, it would be a shame not to push that engine because it’s a rewarding experience and worth sacrificing fuel economy for a 'keen' driver.