Ford Focus Zetec S 1.6 EcoBoost 180PS road test review

Ford Focus Zetec S 1.6 EcoBoost 180PS road test review

The TotallyMotor Verdict


There are two ways to approach Ford’s third-generation Focus; frugal or fast. The new 1-litre EcoBoost Focus will be in dealers soon with a little 3-cylinder, turbocharged petrol motor making some impressive, diesel-like economy promises. And initial reports on that car are very good, and we’ll be driving it very soon. Or there’s the faster Focus fun.

Ford’s popular C-segment motor has built up quite a reputation for nicely UK-flavoured chassis dynamics; great for controlled and comfortable cruising with the family, with safe and stable braking, but those dynamics also translate very nicely to the quicker Focus models; ST and RS.

Well, the latest ST is due soon – no official word on a snorty RS – and it sounds rather serious with around 250bhp of turbo power and lots of clever front-end stuff to properly direct those raging horses. But, until then, we’ve got this Frozen White Zetec S to play with.

There’s a 180bhp, 4-cylinder EcoBoost petrol engine up front; backed up by the latest in frugal turbocharging tech; the suspension is sports-flavoured, as is the styling and interior. But there’s also an eye on economy. So, for a £20,700 starting price for the petrol Zetec S – there is a 163bhp diesel too – you get 7.9secs to 62mph; 138mph at the top; CO2 at 139g/km and a quoted combined fuel economy of 47.1mpg. Sounds good so far…


Ford Focus Zetec S 1.6 EcoBoost 180PS road test review

First impressions:
Ford haven’t gone wild with the extra body styling for the Zetec S model, but they are gently increasing the volume, with the coming ST looking traditionally fast-Ford in-yer-face.

For Zetec S we get dedicated front and rear bumpers and side skirts, that are all deeper, sharper and more detailed than standard, and at the back there’s a sporty black diffuser-type device that houses one stainless steel slash-cut exhaust tip.

Also included in the S-price are these snowflake-style 17-inch alloy wheels. Not my favourite from Ford right now, but hey, that’s all a taste thing. I’d like to see the 18-inch 5-spoke Focus alloys under these here arches, but these 17s are tall and flat-fronted (which makes them look taller still) and do a respectable job of filling the arches.

The suspension is of the sports variety – but no lower in stance than your usual Focus – and we’ve got a fairly juicy roof tip spoiler to round off the exterior power-party. There’s modern, LED-enhanced lighting front and rear, too.

I’m liking what I see wrapped up in this Frozen White paint job, although Micastone (a dolphin-like grey) is my current Focus hue of choice.


Into the interior:
The new Ford Focus has been one of my top choices from a driving comfort point of view since I first tried the car early last year. And since then I’ve driven pretty much every variant of the Focus range available. And for driving comfort – for a taller tester – the Focus never disappoints.

Many hours were invested to make sure that Focus fits as many shapes and sizes as possible, and as usual when I slide into a Focus, I drop the seat low, quite far back and pull the steering wheel towards me. All this adjustment adds up to almost glove-like driving comfort.

This test car enjoys the Interior Pack – an £800 option that includes half-red-leather seats, heated front seats, electric driver’s seat, power rear windows and a full-closure alarm system.

For me, the standard sports seats are plenty handsome enough in dark fabric and I’m happy to manually adjust my driving position etc. I guess whether I’d go for this £800 option depends on the cash situation at the time.

An option I would go for – at £1,050 – is the Driver Assistance Pack. For just over a grand you get Active City Stop to help avoid rear-enders; Lane Departure Warning for those that might snooze while driving; Lane Keeping Aid to keep you on the black-top; Traffic Sign Recognition which very usefully reminds you of the current speed limit with a colourful road sign displayed in the dash; Auto High Beam which I found brilliantly flicked between high and low beam on dark country lanes automatically and never once blinded an oncoming driver; and the Blind Spot Information System that illuminates a orange LED in each side mirror if it spots a car creeping up in your blindspot.

Yes, it’s £1,050, but, say over three years of solid driving, what could that little lot save you in terms of penalty points, prangs avoided and general piece of mind?

However, included in the Zetec S basic £20,700 price is a good quality interior, leather on the steering wheel, and an okay stereo with MP3/iPod connectivity that actually includes the connecting cable – although it’s in the glovebox which is a stretch for the driver.


The drive:
We know that the new Focus is one of the very best handling C-segment cars that you can buy, but have Ford managed to keep it calm and collected for the commute, grin-tastic for the back lanes, and respectably frugal for everyday life?

Short answer; yes.

I would’ve wanted a little more boost-thump from the turbo as it kicks in with its power-adding punch, but I think the Ford engineers kept the Zetec S smooth rather than wild, and the idea of smaller turbochargers is that they spool up quicker for early low-end engine torque.

Saying that, the 6-speed S can hit 90mph in 3rd gear – where conditions allow – so that gives you some idea as to how quick this car is if you march it smoothly through the smooth gearbox. It just delivers its speed in such a refined manner that I didn’t notice as much "action" as in louder cars. I’d say it still felt quicker than the 7.9secs to 62mph sprint time would suggest though, and 2nd gear will see off 60mph for you.

However, this smooth and useable engine (that I thought I'd like more punch from) really comes into its own on the empty back lanes, with Zetec S feeling very easy to drive with gusto.

The sports suspension is one of the very best I’ve tried at TotallyMotor with a near-perfect balance between grip, control and compliance. Cornering is seriously quick and confidence-inspired in this car.

I’m no Lewis Hamilton, but I know what I like, and I found that I got instantly used to the Zetec’s handling and grip levels and could point-and-shoot the nimble chassis with smiling confidence and complete safety. It brakes hard and with stability too. And that long and fast 3rd gear is the perfect tool for nipping down slip roads to quickly match the motorway traffic speeds and gap-slot safely.

During more spirited driving I saw the multi-function readout hovering around 26mpg, and during commuting I saw around 36mpg. I think I could’ve got a little closer to Ford’s quoted 47.1mpg if I’d mixed in the easy motorway cruising, but I seem to spend my life in traffic at the moment!

So, not super-close to the quoted economy figures, but I’m thinking if you are looking at this Zetec S and know your faster Fords, you’re probably thinking of enjoying the odd back lanes blast and will be willing to burn a little extra petrol for that pleasure, and the EcoBoost Zetec S is a real pleasure to drive.


Ten second sum up:
The Ford Focus Zetec S 1.6 EcoBoost 180PS is definitely the finest all-round car I’ve driven for quite some time. It looks tough; goes great; handles like a dream; fitted me well, and can do a decent turn on economy if you work with it. And as such, Zetec S earns our highest TotallyMotor review score yet; 93%.


Prices and availability:
The Ford Focus Zetec S 1.6 EcoBoost 180PS costs from £20,700, with a current Ford saving accounted for. Price as tested, £22,550, including optional extras of Driver Assistance Pack (£1,050) and Interior Pack (£800). Available now.

Words & pics: Daniel Anslow / Ford

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