Focus Evolution – Is The Latest Always the Greatest?


The Ford Focus has now been around for more 22 years. There have been four generations of the vehicle and since every other family seems to have one, it’s become an extremely important car for Ford. All versions generally seem to conform to the same mantra. The car is affordable to buy, has enough space to handle a family and is great and easy to drive. A formula that has worked for many years and many car makers. But are all generations equal, or are some more equal than others? Should you by default go for the latest version, or is there money to be saved elsewhere with no discernible disadvantages? Let’s investigate the evolution of the Focus.

Focus has come a long way since the 1998 orignal
Focus has come a long way since the 1998 orignal

Before we begin, don’t forget our 10% Refer-A-Friend Offer is still on. All you have to do is send someone to this site, they use one of our excellent services, and you receive 10% of their fee. Everybody wins!

The MK1 Focus was a fairly revolutionary car. It was the first mainstream everyday family car with independent rear suspension, which meant it had superb handling and a more sophisticated ride. The car was sharp to drive, it looked sharp and if you purchased one of the 2.0 versions, it was plenty quick enough for most people’s needs. It was also simple to maintain, and not too expensive to run. I’m speaking from direct experience, as I had mine for more nearly 5.5 years. 50,000 miles and a few services later, I think I have a rough idea of how this car is. But how does it compare to the MK2?

I have a couple of experiences with the MK2. I actually learned to drive in one. The first thing you notice is how chunkier the car feels in comparison to its predecessor. It is styled more solidly, both inside and outside. Dare I say it isn’t as interesting to look at either. But when you sit inside one, you do get a sense of quality in comparison to the MK1. All the controls somehow feel a bit more weighty, like reliability shouldn’t be much of an issue. In the main, the Focus has proved to be a solid car to live with.

To drive, the MK2 is still excellent. The slightly higher weight and size in comparison with the original means that a degree of agility has been lost. But this is still a fun car to drive, in all guises. I’ve also been able to drive the 2.5 Turbo ST version, which is unsurprisingly very quick, very able, as has one of the nicest sounding engine notes to come out of a hot hatch. Prices for this car are still reasonable at the moment, probably because the Volvo engine sometimes gives up. The timing belt could fail, and the owner could pay up to £5000 if this happens. A great car, but this is worth noting.

I’ve driven the MK3 as well, and to be honest this is my least favourite of all the Focus models. I’m not a huge fan of the exterior styling, and I don’t really like the way the interior mimics some 1990s mobile phone. However, when I drove the ST version, this seemed to matter less. It had a very strong engine, stronger than the 2.5 in the MK2, and it made a great (if slightly artificial) noise. Plus the engine in this car has chain driven camshafts, which means no timing belt to snap. So you might save £5000. Aren’t I incredibly helpful. Timing chains don’t tend to break unless the vehicle has been starved of oil. Which we shouldn’t be doing anyway. So you have no-one to blame but yourself.

Focus has gradually grown up over the years. A bit like this car.
Focus has gradually grown up over the years. A bit like this car.

The MK3 ST handled well, and went well. It was very stress free to drive and felt very refined indeed. This would be an ideal hot hatch as it’s fun when you’re heading up a country road, but relaxing when you mind considers heading to bed. I’ve not driven the RS Version, with its huge power, but the reports are certainly positive. The MK3 ST is not quite old enough to be really cheap, but prices are still heading the right way (for us). I will update once I’ve driven one. I’ll also give the full low-down on the current Focus as soon as I can.

I actually happen to (always) be in the market for a new car. I’m keen to conduct a more long term review for some of the tech that newer cars find themselves with. I will of course document my findings, report back on the Motokwirks site, and let you know whether they’re worth it or not. This could save you some money. The sacrifices I make more the people I intend to help. I suspect a knighthood is heading my way fairly shortly, and no mistake.

I’m thinking of going for a Mk2, but which version do you think I should go for? Do you have any particular preference for generations of cars? Are there any generations of the car you have that you really like, or dislike? Let me know, join the family, and thanks for reading!

What are your thoughts?