Ford’s Focus being lost to SUVs and electric cars

Production is due to end next year as Ford shifts to EVs, but the Focus is still a brilliant family car

Ford Focus
Ford Focus production is due to end by 2025

Volkswagen might literally be ‘the people’s car’ but for decades, a great many people in Northern Ireland have put cars wearing a Ford badge at the top of their shopping list.

Those days are over. In an almost perfect example of how customers’ changing tastes and the existential earthquake of electrification has shaken the entire industry’s tectonic plates, Ford’s place at the heart of the mainstream car market is under intense pressure.

The Mondeo is no more. First, it was the victim of a pincer movement which saw it squeezed by weak residual values and the affordability of more desirable German nameplates. When PCP and lease deals made it cheaper to put a BMW 3 Series cheaper on the driveway, Mondeo sales plunged.

Second, families have mostly stopped wanting cars like the Mondeo. They want SUVs and crossovers instead; as Ford’s Kuga and its ilk prospered, the Mondeo withered.

It was put out of its misery just over two years ago, when European Mondeo production ended at Ford’s factory in Valencia in Spain.

The next sacred cow for the slaughter was the Fiesta, which Ford stopped building at its Cologne, Germany factory last July.

Its demise was far swifter than that of the Mondeo. It was perpetually in the UK top 10 annual bestseller lists from its launch in 1976, and had a record run in first place between 2009 and 2020.

But then, in the blink of an eye, it was gone. Supply chain problems linked to the coronavirus pandemic meant that Ford diverted its scarce computer chip supply to more profitable models - its crossovers and SUVs, in other words. From 2022 Fiesta orders were paused... and then stopped, permanently.

Next for the chop is the Focus - for so long a heartland family hatch - which is slated for the axe by next year.

As the Focus moves into the twilight of its career, I spent some time with one to find out what - if anything - we’ll be missing.

The Focus arrived in 1999 as a sort of Ford Escort for the new millennium. It arrived not a moment too soon, as Ford seemed to have given up on the Escort.

The Escort was a vile machine, a contraption for converting fuel into vibrations and noise with a Russian roulette gear change. The Focus, meanwhile, was a dream. It was a proper driver’s car that happened to also be a proper family car

I had first-hand experience of this. As a young reporter based in Wales around this time, the newspaper’s pool cars were divided between run-out Escort diesels painted paracetamol white and brand-new Focus hatchbacks, resplendent in purple.

There was no comparison. The Escort was a vile machine, a contraption for converting fuel into vibrations and noise with a Russian roulette gear change. It was horrible.

The Focus, meanwhile, was a dream. It looked modern - turned heads, even - and was much better built. But apart from doing the basics with aplomb - it was comfortable, had decent back seats and a big enough boot - it was set apart by its sweet handling, eager engine, slick gear shift and sharp brakes. It was a proper driver’s car that happened to also be a proper family car.

Against humdrum opposition from Vauxhall, Volkswagen, Renault and the rest, it couldn’t fail.

Ford Focus
Ford Focus: Catch it while you can (Charlie Magee)

And it never really has. But the same forces - SUVs and EVs - that have already euthanised the Mondeo and Fiesta are putting paid to its 25 years of accomplished ubiquity.

It’s a shame, really. The Focus does the job of simply being a car with conviction.

The test car came with Ford’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine in 123bhp tune. This doesn’t make it a ball of fire but, to be honest, it’s as much as anyone needs.

Modest power means you can wring the engine out, something its smoothness and punch of torque beyond around 2,500rpm positively encourages.

The Focus still rewards the keener driver too, with a rare sophistication to its steering and handling. Its suspension is pliant too, an asset on our pockmarked roads.

Yet there are reasons that people buy a Kuga or a rival SUV instead of a Focus. The back seats and boot aren’t that big, for a start. We’ve got used to cars that are bigger, rather than right-sized.

Focus prices start at £28,500 and run to around £34k for the ‘regular’ range, with the hot ST models costing between £37,705 and £43k.

Buy one while you can.