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12 Focus Mk3 1.0 Zetec

Reviewed by:
on 29-May 12

Owning Experience

Owned For: 10 days
Good Points: Very Quiet, Fuel Efficient, good driving position, 6 speed gear box, parking sensors, auto stop-start, hi tech interior with lots of gadgets, easy to use
Bad Point: fit and finish not as high quality as previous models, manual doesn't cover every little tech setting, limited stowage space inside


How It Drives:
Fuel Economy:
Overall Rating:

The Ecoboost 1.0 125bhp 3 Cylinder Engine in the Focus MK3 is an absolute dream as long as you understand what you are buying. I'm sure that more than a few who opt for the larger 1.6 150bhp would have been just as happy with the 1.0. It's a very quiet engine, which if (like me) you change gear by the engine note, can be an issue at first. Handily the car will tell you on the dashboard if you're in the wrong gear. The engine has plenty of torque, even in 5th gear; you won't have a problem pulling out of traffic on the motorway to overtake the slower cars in front. You do need to give it a little more gas than you would expect to get it off the line but you best be paying attention because the very second it begins rolling it will gather speed very quickly.
When you think of 1.0 3 Cylinder you think of town cars like the Toyota Aygo, not a large Ford Focus, but this tiny little engine has no trouble whatsoever pulling the Focus. You WILL be surprised by just how much performance there is. You WILL surprise others when you tell them that it's a 1.0L 3 Cylinder, as I'm sure many would have guessed a 1.6 possibly even a 1.8. Unlike the previous normally aspirated 1.6 99BHP petrol, you WON'T have to second guess yourself if you want to overtake someone. You WON'T be stuck at junctions forever for fear you won't make it out of the junction fast enough. Don't get me wrong, it's not a beast of an engine (obviously), but it does punch way above it's weight, and when you do hear the engine, it's a really nice growl.
It's also very fuel efficient. Around town, with a mix of 10-40mph and lots of starting and stopping for traffic, crossings and junctions, I'm seeing around 45MPG which I'm very happy with considering the size of the car. 5th gear at 30mph is barely 1000rpm. Auto Start/Stop works well. On the motorway, I've yet to do a very long run to provide accurate figures, but 6th gear, 70MPH, 2600 rpm is around the 53MPG area. Dropping down to 60-65mph and you should get a lot better.
Keep in mind that despite this little engines stellar performance, the car does sport an Econetic badge. But if you're looking at a Focus MK3 and you're not after a Zetec S 180BHP, you MUST take the 1.0 for a test drive. I promise it will surprise you with just how lively it is and it's my opinion that many folks who are looking at the 1.6 150BHP would be happy to 'settle' for the 1.0 if they would but try it rather than dismissing it because of it's small size. If you're looking at the diesels for the Tax and fuel efficiency, again, check out the 1.0. £35 tax per year, Petrol is (at time of writing this) cheaper and the MPG is good. And of course no DPF worries. Thanks to some dual cooling trickery, the cabin heats up quicker than other petrol engines too, so should be good in the winter.
The 6 speed gearbox is really slick. It feels nicely positioned, again rather sporty with a shorter shift than some, a nice leather gaiter and a good sized knob (easy now, it's a gear stick we're talking about). Reverse is up and left, with a collar lift action, and if you have the reverse parking sensors, you'll find the audio is muted, a beeping tone and a radar display on the center screen will indicate how much room you have left starting at 1.5 meters.
Brakes - Disks all around on my car. I don't know if the hatchback has or not, but thought it worth mentioning.

Inside, if you like lot's of buttons and techy things, you'll like the interior of the Focus MK3. The steering wheel has controls for the stereo on the left, and the trip computer on the right, as well as buttons for phone/volume control on the lower right. You also have the paddle for activating the voice control. Speaking of the steering wheel, I really like the ergonomics of it. It's really comfortable in the hands, with natural curves and dips for your thumbs and fingers in all the right places, and larger areas for your palms near the top.
The dashboard display is nice too, and whilst I think it's fair to say that blue lighting has been overused over the last few years, it looks really good in the Focus.
I previously owned a MK2.5 Focus, and I have to say that I think the fit and finish inside that was a higher quality than the MK3. Not that the MK3 is bad, just not as good as previously, with a few obvious areas where money was saved. Example; In the Focus MK2.5, the cup holders between the driver and passenger seat had a small rubber insert. This prevented cans/cups from slipping and because it was removable helped in keeping the car clean. The MK3 has 2 large holes, no rubber insert and the plastic is a lower smoother quality so items tend to slip around more. No creaks or groans from inside though, and when the doors and windows are closed, it sounds far more enclosed (like the difference between single and double glazing) in the MK3. The dash area also encroaches on the occupants more than previous models but I have to say it still feels somehow larger than the MK2. Storage space in the doors is larger than previous models, large enough to throw in a bottle of water, but the glove box space is quite small and there are not many other areas around to throw small items like loose change or phone cables.
The seats are very comfortable, with a sports like feel that hugs you as you sit in them. The drivers seat has plenty of adjustment (up, down, forward, back, lumber), which coupled with the steering wheel rake and reach, you should have no trouble finding a seating position that works for you regardless of your height. If you've driven a MK2.5 with it's sports seats, you'll know what to expect (minus the stupid rubber inserts that got hot and burnt you in the summer - thank god they are gone). The pedal positions feel a little off to the right in my opinion, but there is a lot more space and a nice platform to rest your left foot when it's not on the clutch.

The standard Ford stereo isn't too bad, and features things like Bluetooth, DAB radio, USB and Line In, as well as CD/MP3 playback. One half of the front fascia is laid out like a mobile phone, and you can of course use it as a dial pad when your smartphone is connected via Bluetooth. It's just way cooler and easier to use the voice commands instead. One omission, and not a big one is that there is no mute audio button; the audio mutes automatically when you take a phone call etc, and it's not big deal to hit the center volume knob to turn the unit off/on, but I'm used to having a mute button in case I need to talk to someone through the car window - now I just turn it off. I also have to say that the USB implementation is really good. Navigation is intuitive and with correct naming you can navigate via voice. Also, there is very little delay between the USB drive being scanned and it being played. There are options for Bass,Mid and Treble adjustments, and these adjustments are separate for each audio function. There is also a DSP function although I doubt many will notice much difference between the available options; stick with manual adjustments. One nice DSP option is the occupancy, which allows you to adjust the sound for driver only optimization or for everyone. Plenty of bass available too, too much (and I like bass!) to be honest, but since you can adjust it, this isn't an issue. The high notes come out quite tinny/lispy however but compared to many previous rubbish standard stereos of the past few years, this one is light years ahead in regards to sound and available volume. You can travel down the motorway, windows open, and still clearly hear the stereo without distortion over wind noise and/or engine noise.
I will say there are some obvious features that I don't think were listed in the manual. Voice control, to raise the volume of the voice control prompts, you have to pull the voice control paddle and activate voice control, then use the Volume knob to adjust the voice prompt volume whilst it's still on the screen. I spent a good few minutes looking through the stereo menus for an option for adjusting the voice prompt volume, and read the manual multiple times trying to work this out before trying the volume knob. It's the same for the phone volume by the way (so you'll need to make a phone call to adjust it). Might be obvious for others but I thought a menu option would have been the way to do it.

I opted for the estate version of the Focus MK3 not because I needed an Estate, but because I wanted a larger boot than the hatchback offered. Whilst it could be argued that Ford lazily just copied the rear from a Mondeo Estate, I don't think it's hurt the appearance of the car at all. To me, the Focus MK3 Estate looks like a slightly stretched hatchback. I don't really like the look of Estate cars personally, but I do have to admit I really like the appearance of the MK3 Estate.
As an Estate car, the low lip for the rear door does help in loading, and all of the rear seats fold completely flat. There are no strange obstructions to catch items on either. That said, I had to force a double mattress into the rear compartment as it was about a foot too long to fit. It went in but it was pushing at the rear screen very worryingly. The rear, even with the seats folded down and my short legs moving the front seats forward isn't as large as you may think if you've previous experience with estate cars. Also of note, the rear door is made of plastic same as the bumpers, which can be a problem if you plan on using magnetic L plates or similar. It does however save weight and therefore petrol. So lighter rear end, and a lighter front end because of the small engine, means that the MK3 estate is just as agile as a regular Focus. The tonneau cover uses a roller blind like operation as opposed to a folding blind, and it can be retracted very easily by just tapping the rearmost portion. The idea is that if you're hands are full you can use an elbow to tap the cover down and get it out of the way. Of course this doesn't help you open the rear door with your hands full in the first place, but a nice enough feature I suppose. 12v cigar lighter socket in the rear for those wanting to run a coolbox, and a small box area for odds and ends in the side wall.

The exterior styling has been criticized by some, but personally I love it. I love the front ends aggressive lines and large lower grill. I think the options for alloy wheels available are also very well designed. I'm not keen on piano black simply because of fingerprints, but it works really nice on the pillars aesthetically. Also ford have tastefully done the chrome accents for the roof rails and windows rather than over doing it.

To drive everyday, the Focus MK3 Zetec Estate is really nice, and with the 1.0 125BHP engine it's also nice to know you can overtake if you have to, but not have to worry so much about how much petrol is being used or if you've traveled far enough or fast enough to regenerate a DPF. It's comfortable down the motorway, and visibility is good for navigating around small streets. The voice control actually works, as long as you know the correct commands, and the stereo is loud enough with plenty of bass, as well as options for adjusting the sound. Bluetooth phone operations work really well and I'm told I sound very clear on the other end. Overall I'm really happy with my choice of car compared to the other choices I had in mind (Vauxhall Astra - not enough rear leg room and prefer look of the Focus, Golf looks are quite mundane these days imo). And I can't emphasize enough that you shouldn't dismiss the 1.0 engine for fear it's underpowered or strained compared to a 1.6. Go take a test drive, honestly, it's really really good.

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