2022 Ford Focus MHEV review hybrid hatchback is a fitting send-off

Advertisement

The Ford Focus is one of the best-driving hatchbacks on the road. The 2022 refresh adds new technologies, trims and mild hybrid performance

This mid-life refresh will be the car’s final hooray – a visual tweak to update the styling, but also upgraded technology and an overhauled model range. Does the last Ford Focus nearly 30 years in the making make a fitting farewell, or, like its millennial contemporaries, will it slip into oblivion alongside its Gen X and Baby Boomer ancestors?

Advertisement

Register to our Mazic News Today Newsletter

What’s new in the 2022 model?

There’s a long list of visual changes to the Focus’s exterior, but start with the subtle, flashy ones and you’ll miss them. In general, the small design tweaks here and there have a cumulative effect, making the car appear a bit more sculpted, like a Men’s Health cover mockup after a pre-photoshoot spray tan and two dry Wheatabix.

Advertisement

The Ford badge now sits lower on the honeycomb grille instead of above it. There is also a subtle change in the shape of the bonnet, the front curve slightly different than the old one, presumably to annoy the scrap dealers. New slimmer headlights with integrated fog lights allow for a redesigned, less messy front bumper.

At the rear, the taillights have also been changed and the instrument cluster of our ST-Line Vignale test model has been slightly smoked, while the design of the alloy wheels has also been revised.

Advertisement

Vignale is no longer a luxury trim level in its own right and can now be added as an add-on to the other trim levels – Titanium, ST-Line, Active and (entry) Trend.

The technology suite has seen the most extensive modernization, which is reflected in the 13.2-inch touchscreen display that dominates the dashboard. Responsive and fast-loading, the Sync 4 system is a quantum leap over the Sync 3 system, which I’ve already rated highly. In addition to an intuitive design and layout and a crystal clear display, Apple Carplay and Android Auto are now supported wirelessly without the need for a USB connection cable.

Advertisement
The interior of the Focus has been refreshed more dramatically with a larger infotainment screen

The only black mark I would give the system is that Ford has done away with the physical dials to control the air conditioning. Although it’s always visible and not hidden in a submenu like some operating systems, it’s still an ergonomic step backwards to adjust temperature and fan speed, toggle the air conditioning, and choose which vents to use over the monitor. An unnecessary distraction that I hope goes out of style with car designers before global warming turns Britain into the Sahara Desert.

While I think touchscreen climate controls are a safety step backwards, the Focus is otherwise the safest car ever. The dynamic high-beam system means you don’t have to toggle lights to avoid blinding drivers, and the Matrix LED system “bends” rounded corners to match your steering to improve visibility. The beam pattern even changes to optimize visibility in inclement weather. Blind Spot Assist is a new option costing £400 and is paired with active steering.

Advertisement

Driving the 2022 Ford Focus

Our test car was powered by the 153hp, 48-volt mild hybrid version of the proven 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine found in many Ford models. Around town it feels little different than the standard 123PS version of the engine – if anything, a little less lively off the lights and statistically a little less torque.

Advertisement

The extra power can be felt on the open road, and when driving aggressively, the hybrid battery helps from around 3,000 rpm to give the Focus a little more sporty momentum. It’s the most powerful version of the hatchback unless you want to opt for the Focus ST, but the hybrid system’s paybacks are mostly in emissions and fuel economy rather than performance – something petrolheads are unlikely to be happy with, but is prudently up-to-date financial climate.

The mid-life refresh has done nothing to detract from the already winning formula Ford has developed when it comes to chassis and suspension, and it’s still the best-handling car in the class, sharp and fun to drive , as few manufacturers seem able to replicate without ruining the ride. If there’s anything I miss about the Focus once it’s gone, it’ll be its ability to make the most mundane ride fairly fun – as long as there’s a corner or two ahead of you.

Advertisement

How does a mild hybrid system work?

Perhaps one of the most confusing terms in the electrification of the automotive industry is “mild hybrid”. I used it incorrectly in reviews myself, only to snap in and correct myself months later after the aha moment.

Advertisement
The hybrid gauge sits between the speedometer and tachometer and shows whether the battery is regenerating or assisting the engine

With a small battery, 48 volts in the case of the Ford Focus, a mild hybrid typically offers less assistance than a full hybrid system and lacks pure EV driving capability. The added value of the system is to act as an energy bank for the car to draw on in times of need and to limit the load on the mechanical internal combustion engine.

Whether it’s that kick in the butt after 3,000 revs when accelerating at pace, or the helping hand propelling the car when you step on the accelerator in high gear, the engine doesn’t have to work as hard as it does it would do without support, which benefits emissions.

Advertisement

Verdict

The second car I ever owned was the Bug-out model Ford Escort, and unlike the fun and sporty car my dad drove to years earlier, it felt cheap, underpowered, and rolled like a disoriented boxer well past his prime.

Advertisement

The 2022 Focus feels like a car that’s still in its prime, unlike its bloated and drunken predecessor. In terms of technology, refinement and comfort, it’s the most accomplished non-performance Focus ever – except for the climate control system – and the refresh has even regained some of the space-age sharpness that set the 1998 launch model apart from the competition Contest. The UK car market in 2022 is a very different place than it was in the late ’90s and the 2022 Focus is unlikely to dominate the sales charts like its predecessors. Nonetheless, it’s a fitting farewell to the C-segment veteran.

Ford Focus ST-Line Vignale 1.0-litre EcoBoost MHEV

Advertisement

Price: £28,625 (£32,225 as driven) Engine: 1.0 liter EcoBoost with 48V mild hybrid battery; Perfomance: 153 hp; Torque: 140 pounds foot; Transmission: six-speed manual gearbox; Top speed: 131 miles per hour; 0-100km/h: 9 seconds; Business: 52.3mpg; CO2 emissions: 121g/km

Advertisement