Ford Focus EcoBoost Zetec S
In the not too distant past, a car sporting the looks and dimensions of this Ford Focus Zetec S, coupled to a 1.0l petrol engine would usually be found lurking suspiciously in the classifieds, tagged with the highly undesirable moniker – ‘lookalike’ or ‘replica’. Back to 2012 however and Ford have worked some engineering wizardry and installed it in their latest Focus models, the results include the Zetec S model we have here which is propelled by a diminutive 1.0l EcoBoost engine.
Punching way above its weight, this tiny powerplant may only house three cylinders but they’re assisted by a turbocharger, its engine block is infamously the same size as an A4 piece of paper. Interesting pub facts aside, the Focus EcoBoost provides a 20% decrease in emissions over a similarly powered engine of higher displacement. All of this obviously hasn’t gone unnoticed and Ford’s pocket-rocket is consistently winning more awards and titles than Titanic and Manchester Utd combined.
Ford have always been the masters of visual drama and this Zetec S in Race Red is no exception. There are aerodynamically efficient spoilers and angles everywhere, from the jutting chin spoiler to the Venturi style rear diffuser. Whether their potential is regularly utilised is somewhat irrelevant as their visual impact is undeniable even when the car is stationary. The optional 18” wheels and privacy glass on our test car only reinforce the impression that this car means business. I’d even go as far to say that this Zetec S model offers more visual drama than its big brother – the ST. Quite an accolade.
It’s a similar story on the Focus EcoBoost’s interior, with the many controls and buttons laid out in a fashion that appeals not only visually, but are tempting in a tactile sense too. The ice blue illumination does provide a certain ‘vodka bar’ chic to the experience but I found it surprisingly relaxing when driving at night, it just seems to exude a feeling of calmness. I’m usually a ‘less is more’ type of guy when it comes down to buttons and dials and I have to admit, I initially felt a little intimidated with the plethora facing you from the Focus’ dash, especially the multi-function steering wheel. They are, however, very simple to become accustomed to and each one just seems to be positioned in exactly the correct place. The quality of materials used in the cabin are of a high quality, even in out-of-view areas. The Focus must surely be vying for the top spot in its class in terms of offering a pleasurable environment.
From a driver’s point of view
Power up the EcoBoost engine and it seems to operate in some manner of stealth mode. Below 3000 rpm, this three cylinder is so quiet that the gear-change indicator becomes an essential driver aid as the cabin is near-silent. Ignoring our environmental responsibilities for a second, the 1.0l engine will rev freely when pushed, providing unexpected levels of fun with negligible lag from the turbo. This same turbo also gives some much-needed grunt lower down the rev range and I found that, even in sixth gear at relatively low revs, there was enough torque to increase speed without searching around the ‘box for a suitable ratio.
Come rain or shine, the Zetec S was reluctant to come unstuck and its handling was admirable. The latest generation Focus may have grown slightly when compared to previous models but the chassis seems well-balanced and easily capable of coping with the extra mass. Around town, the steering assistance is very welcome and makes manoeuvring in tight spaces a doddle.
Utilising a ‘sliding scale’ approach to power steering seems to be the norm these days and I’m not sure Ford have really got the hang of it with this Focus EcoBoost. I found the feedback from the front wheels to be a little lacking at higher speeds which led to some slightly unnerving guesswork as to their intentions. The same was true on motorways and the car just felt a little twitchy, with every minute movement from the driver being magnified through the steering wheel.
5 door only
Ford have taken something of a gamble with the 3rd generation Focus by dropping its 3dr option and making the hatchback available as a 5dr only. This may not have been a popular decision with their hordes of fast-Ford appreciators but it’s a huge signal of intention that this is, first and foremost, a family oriented car. The Zetec S model must surely represent something of a zenith in the family car stakes as it seems to please all generations. Children can be the harshest of critics but my own young daughters (3 & 4) were very keen to put their seal of approval on the Focus with no complaints about any lack of space, access or visibility in the rear.
Reinforcing this aura of attraction for the modern parent, the Zetec S comes packed with driver aides and safety features as standard. These include, not only familiar features such as traction control, now the norm on most cars, but also reassuring assistance from Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) and Torque Vectoring Control. We all assume that our loved ones will be ferried around without incident but it’s good to know that the Focus is capable of dealing with any problems that could occur.
Our test car was fitted with a Driver Assist Pack option as an option. It includes Active City Stop, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Aid, Traffic Sign Recognition, Driver Alert, Auto High Beam and Blind Spot Info System, all of which are working in unison to keep us on the straight and narrow. Priced at over £1,000, it’s not the cheapest of additions but then, what price safety? Whilst testing the Focus, I experienced first hand the advantage that most of the Pack offers and it’s undoubtedly justifiable. I would bear in mind though that, although very clever, the system is not infallible and in some situations, not entirely appropriate. The Blind Spot Info System, for example, illuminates an orange dot in the applicable door mirror if it detects an object in a blind spot. Although extremely useful on most roads, it came a little unstuck on country roads at night when it was flummoxed by the presence of nearby hedges and seemed determined to warn me of their existence. It was a similar story with the Lane Departure Warning which obviously didn’t appreciate the need to sometimes cross the white line, the Auto High Beam which seemed to hold onto maximum illumination for a little too long, resulting in some irritated flashes from oncoming traffic and the Traffic Sign Recognition which would occasionally get confused with stickers on foreign HGVs and insist that the speed limit on British motorways was 110 mph. It’s important to remember though, that all of these aides can be simply switched off and sometimes, this may be the safer option.
Overall, it’s very difficult to fault the Focus Zetec S, especially when fitted with the 1.0l Ecoboost engine. It’s safe, frugal and appealing, both visually and from a driver’s point of view. That’s not to say it’s perfect, and with the options our test car was supplied with, it’s price tag of over £22,000 may prove to be a little much for some wallets. If it’s head-turning, hot-hatch looks you’re after though, without the associated running costs, the Zetec S is the real deal.
By Ben Harrington
Specifications; Ford Focus Zetec S 5 Door, Engine – 1.ol EcoBoost, Transmission – 6spd Manual, Layout – Front engine, Front wheel drive, Power – 125PS, Emissions – 114g/km CO2, Economy – 56.5 mpg Combined, Maximum Speed – 120mph, Acceleration – 0-62mph – 11.3s, Price – £19,195 OTR, £22,320 as tested.
Optional Extras on our test car included – City Pack-Rear Park Assist and Powerfold mirrors – £525, Ford DAB Nav System – £750, Door Edge Protectors – £50, Privacy Glass – £150, 18” Alloys – £400, Cruise Control with Active Speed Limiter – £200, Driver Assist Pack – £1050
- First Drive: 2012 Ford Focus Zetec S (motortrend.com)
- 2013 Ford Focus (theepochtimes.com)
- 2012 Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost European Spec First Drive (motortrend.com)