Codenamed C170, Ford Focus I comes to Europe in 1998 and launches a foot in the testicles of rivals. A car that made sensation at launch, both in terms of performance and problems. But is it still worth a Ford Focus I in 2020? We see in the following article.

A car legend that has silently crept into anonymity, the Ford Focus I has become a car with a dual personality. Ford Focus I has become a car that meets the needs of 2 (two) very different communities, united under one aspect: the price.

Launched at about the same as the VW Golf IV, Opel Astra G, Google and Euro, the Ford Focus I was the first British attempt to create a hatchback car that would not break down every 100 meters. An interesting car, which you can buy today for only 500 euros, in working conditions and valid papers.


What are the 2 communities attracted by Focus I?

  • First of all, you have those who want a cheap car to buy and maintain, those who want a cheap car to move from point A to point B. A car that today is found mainly in rural areas, running tapes with folk music, with beads covers on the seats, a mini-altar on the windshield and half a pig in the boot. Usually found in the station wagon version, full of rust and with the cheapest engine the owner could find and afford, the Ford Focus I is a rural warrior. So, a car preferred by those who wear leather hats, smoke cigarettes with no stamps on them and make barbecues behind the countryside house where he hopes to retire after retirement, listening to even more folk music.
  • Then, Ford Focus I is a car loved by tuning enthusiasts, who are 18 years old, with 500 pounds in their pockets and a lot to show the world. The selling point of the car is the semi-independent front-rear suspension. A system so powerful that was used  all the way until the recently retired Ford Focus III. An extremely agile and maneuverable car that compensates for the lack of brute force in a straight line with agility and high speed in the bends. A car for enthusiasts and connoisseurs, with a richer after-market following than Ilie Nastase’s women record.

Ford Focus I Engines


  • 1.4 Zetec of 55 and 75 horsepower – By far the cheapest engine of the range, reserved for those people belonging in the first category. Easy on taxes, cheap to buy, robust and unpretentious. If this engine were food, it would be canned beans. Cheap, good in any situation, unpretentious, it does its job, but that’s about it.
  • 1.6 Zetec of 74 and 101 horsepower – The most balanced engine on the Ford Focus I, and almost the only engine worth buying in 2020. The most balanced engine in terms of costs and performance, found in 101 angry horses and ready to deliver Tofu cheese through your local mountain passes.
  • 1.8 Zetec of 85 and 114 horsepower – A rather rare engine in our country, being somehwere between 1.6 and 2.0. Slightly more powerful than the 1.6, slightly cheaper than the 2.0. If there was a car purgatory, the naturally aspirated 1.8 petrol engines, no matter if Ford or Audi, would definitely be there.
  • 2.0 Zetec of 96 or 130 horsepower – Sensible for power and reliability, a 2.0 Zetec offers strong sensations regardless of the bodywork, 2 door, 4 door or wagon. Combine it with the famous semi-independent suspension and in this configuration you have a seriously fast and powerful car that costs as much as 2 nights accommodation in Birmingham.


  • 1.8 TDDI of 64 and 90 horsepower – An old, antique engine, this is the favorite engine of farmers and moonshiners. An extremely noisy engine even by diesel standards, it has personal issues with the diesel pump and the ears of people within a 2 km radius. In any case, the 90 horsepower variant is kind of like the ALH from VW or DW10 TD from the PSA group.
  • 1.8 TDCI of 85 and 115 horsepower – We are already talking about something else, with a newer, quieter, more powerful and more reliable engine. Aside from the high pressure pump, there are no specific issues that should stop you from buying this simple and honest diesel. There were some issues in the past with the injectors, but there were also recalls on the topic. In any case, the injectors must be Bosch, otherwise you will give yourself trouble.

Ford Focus I General Issues

  • Diesel engines come with an timing belt which needs to be replaced every 50.000 kms. And no, you can’t use whatever belt you find at a yard sale on a Saturday morning.
  • Electronics and cables tend to break down in all possible and impossible places. Did you expect anything else when we talk about a at least 15 year old Ford?
  • Automatic gearboxes are so bad that the subject is not even worth talking about them. If it were an animal whose intelligence we should measure, it would be a jellyfish.
  • The wipers and the whole assembly are insulated with toilet paper. Expect potential leaks through the bonnet and then onto the engine. Even if you only just graduated from the school of life, you will still know that water and electricity do not go hand in hand.
  • Ford has always been popular amongs fleet buyers, with the Fiesta and Focus being preferred by companies to hauld around their employees. And a Ford Focus I diesel has a good chance of being a former fleet car, which translates in 2020 by having atleast 2 billion kms.

Ford Focus I Verdict

The Ford Focus I remains one of the best cars you can buy when you have a budget tighter than a Libresse. Whether we are talking about a car for beginners or about the cheapest car that you can buy that is somewhat reliable, Ford Focus I will be there for you. Wind, storm, day, night, rust, Ford has shown us that cars from the 2000s are built to last.

And if you take into account the fact that it came with the best suspension in its class, Focus I is a car worth considering when you’re looking for a car that will be cheap, or fun, or that you can rely on. Or maybe all 3 at the same time.