Used double test Volkswagen Golf vs. Ford Focus – Classic battle

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Volkswagen Golf used car

The favorite used car in the Netherlands is a gray Volkswagen Golf, according to research by Gaspedal and AutoTrack. With petrol engine, as a 5-door hatchback with automatic transmission, tow bar, maximum 100,000 km, and preferably no more expensive than €15,000. The test car costs more and has a manual transmission, but otherwise meets those requirements. Or is a younger Ford Focus the better option?

For this comparison test between a Ford Focus and a Volkswagen Golf, we borrowed two cars that were for sale as used cars. We collected the following versions:

Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI Trendline – 2019 – €17,900, 97,700 km

Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost Trend Edition Business – 2020 – €15,900, 66,000 km

Ford Focus used car

We should also mention Opel Astra

When we talk about the classic conflict in this segment, we should of course not leave the Opel Astra unmentioned. Just like his predecessor Kadett, number one in the Low Countries year after year. But over the decades, the automotive landscape looked completely different. If we look at 2023, it is striking that the Dutch importer of Volkswagen sold just over 3,000 Golfs, compared to ten times as many in the peak year of 1999! The Focus did marginally better, but was also more than twenty thousand units behind 2000, the best year ever for the model.

Few Fords remain

Another remarkable thing in 2023: Ford sold less with all its models than Tesla with the Model Y alone. After the Fiesta, Mondeo and Ka, the Focus will also be removed from the delivery program from 2025. There is not much left, for Jan Modaal there is actually only the Puma. The fact that sales are no longer going so fast probably also has to do with the prices. A new Golf will cost you €37,000, which is twelve grand more than the test car in this comparison at the time. For €27,000 you can now get into a new Polo, which is just as big as a Golf III. A new Focus is a lot cheaper, it is available as Titanium for €32,000 and the price difference with what the test car had to fetch in 2020 is less large than with VW. Both used cars are entry-level cars, with the Golf it is a Trendline, with Ford it is called Trend Edition, in this case expanded with the Business package.

TSIs in the Gulf for almost twenty years

The Golf is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year and has virtually been promoted to a brand. The segment in which it operates is often referred to as the Golf class, which says enough. It is the most sought-after and best-selling used car almost every year, closely followed by the Polo. Labeled by the haters as boring, but very consistent in name and design. In terms of interior quality, such a Golf has been the benchmark since the fourth generation. Engine downsizing started almost twenty years ago with the first TSI, a 1.4, and on a larger scale with the four-cylinder 1.2 TSI since 2010. In 2015, this made way for the three-cylinder 1.0 TSI, an engine that is still in production.

Volkswagen Golf used car

Golf 7 after facelift, so a 7.5

We drive a seventh-generation Golf, which was refreshed in 2017, a kind of Golf 7.5. Pure golf to watch, not exciting, but timeless. It is not a complete crisis, as it turns out after boarding. The first owner opted for a few extras. We have come to know the 1.0-liter TSI over the years as an extremely quiet and low-vibration power source and that is again the case. When idling, you cannot hear or feel it and when under load you hear the characteristic three-cylinder roar in the distance. If you drive 100 or 130 km/h, it remains remarkably quiet. Switching is child’s play, the controls feel familiar but don’t make you enthusiastic. In contrast to the more highly motorized versions, this Golf has semi-independent rear suspension, so no multi-link. That makes it a little less eager in corners, but the average rider doesn’t mind that at all. It is everyone’s friend in every respect, which explains its popularity.

Ford Focus used car

Fourth Focus and that is the very last

The Golf may have set the tone in certain areas, but Ford also immediately set the tone with the first Focus (1998). Then we are talking about the driving characteristics, which were quite sensational for that time, especially in the first generation. Over the years and generations he mellowed out and the competition made significant strides, so nowadays the difference with the rest in that area is less significant. We drive the fourth and for us the last generation, which underwent a facelift in 2022. It is 12 cm longer than the Golf and the Wagon adds another thirty cm. That actually comes close to a Mercedes C-class Estate. Completely different design than the Golf, perhaps a little more frivolous.

Ford Focus used car

Focus is better than Golf

This is also reflected in the interior. The design of the Focus is more modern, although the materials used are not equally attractive everywhere, such as the hard, shiny plastic just above the climate control buttons. But the Ford does have much nicer seats than the Golf and an excellent seating position. Here too, a 999 cc three-cylinder engine, with 125 hp (almost as much as the first Focus with 2.0 16V). And basically 170 Nm of torque, with an overboost to 200 Nm. That extra 30 Nm is available for approximately 15 seconds between 1,500 and 4,500 rpm at a certain accelerator pedal position. It sounds a bit rougher than the TSI, but performs well and emits a satisfying growl at a constant speed. However, it seems less focused at low speeds and we do not see very big differences in the acceleration times. The six-speed gearbox shifts firmly and accurately. The Ford involves you much more in driving and a small movement of the steering wheel results in a spontaneous change of course. The Focus sticks better to the asphalt than the Golf and takes corners with more eagerness, without sacrificing comfort. Without a doubt the more fun car to drive.

Ford Focus used car

Ford Focus used car

Focus no more legroom despite extra length

When it comes to the space available, we see minimal differences. Ford and Volkswagen have done their utmost to please the occupants and to leave a decent trunk. Yet, despite its longer wheelbase, the Focus does not have more legroom in the back seat than the Golf. The latter can also tow an additional 200 kg. Fortunately, the time when a loafer was devoid of any form of luxury (as far as central door locking, electrically operated windows and air conditioning) and was easily recognized by black door handles is over.

Ford Focus used car

Volkswagen Golf used car

Focus has better equipment

In this case, the Focus has a richer equipment, including parking sensors front and rear, navigation, lane keeping assistance and LED headlights. The climate control is not automatic, you can live with that. The Golf does have that facility, but we suspect that was an option at the time. We see a few extras that were not standard on the Trendline, such as the alloy wheels and the multifunctional steering wheel. In addition, this Golf was not originally delivered in the Netherlands and therefore its equipment may differ. The Focus undeniably offers more value for money: it is younger, more complete, has fewer kilometers on the clock and is no less than two thousand euros cheaper.

Volkswagen Golf used car

Consumption Volkswagen Golf Ford Focus
Factory specification (NEDC) 4.7 l/100km (1:21.3) 4.9 l/100km (1:20.4)
Test consumption 5.9 l/100 km (1 in 16.9) 6.4 l/100 km (1 in 15.6)
Tank capacity 50 litres 50 litres
Range 845 780

The values ​​are not very impressive, but with the predecessors of these downsize engines, naturally aspirated 1.6s, such figures were more difficult to come by. To get a good idea of ​​practical consumption, you should also read these analyzes from users who track consumption in the Consumption Monitor. Because this is what Focus drivers experience in practice at the pump. And be sure to read what owners think of their Focus of this generation. For the Golf 7, we also investigated what people measure at the pump.

You can read what people think of their Golf 7 in the user reviews and in the used purchase advice you can read useful tips when you go Golf hunting.

Ford Focus used car

Volkswagen Golf used car

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