History repeats itself? 10 years ago when I found myself shopping for a new daily, the car that ticked all of the boxes ended up being a Mk3 Focus. A full decade on, finding myself in the market for a new daily once more I had a different set of boxes but a Mk3 Focus ended up ticking them all…again.
This time around however a slightly different Mk3 ended up being my pick to meet the slightly different set of criteria. Starting off, the key differences you’ll notice would be that this is a Mk3.5 hatch whereas Mustard is obviously a Mk3 sedan.
The hatch is the only aspect that was a given; 10 year younger me picked Mustard because I preferred the sedan body style – and frankly still do if I’m honest – but my life allowed it to work at the time. Borrowing the Suburban for large and heavy cargo is one thing but having to repeatedly borrow Dijon for relatively small tasks over the last year made it very clear that a hatchback was now something I needed for not just work but for life in general.
From the very start I had my sights set on a Mk3 Focus specifically because the platform made a lot of sense. From a logical standpoint it would be big enough for my needs, get fantastic fuel economy, and we know from first-hand experience that they’re incredibly safe cars. I have no doubts in the ability of one of these to keep me safe should things go very wrong. Additionally they’re in that sweet spot of being new enough that OEM parts will be readily available for some time, while also having been out long enough that earlier examples have come down in price substantially – a modest budget would give me a wide variety of examples from which to pick.
On top of that, having already owned one for a decade it’s a platform I am extremely familiar with – actually, we all are. We know them inside-out and can rebuild them from the ground up. We’re familiar with their quirks and foibles, and should something break we not only know how to fix it but could very well have the parts already in the collection to do so. They’re also just fun, and I’m excited to have one to drive day in and day out once again.
So why this one then? Why a 2015 SE? Truth be told, I had a (somewhat) unicorn spec in mind which I was looking for but wasn’t staying blind to others on the market in case something good turned up. That unicorn never did materialize – a 2012 Frosted Glass SEL hatch in case you were wondering – but when this one presented itself it prompted a closer look.
I hadn’t originally been looking at Mk3.5s (‘15+) given they were newer and therefore more expensive, but this one was a very fair price and had the factory Sport Package, meaning it wears the very attractive lip kit. Being a lightly-optioned SE it does lack the bells and whistles of a Titanium (there was no SEL for 2015) but still has more than enough, and even has a backup camera which is a first for me. The only feature it lacks which I wouldn’t mind adding in down the road is seat heaters, but that wasn’t a deal breaker since they’re cloth. As for the colour, while I am a big fan of the vibrant and unique hues that Ford offered on these cars there was no denying that it looked rather sharp (and more grown up?) in its Ingot Silver; and aside from Dustin’s ST it’s something we don’t have in the local group.
Inside it’s also a slight change to Mustard given that it’s a DCT-equipped car. Now, I can hear the forums and Facebook groups crying out already about how it’s going to fall apart next week but DCTs are just fine overall and if a specific car should exhibit shudders or other issues, the updated clutch packs and programming are out. Take it in, get it fixed, and move on with your life. If anything, buying a DCT car is me putting my money where my mouth is. Rant over.
On the topic of the DCT, as part of the Sport Package the steering wheel did gain some paddle shifters though which give me something to play with for the times I want or need to control gears on my own. It’s obviously no PDK but it is fun to flip up and down the ratios myself now and then. Alternatively, for the times I’m feeling lazy I get to just leave it in auto mode and cruise.
Now, mods. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I’ll never turn a bolt on this car because – as you can see – it’s already on different wheels, which it received on day three. But let me defend myself here (and make you all roll your eyes a bit more). First off, wheels are a necessity. Given it will be driven year-round it will require two sets of tires, and to save time as well as wear on the tires (and to make my life that much easier) a new set will be paired with the summers. Most likely, the 57xtremes will be those wheels. These current RS winters are actually on loan from Austin since the car didn’t have proper winter tires on it, and these were extras he wasn’t using as he has winters on other wheels for his RS already. I get to run them for now and he cleared up some space in his office. Win-win!
As for other parts there are a couple of items which were already destined to go on to whichever Mk3 I bought. I was purposely not looking at STs given their higher price tags but the ST wing was something I wanted as the standard piece is far too plain for my taste. Late last year I managed to find an OEM ST wing on Kijiji for a great price so it was promptly picked up and set aside. I also have Mario’s RS airbox lid, which he replaced with a sealed non-RS piece some time back.
Beyond that I have some ideas but the general theme of this – as suggested by the post/video title – will be a “budget daily driver build”. I’m fortunate in that I already have quite a collection of spare parts from over the years so a fair bit could be done to the hatch without having to actually purchase anything new, and beyond that I want to look into little inexpensive changes that can be carried out as well as try some things that are hatchback or Mk3.5 specific. In a sense this will be like a throwback to the very early days of the Mk3 world when we were all playing with simple, inexpensive, and in many cases OEM+, mods.
In terms of repairs and maintenance, as noted in the video (which is linked at the end of the post) there are a couple of touch-ups to look after as well in due course – the hood’s PPF is torn and it has the odd small ding to PDR out – but the interior is pristine and with relatively low mileage on it (about 53,800km when I picked it up) there’s not much to look after on this one.
I’ll start tinkering with it soon so watch for some updates, but for the meantime I’m just happy to have a Mk3 to use each day once again. Not only does it meet all my needs – and it has already been put to use carrying cargo that the Continental could never hope to fit – but obviously there was also an emotional aspect to this which it met as well. 10 years on, I still love this platform as much as I ever did.