2012 FORD FOCUS REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Five-door hatchback and sedan
Price range (starting price for each): $21,990 Ambiente, $24,490 Trend, $27,390 Sport, $35,590 Titanium
Fuel Economy (claimed): 5.5 l/100km – 7.2 l/100km (depending upon drivetrain)
Fuel Economy (tested): not recorded
Ford’s sporty new 2012 LW Focus is a defining car. Spend time with it and you will understand why the European press has heaped such praise upon it.
Inside and out, and on the road, it really impresses.
From the entry-level Focus Ambiente to the top-tier Titanium, it is absolutely laden with features and technology, or can be specified, that you simply don’t expect to find in the small hatch and small sedan segment.
But, not only superbly equipped, it is also a cracking drive – better balanced and more refined than the Mazda3 and at least a match for the Golf, perhaps a nose in front.
On a first drive taking in a city crawl, open roads, tight passes through Victoria’s temperate rain-forest and long stretches of slippery gravel and corrugations, the new Focus could not be induced to put a foot wrong.
And where the outgoing Focus seemed a little beige, the new model is brimming with personality.
The new LW Focus range comes with a four-tier model line-up, from entry-level Ambiente, to the mid-series Trend, then Sport and the higher-end Titanium models. We drove each, alternating between petrol and diesel configurations.
Quality: For style and quality feel, the new Focus sets a new benchmark for the small car segment.
With soft-feel dash, piano-black and enamel facings (depending on the model), appealing trim materials, premium Sony audio and a sharply designed ‘cockpit’ layout, it is a very nice place to be.
More to the point, there is a snug solidity - lacking in some competitors - that gives the Focus a premium edge, noticeable even in the Ambiente and mid-spec Trend models.
Comfort: The sports-trimmed seats are well-shaped, both under the thigh and in the lower back. They give good support when pushing harder but do not envelop too firmly as some sports seats do.
The reach and rake adjustable multi-function steering wheel is neat and uncluttered and feels solid and direct under the hand.
There’s also more room inside than you may expect, courtesy of that extended swoopy roofline. Even with the front seats pushed fully back there is room for longer adult legs in the rear.
The shaped rear bench is comfortable with ample shoulder room for two adults, or for kids three-abreast.
Equipment: Inside, Sport and Titanium models come with a premium Sony audio system, with nine-speakers, a 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-functional display.
All in the range get MP3 compatibility, USB port, auxiliary connection for external audio devices, voice control, remote audio and MFD controls, audio streaming (with compatible mobile phones) and digital signal processor (DSP).
Other features common across the range are capless refueling (designed to prevent you putting in the wrong fuel), cruise control with Adjustable Speed Limiting Device (ASLD) and steering wheel-mounted controls.
The Titanium also comes with “hands-free” parking as standard (Active Park Assist), heated front seats, and keyless entry with “start” button. Both Sport and Titanium feature automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers and ambient interior lighting with a roof-mounted ‘cabin lighting hub’ for setting the mood.
Rear parking sensors are standard on Trend, Sport and Titanium.
Storage: The boot in both sedan and hatch offers ample space for a young family (or for golf clubs and other weekend follies), 277 litres for the hatch, 372 litres in the sedan (with full-sized spare). Rear seats in the hatch fold 60/40, extending the available space to 1062 litres.
Inside, there are larger cupholders, door bins front and rear, and a sensible glovebox.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: We drove both the 2.0 GDi direct injection petrol engine, 1.6-litre Duratec Ti-VCT petrol (in the Ambiente) and 2.0-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel, both with six-speed PowerShift twin-clutch automatic transmission and petrol manual.
The smaller 1.6 litre petrol musters 92kW and 159Nm; the 2.0 litre petrol, 125kW and 202Nm, while the diesel bangs out a very healthy 120kW and 340Nm of torque.
The pick, by a country mile, is the diesel. Smooth, strong, quiet and frugal, it has the petrol options whipped all-ends-up. While the 2.0 litre petrol is willing enough, and feels quite lively when mated to the five-speed manual, the diesel goes like a shower.
The only debit is the fiddly manual-shift mechanism for the Powershift transmission: it sits under the left thumb on the lever and takes your eyes away from the road while you sort it out. A simple 'paddle' shift would be far better.
Refinement: There is a premium snug feel to the interior of the new Focus, assisted by superior NVH performance. Even the diesel is transparent: free of clatter, just a slight but appealing groan finds its way into the cabin.
Wind and tyre noise are quite low (on coarse surfaces, it’s considerably quieter than the Mazda3), there is a barely noticeable 'feathering" of wind around the wing mirrors, but this is quiet interior - with a feel more like a larger car.
Suspension: The strongest impression of the Focus is its superior handling performance.
Always its strong point, the new model sets a new high-bar for providing the right balance between comfort, compliance over broken tarmac and gravel, and handling performance.
Turn-in is very sharp, and, thanks to a superbly engineered front-end and torque vectoring control, the new Focus can carry higher speeds into a corner and hold very tight lines through it. On a winding road, even a slippery one, it is very sharp and very quick.
Braking: Fade free braking, a good pedal feel (and with ABS, EBD and EBA), provide strong braking performance.
ANCAP rating: Five stars
Safety features: Stability control, torque vectoring control, individual single stage front airbags and 3D side thorax airbags for the driver and front passenger, standard side curtain airbags for the first and second row seats.
Side airbags come with adaptive venting technology for smaller occupants.
Also standard is anti-lock braking (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), and emergency brake assist (EBA), dynamic stability control (DSC) with traction control (TCS) and hill launch assist (HLA).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited kilometres.
Service costs: TBA
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen Golf (from $21,990 to $49,990) – Until now, leader of the pack for personality and on-road dynamics and balance. Ford’s new Focus though has the Golf’s measure for verve and performance, and betters the Golf on rougher surfaces.
The Focus is also better equipped. And style? Well, that’s subjective, but to these eyes the dramatic sporting lines of the Focus win the day. (see Golf reviews)
Holden Cruze (from $20,990 to $28,490) – Sedan only, for the moment, the Cruze is neither a standout for on-road dynamics, nor style and accommodation.
It is nevertheless a competent all-rounder and good-value buying but doesn’t have the answers nor the personality of the sporty new Focus range. (see Cruze reviews)
Mazda3 (from $21,330 to $41,915) – The benchmark for the sector and sales hero, there is a lot more to the Mazda 3 than winning style, but the robust and better-equipped Focus feels more solid, more modern and more refined. (see Mazda3 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
But the outgoing Focus, it’s fair to say, didn’t really inflame buyer passions.
That’s going to change. Sampling the new Focus at launch was a gob-smack. While it has met with glowing reviews in Europe, we didn’t expect it to be quite so complete and quite so impressive in so many areas.
In the segment, it is a real standout.
There may be some things we’ve missed on the first drive – a longer test of each of the models will tell the tale – but check out the new Focus range if shopping for a classy, stylish, feature-filled and beautifully-built small car.