2012 FORD FOCUS REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Price: $36,590 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 5.5 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 6.8 l/100km
We have to be honest here: the last Focus was pretty average. It drove well enough, but that alone wasn’t enough to compensate for the cheap interior plastics and sometimes-patchy build.
Its replacement however is worlds apart. Not only is the new Focus a cracking drive and a sharp looker, it’s now right near the top of its segment for interior quality.
The Mk VI Golf has long been recognised as the most nicely-finished in the small car segment. But have a look at the new Focus: it’s a genuine challenge for top-dog status.
Quality: Soft plastic surfaces are plentiful and give the Focus Titanium’s cabin an upmarket ambience.
Interior fittings and switchgear feel secure, solid and well-engineered, and the low-rent furnishings of the old Focus have well-and-truly been consigned to history.
Aside from a small piece of foam that had lifted up between the dashboard and windscreen, the Focus’ build quality was excellent.
Comfort: Thickly-bolstered front seats give great lateral support, and the powered driver’s seat and tilt/reach adjustable steering column allows a relaxed, natural driving position.
In the Titanium, both front seats are heated - but the passenger misses out on power adjustment.
The back seats have good under-thigh support and a reasonably comfortable centre position, however headroom and knee-room are in short supply. The C-pillar also comes quite close to outboard passenger’s heads.
Equipment: The Titanium comes loaded with an abundance of classy features and technologies as standard - ones, just a short while ago, you would only ever have expected on a premium class saloon. It puts its main rivals, the VW Golf and Jetta, to shame.
Advanced features like radar-assisted cruise control, xenon headlamps, a self-parking system, front and rear parking sensors and a proximity key are all standard-issue on the Titanium.
Passenger comfort is maintained by dual-zone climate control, and there’s a premium nine-speaker Sony audio system with USB input, iPod connectivity and Bluetooth integration.
Storage: In the Titanium, boot space is compromised by the extra bulk of the (non-space-saver) steel spare, which pushes up the boot floor and reduces cargo capacity to just 372 litres.
That’s not much more than the average hatchback.
In-cabin storage is good though, with door bins front and rear, a deep centre console box, sizable glovebox, map pockets and sunglasses holder. There are also four cupholders - two in the front, two in the back.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The 2.0 litre Duratorq turbodiesel inline four puts out 120kW and 340Nm: solid numbers for an engine its size.
The bulk of its torque is available between 2000rpm and 3250rpm, which translates into superb off-idle tractability.
And, thanks to that abundant torque, you can lug it around in higher gears without complaint - it is in fact the diesel’s preferred mode of operation.
It’s very well-matched to the six-speed twin-clutch automatic (the only transmission available with the diesel Focus) which operates smoothly and decisively for both upshifts and downshifts. About town, or on the highway, the Focus feels swift and strong underfoot.
Sport mode livens up gearshifts and keeps revs higher, but in our opinion the Focus diesel is best left to its own devices in regular ol’ Drive.
There’s also a manual shift facility built into the twin-clutch trans, but its fiddly rocker-switch gear selector can be a pain to use.
Refinement: The Focus is quite well isolated from wind and mechanical noise, but on the Titanium’s low-profile rubber and 18-inch wheels there’s some tyre roar evident on coarser surfaces.
Suspension: There’s no doubting the Focus platform’s dynamic prowess. It provides crisp turn-in when cornering, flat neutral handling and good grip from the 18-inch tyres. A brake-based pseudo-LSD helps reduce wheelspin under power.
However, like some others in the small car class, the Titanium’s suspension is on the firmer side (I found it too firm) - it leans to a sporting feel over comfort.
Initial bump-response is quite sharp, and bumps and shocks from badly maintained streets and rural backroads can be transmitted into the body.
We get the feeling that smaller-diameter wheels would improve the Titanium’s ride-quality markedly, as would softer dampers.
Braking: There are disc brakes behind each wheel, and the usual array of electronic traction aids (stability control, ABS, EBD, brake assist) give the Focus good stopping ability.
Pedal response is good, as is the pedal ‘feel’.
ANCAP rating: Five stars
Safety features: Passenger safety is provided by dual front airbags and side thorax airbags for the driver and front passenger, as well as standard side curtain airbags for the first and second row seats.
Also standard is ABS with EBD and emergency brake assist. Dynamic stability control and traction control are standard.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited kilometres.
Service costs: Servicing intervals are set for every 12 months or 15,000km, with the price of the first three services capped to $335 each.
The first major service is due at 60,000km, and costs $905 under Ford’s myFord capped price servicing scheme.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen Jetta 103TDI Comfortline ($34,990) - A little cheaper than the Focus Titanium, but less well-equipped and not as powerful. In its favour is a back seat that’s marginally roomier than the Focus, and a boot that’s a more usable size. (see Jetta reviews)
Holden Cruze CDX Diesel ($30,740) - Significantly more affordable than the Focus, but also much less-appealing from an interior refinement standpoint.
Handling is also less impressive than the Focus, as is its standard equipment list. (see Cruze reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Ford’s dynamic and appealingly-styled new Focus Titanium is very impressive, with few shortcomings (such as that tiny boot and firm ride).
It’s rather expensive for a small car, but the quality and sophistication of the interior, an excellent powertrain and a premium specification list can justify the expense.
If the Titanium stretches the budget however, each in the Focus range is worth a careful look: Ford’s Focus is certainly one the best buys in the segment at the moment.