The skinny: SMARTLY ATTIRED, FORD'S NEW 2015 FOCUS TITANIUM COMES LADEN WITH TECHNOLOGY AND AN UPMARKET LEATHER-TRIMMED INTERIOR. In up-spec Titanium trim, the refined new Focus is yet another small car choice that, feature for feature, is knocking on the door of the premium brands.
Recently upgraded with a new turbo engine and new automatic transmission, as well as Ford’s Sync2 infotainment system and MyKey - the latter offering speed-limiting functions, perfect for parents of young drivers.
Vehicle Style: Small hatch
Price: $32,690 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 132kW/240Nm 1.5 litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.4 l/100km | tested: 8.8 l/100km
After an update earlier this year, the mainstream Focus range is simpler to understand, with less models and just one engine choice (not counting the sport ST and RS variants of course).
The Titanium model remains at the top of the range, this time without a diesel option. Instead a 1.5 litre EcoBoost turbo petrol four-cylinder, mated to a conventional six-speed automatic takes the place of the last model’s naturally-aspirated 2.0 litre engine and dual-clutch auto.
Why the change? Ford puts it down to buyer preference in the Asia-Pacific region. At the end of the day, it’s hard to argue with the smoother-driving results.
Dynamics have been tweaked, steering adjusted, and equipment gets a light going over too. It is often overlooked, the Focus, but it is one of the better ones.
- Standard equipment: Dual-zone climate control, Ford MyKey, leather seat trim, powered driver’s seat, proximity key with push-button start, auto lights and wipers, auto dimming rear view mirror, sports body kit, front and rear park sensors
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch touchscreen display, satellite navigation, Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity, DAB+ digital radio, voice control, USB input.
- Cargo volume: 316 litres (seats up) expandable via 60:40 folding rear seat
Thanks to Ford’s easy to use Sync2 infotainment system, the button-clutter of the earlier Focus has been nixed, replaced by an easy-to-use set of climate control functions down low, with most other controls tucked into the four-quadrant touchscreen.
Ergonomics are also improved thanks to a repositioned handbrake that requires a more natural action than the odd-shaped lever it replaces.
Redesigned steering wheel controls also get the thumbs-up with regards to the top-two button groups which control the multi-information display and audio. The lower cruise control panel is still a ‘hand off the wheel, eyes off the road’ affair though.
Some front seat passengers reported the dash as feeling a little intrusive - take a seat yourself to make up your mind on that. Despite the sport-seat profile there’s not a lot of lateral support either, but that probably won’t be a deal-breaker for most.
Head to the rear, and back seat travellers get a decent view out the side windows - headroom tucks in under the tapering roof line, but width and legroom are more generous.
Leather-appointed seats, with power adjustment for the driver, complete the Titanium's more upmarket aspirations, but train spotters will notice that the sunroof, Xenon headlights, and heated seats of previous models have been deleted.
Boot space, at 316 litres is large, but not the largest in the class. 60:40 folding rear seats are included, but to get a flat floor the seat base must be lifted, and it doesn’t split putting the entire back seat out of action.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 132kW/240Nm 1.5 litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
- Transmission: Six-speed torque converter automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, Control Blade independent rear suspension
- Brakes: Four wheel disc brakes,
- Steering: Electric power steering
Thanks to the new 1.5 litre turbo four-cylinder under the bonnet, the Focus gets along with greater ease compared to the 2.0 litre non-turbo it replaces.
Power now measures 132kW (up 7kW compared to the 2.0 litre) with torque at 240Nm (an extra 38Nm) from as low as 1600rpm, compared to 4450rpm for the old engine.
A raft of noise reduction measures also keep the cabin well-insulated from the perils of road, wind, and engine noise, making the Focus one of the more refined choices in its segment.
Both the Titanium, and slightly lower-specced Sport gain a sports suspension tune compared to the entry level Trend.
Thanks to the 18-inch wheels of the Titanium the ride can occasionally feel a little taut, catching over sharp imperfections (where the Trend tends not to) but the ride is fine for family duties, and copes well in and out of town.
Given the whip through a set of bends, the Focus shows its Euro origins (but if you were wondering, this model, like the last is built in Thailand) with a settled rear-end and impressive cornering grip.
Steering feels alert and responsive, but longer straight-road stints at highways speeds revealed a slight ‘notch’ when moving the wheel off centre. Overall the steering is on the lighter side.
What matters beyond all else for most buyers though, is the Focus’ city and suburban demeanor.
The biggest improvement here has been made by switching the previous PowerShift dual-clutch transmission for a hydraulic six-speed auto.
This smoothes out low speed behavior and makes simple tasks, like parking or inching through peak-hour traffic, less jerky and uneasy.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 34.17 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Front, side and curtain airbags, ABS, brake assist, brake force distribution, dynamic traction control, seatbelt pretensioners, reversing camera and rear park sensors are standard across the range.
Titanium models also come with autonomous emergency braking (which now operates between 3-50km/h), front park sensors, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and self parking including perpendicular and parallel with ‘park in’ and ‘park out’.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Buying at the upper end of the small car sector nets you some very nice machinery, all well-finished, and with high levels of standard equipment.
The Golf 110TSI Highline for instance has plenty of Euro appeal, but, for a little extra coin, a Peugeot 308 Allure Premium nets you the best interior in the business.
Mazda3 SP25 GT squares up well but lacks a little in refinement, and Hyundai’s i30 SR Premium offers plenty of features, but lacks the turbo punch of the Focus.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Eminently likeable, the Focus Titanium delivers a balanced approach to handling and comfort - not too demanding of casual drivers, but with enough zest and sporting appeal to not the ‘vanilla’ tag.
Ford’s commitment to aftersales care should also win over customers with its fixed price service offer, free loan car, and free auto club membership.
While the Titanium is priced at the upper reaches of the non-performance small hatch market, it carries more than enough equipment and technology to hold itself proudly.
Some of the top-end toys, like a sunroof and Xenon headlamps may have disappeared, but the stronger safety suite that takes their place ultimately makes more sense.
Getting more bums on seats might be the answer; small car buyers would do well to add the Focus to their list of test drives.
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