2013 FORD FOCUS REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Five door hatchback
Price: $28,190 (plus on-roads) | $28,575 as tested
Engine/trans: 125kW/202Nm 4cyl petrol | 6 speed twin-clutch auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.6 l/100km | tested: 8.7 l/100km
Hatchback buyers owe a lot to the Ford Focus of the late nineties: that first Focus of 1998 changed everything.
Bold and funky, it looked great, handled and steered beautifully and spearheaded a revival in Ford’s fortunes in the small car sector.
Since then, the Focus has clung to its reputation as a sharp handling, well-built and "enjoyable car".
Quality: The Thai-built Focus’ interior is well-constructed with up-to-the-mark materials and plastics and good, tight finish.
The metal highlights and touch-points on the dash and doors look and feel pretty good.
However, the seat fabric is another story. It's quite coarse when in contact with bare legs and arms, and elicited a few complaints from passengers.
Comfort: The 'sports' front seats are uncommonly comfortable (but we’d have the ST’s Recaros any day) and the rear bench has some well-judged sculpting while allowing three across the back in reasonable comfort.
The steering wheel is adjustable for rake and reach, with a lot of scope in both directions. but it has a peculiar spongy feel to it.
Equipment: For the money, there’s a solid equipment list. Ford’s SYNC system includes USB and bluetooth phone connectivity on the dinky little dashtop screen.
There’s also sat-nav, reversing camera, rear parking-sensors, climate control air-conditioning, cruise control, hill-hold, keyless entry with boot release, leather wheel and gear knob, auto wipers and auto headlights.
Bizarrely, an iPod with “too many files” cannot be bossed around via the much-vaunted SYNC voice control.
SYNC is also big on lectures that are a little confusing - it will instruct you to say something, then tell you it’s not available in Bluetooth. Some work to do there, then.
The sat-nav, despite the ridiculous little screen, is very good, with a simple and straighforward address entry.
Storage: The cabin is littered with a good number of hidey holes, including a deep central console with a tray for gadgets and etags, a small bin under the central stack, a sunglasses holder that holds even a big pair of Oakleys, twin cupholders up front, door pockets, seatback pockets.
The boot is a very decent 316 litres and the rears seats fold 60/40 for an easy doubling of the load area.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: One of the Focus’ strengths is its on-road performance.
While the engine power and torque figures are nothing to fire the imagination, the Focus is one of the nicest cars on the road to drive. It has an effortless feel about it, with good, positive steering and a well-sorted suspension.
The Powershift transmission happily slurs between gears around town and is mostly so good you won't know it’s a twin-clutch. It easily betters VW’s DSG in everyday driving.
Where it isn’t so good is when pressing on - it can be reluctant to kick down and the silly rocker switch on the side of the shifter is no replacement for a knock-sideways manual slot.
That aside, the Focus is a lot of fun when you want it to be. It is also a quiet, comfortable cruiser and competent city car when pressed into more mundane pursuits.
Refinement: The 2.0 litre petrol is very smooth and quiet, with a more rorty character at the top end.
Noise suppression is excellent, with very little rustling from the wing mirrors and not much tyre noise, despite a hefty set of 215/50 tyres fitted to 17-inch wheels.
Ride and Handling: Excellent, on both counts. The Focus can be chucked around like its smaller bro', the Fiesta, and is very difficult to fluster on all but the worst surfaces.
The poor-man’s limited slip differential effect is achieved through Ford’s ever-improving torque-vectoring electronics, a feature it has in common with the Golf. It means excellent grip into and out of tight corners with little of the scrabbling associated with some front drivers.
Braking: Discs all round, the small Ford's brakes are consistent and have good pedal feel, even under hard use.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 34.17 out of 37
Safety features: Front, side and curtain airbags, ABS, brake assist, brake force distribution, dynamic traction control, seatbelt pretensioners.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km.
Service costs: $335 for the first three services (intervals are at 15,000km or 12 months), rising to $475 at 60,000km before dropping to $335 again for the next two services.
Brake fluid changes are expected at 2 years and cost an additional $135, radiator fluid (every 3-10 years) $155.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY RATING: /5
Volskwagen Golf 90TSI Comfortline ($27,490) - On paper, the Golf looks to be behind with lower power and torque figures as well as standard equipment.
But a seven-speed DSG, and sublime ride and handling see the Golf edge a lot closer in bang-for-your-buck. (see Golf reviews)
Hyundai i30 SR ($30,190) - One of the reasons the i30 is so good is because the Focus is so good. The SR is a warm hatch where the Focus Sport is a spec-level, but with Australian engineered ride and handling, it bridges a pretty big gap from the standard i30.
The Hyundai also bridges the price gap with more goodies and cheaper servicing. (see i30 reviews)
Holden Cruze SRi-V Automatic ($28,690) - As with the i30, the Holden has higher power and torque but is also a harder car than the smooth riding Focus. The Holden is also let down by an interior that misses par in quality feel. (see Cruze reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
We’ve got a bustling small car market with barely a plonker in it. Being spoilt for choice is good, isn’t it?
Niggling complaints about the interior aside, the Focus is a very good package. It rides and handles well, is great to drive and very easy to live with.
The Focus is a fine car that takes the fight to the Golf and, for many drivers, wins. It’s a see-saw battle that is usually won on points: styling, equipment, driving experience, the list is long and exhaustive.
And this is a good thing. It’s a fight the Focus started in the nineties when it threw down the gauntlet to a ho-hum Golf nearly 15 years ago.
The result? A win for small car buyers.
Yes, a solid four stars for the Focus. Make sure you check this one out.