The skinny: With this mid-life update of the Focus, Ford has pared back the model-range, trimmed the engine and powertrain choices, and provided a more refined, improved and more appealing vehicle to compete in the bustling small car sector.
It now comes with a 1.5-litre turbo petrol across the range, with improved performance you can feel, and better fuel consumption to boot. Ride and handling is also improved, as is the new automatic (replacing the dual-clutch transmission in the older model).
The cut-price entry-level Ambiente is now off the menu, gone, but Ford insists buyers prefer the Focus in higher-specced versions and has remodelled the range accordingly.
Vehicle Style: Small hatch and sedan
Trend manual hatch - $23,390
Trend automatic hatch and sedan - $24,390
Sport manual hatch - $26,490
Sport automatic hatch - $27,490
Titanium automatic hatch and sedan - $32,690
Engine/trans: 132kW/240Nm 1.5 4cyl turbo petrol | 6spd manual or 6spd automatic
Fuel Economy claimed:
Trend and Sport manual: (claimed) 5.8 l/100km
Trend and Sport automatic: (claimed) 6.2 l/100km
Titanium automatic: (claimed) 6.4 l/100km | tested: 10.2 l/100km
This is a more comfortable and refined small car. Engine, transmission, steering and suspension have all been re-assessed, retuned or replaced.
A cleaner, clearer, and easier-to-use cabin also arrives, with Ford’s SYNC2 infotainment system providing a simpler, and visually clearer user interface.
On the outside, new bumpers, new wheel designs, slimmer front and rear lights, and a redesigned tailgate lend a smoother, yet still identifiably-Focus look.
- Trend: Cloth seats, manual air conditioning, Ford MyKey, cruise control with speed limiter, six-speaker audio, driver and front passenger lumbar support, trip computer, multi-function steering wheel, rear park sensors, reverse camera, 16-inch alloy wheels
- Sport (in addition to Trend): Proximity key with push-button start, dual zone climate control, auto headlights and wipers, leather steering wheel and gear knob, auto dimming rear-view mirror, nine-speaker audio, sports bodykit, 17-inch alloy wheels
- Titanium (in addition to Sport): leather seat trim, front park sensors, powered driver’s seat, park assistant, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert.
- Infotainment: 8.0 inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity, voice commands, USB inputs. DAB+ radio for Sport and Titanium.
- Luggage capacity: 316 litres (hatch), 421 litres (sedan), expandable via 60:40 split/fold rear seat.
Ford has put considerable effort into making the interior controls more user-friendly. As a result the centre-stack has been remodelled to accommodate an eight-inch SYNC2 touchscreen, standard in all models.
The steering wheel also comes in for an overhaul, with a button array that has been reconfigured for ease-of-use. Where the previous system could be, at times, baffling, the new one is far more intuitive.
Navigation is standard across the range - a big plus for Focus buyers - and Ford’s voice recognition allows for more natural inputs. Tap the voice button on the wheel and say “I’m hungry” or, “Destination: Kelly’s Cafe” and SYNC2 will take care of the rest.
A repositioned handbrake, redesigned ventilation (Trend) and climate controls (Sport and Titanium) and customisable cup holders that can handle up to a one-litre bottle, and a 400ml cup at the same time, round out the changes.
Revised seat trims, and a new, more uniform metallic finish inside the cabin are also part of the update.
Cabin comfort benefits from increased sound deadening, thicker front door glass, and thicker floor carpet. The improvement to passenger comfort is noticeable.
Titanium models score a power adjustable driver’s seat and leather seat trim, Trend and Sport wear cloth trim.
Seat comfort may favour the smaller-framed; taller drivers may find the seat base a little short, and the shoulder-point a touch low (best you check that out yourself).
In the rear there’s a decent amount of width and legroom, but the tumbling roofline can cannibalise headroom.
Head for the boot, and the hatch offers 316 litres of space, while the sedan provides 421 litres. Both are expandable via 60:40 folding rear seats.
ON THE ROAD
- 1.5-litre turbocharged EcoBoost four cylinder with 132kW and 240Nm
- Six-speed manual or six-speed torque converter automatic, front wheel drive
- MacPherson strut front, independent multi-link rear suspension
- Four-wheel disc brakes
- Electric power steering
Engine options for the updated Focus have been slashed. Gone is the ‘entry level’ Ambiente; also gone is the 1.6-litre petrol, the 2.0-litre petrol and the diesel option (the latter shown the door due to slow diesel sales).
Instead, a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol four cylinder is available across the range (with the exception of the high-performance Focus ST).
With 132kW at 6000rpm and 240Nm between 1600 and 5000rpm, the new engine is both stronger and more fuel efficient than the engine it replaces.
It also places the Focus at the pointy-end of non-performance small cars, out-grunting the Hyundai i30, Holden Cruze, and Toyota Corolla, while only a fraction off the high-output Mazda 3 SP25 and Nissan Pulsar SSS.
In most situations the 1.5 litre EcoBoost engine feels more lively than the 2.0 litre engine it replaces. There’s more torque at low revs, and accordingly the Focus feels more eager in city traffic.
The engine idles quietly, and settles into a calm highway cruise.
But sink the boot in and it can get vocal. With everything else so hushed and refined, the grumbly engine note above about 3500rpm comes as a bit of a surprise.
There’s a choice of transmissions, a six-speed manual for Trend hatch and Sport, or a six-speed automatic, standard on Titanium and Trend sedan, and optional on other variants.
The auto option sees Ford move away from the previous dual-clutch transmission and back to a conventional torque-converter automatic.
That means that in stop-start driving and low-speed manoeuvres the Focus is smoother and more controlled.
Away from town the transmission can be a little more reluctant to kickdown, instead relying on the engine’s broad torque spread. On a few occasions, that left the Focus feeling flat in its midrange, where we expected it to livelier.
A sport mode livens things up a little, and a shift-mounted rocker switch can be used to manually toggle through ratios.
Another area targeted for revision was the power steering system. An electric system, Ford engineers aimed for a quicker off-centre response, with reduced effort as lock is wound on.
The result is that the Focus has lost none of it’s eager steering response, but offers better kick-back isolation, and feels more settled and comfortable.
Suspension changes follow a similar pattern. Retuned dampers and stiffer bushes maintain handling agility while increasing comfort. The 16-inch wheels, and fatter sidewalls of Trend models offered the most comfortable ride.
The Titanium’s 18-inch wheels and tyre combo certainly felt firmer, but at no point was the ride harsh or uncomfortable. Big dips never unsettled the ride and the Focus felt secure, even while zipping along damp, zig-zagging roads.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 34.17 out of 37 possible points, based on previous results.
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
Bypassing most entry-level models, the Focus runs up against a varied selection of small cars. While there’s plenty of opposition out there, a few of the stronger competitors (and biggest threats) are listed below.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
With heightened refinement and comfort, the Focus should appeal to an even broader slice of small car shoppers.
Don’t be deterred by the higher price; spec-for-spec the appealing Focus more than holds its own for value against competitors.
The standard fitment of a reverse camera (fast becoming an safety must-have), and the convenience of satellite navigation across the range are particularly encouraging.
But comfort is where the Focus rules the roost. That’s not to say it was uncomfortable before, but with extra sound deadening, improvements to suspension, and more settled steering, the well-mannered Focus excels on the road.
Coupled with a simplified interior, the Focus is a much better all-rounder than it’s ever been and well worth your consideration if shopping for the small car market.