The Focus is one of the Blue Oval’s biggest selling nameplates, produced at eight plants around the world and accounting for more than one million sales annually. That international success, however, hasn’t quite translated to Australia.
So, there is a lot riding on this new model. But Ford designers and engineers weren’t staring at blank screens when they set to work - feedback from owners of the now superseded model provided a baseline for the updated range.
Now the new Ford Focus is here with a refreshed interior and exterior style, a new more powerful and fuel-efficient engine, greater refinement and even better driving dynamics.
We think the value proposition has improved too and there is no better example than the entry-level $24,390 Ford Focus Trend.
Vehicle Style: Small five-door hatch
Price: $24,390 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 132kW/240Nm 1.5 4cyl turbo petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.2 l/100km | tested: 8.1 l/100km
Trend is now the entry level model for the new Ford Focus range. Previously there was a lower grade version called ‘Ambiente’.
The good news is that the Trend model comes with a level of standard equipment which leaves some rivals looking a tad raw.
Ford Focus Trend lists satellite navigation, cruise control, rear-view camera, 16-inch alloy wheels and daytime running lights as ‘standard fit’, as well as a comprehensive suite of safety technology.
Externally, you’ll pick the updated Ford Focus by its ‘evolved’ styling changes, front and rear.
Styling highlights include Ford’s current trapezoidal grille, slim laser-cut headlights - which in turn required a new bonnet and front fenders - and thinner tail-lights.
And in the driving dynamics department, apart from that new engine, we’re talking significant changes to steering and suspension and much improved refinement thanks to extra sound-deadening measures.
- Cloth seats (rear split-folds 60/40)
- Satellite navigation with voice control
- Eight-inch colour touchscreen
- Rear-view camera
- Cruise control with speed limiter
- 6-speaker audio with Bluetooth audio streaming and SYNC2 emergency assistance
- Multi-function steering wheel
The interior ‘focus’, for this updated MkII model, is on simplicity.
There are noticeably fewer buttons on the centre stack (which now includes an eight-inch screen for satellite navigation etc.), instruments are simpler (and we like the new light blue graphics), the centre console now provides sliders to house different-sized drink bottles/cups and even the glovebox has been re-designed.
Seat material is new, with enough shaping and bolstering for an inter-capital run, and there are nice aluminium-like trim highlights to add a bit of sparkle to the interior.
The steering wheel is also a new design and offers tilt and telescopic adjustment for a handy driving position.
Those in the rear are well catered for with legroom on-par with others in this segment.
Luggage capacity is 360-litres with the 60:40 split-fold rear seat in-place - again on-par with rival hatchbacks.
ON THE ROAD
- 1.5 litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine - 132kW/240Nm
- Six-speed automatic transmission
- MacPherson strut front/multi-link independent rear suspension
- Electric power steering
We put the Ford Focus Trend through its paces over a variety of city and country roads.
The overwhelming driving impression is how much better the new turbocharged EcoBoost 1.5 litre engine is, now standard across the range, than the previous naturally-aspirated engines.
It proved to be spritely in the city and definitely sporty in the country when you crack the whip.
While the new torque converter six-speed automatic scored points for its smoothness in the city (although we think complaints about the jerkiness of dual-clutch autos are overblown), there is some delay when changing gears manually using the gear-lever toggle switch (we don't much like the toggle operation).
On the highway, you will definitely notice the improved refinement in the Ford Focus with extra sound deadening in the front wheelarches, thicker glass and carpets. We’d score a dead-heat for refinement between the entry level Ford Focus Trend and the Mazda3 Maxx.
It’s also got a distinctly sporty feel and some real ‘zing’ under the bonnet. This is a beautiful little engine with a really alert feel at the accelerator. Shift it to 'Sport' and it really livens things up: any way you care to look at it, this is a quick little commuter hatch.
Put it around some winding rural roads and the Ford Focus will show its mettle with polished steering feel and flat handling, thanks to recalibrated electric power steering, new valving for the struts and stiffer suspension bushes.
For ride and handling, the previous Focus ranked alongside the Mazda3 as the best of the small hatchbacks. Things are even better for the updated Focus line-up - precise steering, a ‘go where it’s pointed’ feel on turn-in and a balanced mid-corner set.
Our entry-level Trend model was equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels and Michelin Primacy tyres which were both grippy and impressively quiet even on coarse chip roads.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 34.17 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Hill launch assist, rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, driver and front passenger airbags, side front thorax and curtain airbags, anti-lock braking (ABS), electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD),traction control system (TCS), emergency brake assist (EBA) and dynamic stability control (DSC) are all standard in the entry-grade Ford Focus Trend.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The asking price of $24,390 buys a lot of car with the new Ford Focus Trend. The level of standard equipment with this entry-level car requires care when making comparisons with rival hatchbacks.
For example the Mazda3 starts at $20,490 for the Neo model. But you will have to look to the identically-priced ($24,390) Mazda3 Maxx to align specifications with the Ford Focus Trend.
Volkswagen Golf 90TSI Comfortline automatic will set you back $23,990 but it too misses on features compared to the Trend, and, remember, the Golf only provides 90kW/200Nm from its turbocharged 1.4 litre engine.
Also on your list should be:
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
We’re calling the updated Ford Focus MkII a winner and a definite contender for Australia’s best small hatchback. This engine, in this car, with this feature list, combine to make the Focus Trend very good buying.
While Focus isn’t the segment’s price leader, the entry-level Trend provides a level of standard equipment - including satellite navigation, cruise control and reversing camera - which frankly should be causing embarrassment with some rivals.
It is also greatly improved for refinement, as well as for the simplified interior.
But the big winner is driving dynamics (already a Focus strong-point). The new EcoBoost turbocharged engine, and revisions to the steering and suspension, make this a very good driving car indeed.