A MID-LIFE MAKEOVER OF THE EURO-BRED FOCUS LAST YEAR SAW FORD REDUCE THE MODEL AND ENGINE LINE-UP.
Upgrades then extended to new technologies, featuring Ford’s latest-generation SYNC2 infotainment system (now upgraded again to SYNC3) and MyKey, with its speed limiting function – ideal for inexperienced drivers
A refined turbo engine and auto transmission, and handling and ride that is right at the top of its segment, makes Ford’s Focus a very appealing buy, and quite a bit better than buyers would seem to realise.
If you’re one of those buyers, spend some time in the Focus… you won’t be disappointed.
Vehicle Style: Small hatch
Price: $27,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 132kW/240Nm 1.5 litre 4cyl petrol | 6sp automatic (option)
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.2 l/100km | tested: 8.0 l/100km
There is one engine choice for all Ford Focus models except the hot-hatch ST and RS twins.
Under the bonnet is a seamlessly powerful and fuel-efficient 1.5 litre EcoBoost turbo petrol four-cylinder, with stop/start technology.
The dual-clutch auto that copped a bit of criticism in the last model has been scuttled, and, in its place, a conventional six-speed automatic.
A recalibration of the stability control, along with suspension and steering revisions, make the Focus a sporty and settled performer on road.
- Standard equipment: Cruise control with speed limiter, cloth seats, 60/40 split rear seats, driver & front passenger lumbar support, dual-zone climate control, ambient lighting, leather covered steering wheel and gear shifter, auto dimming rear view mirror, keyless entry & push button start, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers
- Infotainment: SYNC2 (in our test car, but now upgraded to SYNC3) with Emergency Assistance, high-resolution 8-inch colour touch screen, Bluetooth with audio streaming, natural language voice control for phone, music, climate and navigation controls, sat nav with destination entry via voice control, USB & RCA inputs, Sony audio with 9-speakers, DAB+
- Cargo volume: 316 litres seats in place, expandable via 60:40 split/fold rear seat
Sitting in the Focus for the first time, the overall quality of the cabin is evident, along with a host of classy higher-end standard features.
The easy-to-use, touch and voice activated SYNC2 infotainment system (now SYNC3) unclutters the centre-stack of its predecessor, with the sat nav, phone, climate and entertainment controls, all accessible on the 8-inch screen.
Nice touches include the aircon fan that automatically reduces speed when making a phone call and the convenience of plenty of storage cubbies throughout the cabin.
Boot space is a reasonable but not class-leading 316 litres (Honda’s Civic has 400), and the 60:40 split rear seat folds flat, but only if you lift the one-piece squab, which puts an end to using the back seat.
The Sport misses out on paddle shifts, with self shifting done by the awkward toggle switch on the gear lever, however the buttons for the multi-information display, audio, phone, voice activation and speed limited cruise control, have been rearranged more logically on the tilt-and-reach steering wheel.
The cloth covered, manually adjustable semi-sport seats are reasonably well-shaped, offering decent comfort as well as good support when cornering.
Leg and headroom up front is generous and I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of leg, foot and headroom in the back, with the window in the C-pillar removing any feeling of claustrophobia.
The only letdown to the otherwise impressive interior is the shiny dash top that reflects onto the windscreen, even on overcast days.
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
The Focus has long been recognised for its outstanding ride and handling. It has always been one of the more enjoyable cars to drive in the small car class.
A re-tune of the dampers and electric power steering, plus a stiffer front-end and recalibration of the stability control, gives this latest model a European feel and sense of dynamism.
It also has excellent grip and balance and, for keen drivers, can be pointed through corners with enthusiasm. While some may find the steering a bit light, it doesn’t come at the expense of responsiveness, feel or accuracy.
Being the Sport model, we think it should wear the 18-inch alloy wheels and low profile tyres fitted to the Titanium for better visual and driving impact, and not the smaller 17-inch rims it comes shod with.
The sport suspension tune comes with a corresponding firmer ride, something we now commonly expect from a European-style suspension.
And, though most road imperfections, tram tracks and level crossings will go unnoticed by its occupants, the jarring from sharper hits and potholes on rougher secondary roads can find their way into the cabin.
Overall, however, ride quality is comfortable at both city and highway speeds and the new noise reduction measures keep the cabin well cocooned, from the outside world.
The new four-cylinder 1.5 litre turbo engine likes to be hustled along and has a lively feel underfoot. It delivers its peak torque of 240Nm from 1600rpm, with a willing 132kW at 6000rpm.
It is no fire-breather, but certainly the equal of the Mazda 3 and livelier than the Hyundai i30, Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic.
Importantly, it won’t leave you ‘hung out to dry’ when a quick stamp of speed is called for. Even with a full load, it is untroubled by hills and will overtake slower traffic quickly and safely.
The new for-this-generation, conventional six-speed auto, has replaced the unruly dual-clutch unit in the previous model.
It provides smoother changes without the low-speed jerkiness of the dual-clutch problem-child and simple tasks like edging into a parking spot or crawling along in traffic are once again a breeze.
Lastly, we averaged 8.0 l/100km for the week in our care. This is a bit on the high side – given that we were driving normally (with no gung-ho performance testing) – and quite shy of the 6.0 l/100km claimed.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - the Ford Focus scored 34.17 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Rear View Camera, MyKey, Power Rear Child Locks, front, side and curtain airbags, ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Traction Control System (TCS), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Mazda3 SP25 $27,190: The latest generation 3 builds on the successful formula of its predecessors, with greater levels of refinement.
It is a very nice car and with a proven reputation. The ‘Kodo’ styling makes it stand out in a crowd and it is among the better performers for driving appeal and dynamics. NVH however could be better.
Toyota Corolla ZR $28,990: Bullet proof and capable. The Corolla will do everything you want, efficiently, economically and comfortably.
It may not be the most dynamic of drives, but the ZR model adds some street cred. With good looks, rock solid reliability and resale, it’s one to have on the short list.
Hyundai i30 SR $27,990: Hyundai’s barn-storming i30 is packed with features, stylish inside and out, and well made.
While it lacks the dynamic on-road feel of the Focus, the i30 offers a smart interior, decent road manners and one of the best warranties in the business.
Volkswagen Golf Comfortline $27,990: A very smart interior and a Euro feel make the Golf a favourite, though not as roomy inside as the others and a little understated in style.
It is less powerful than its rivals with just 92kW/ 200Nm and drinks 98 RON fuel, adding to its running costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Thai-built Ford Focus Sport delivers plenty of visual appeal both inside and out, and offers a spacious and comfortable interior.
The level of standard features and technology for the price is quite surprising – and now made even better with the addition of SYNC3.The new engine and transmission are a big improvement on the old model, and the ride and enjoyable handling make this model Focus worthy of the ‘Sport’ badge on its rump.
Quibbles? Only a couple. There should be paddle shifts on the steering wheel and the 17–inch alloy wheels look a bit underdone.
And, although the EcoBoost engine lives up to its name on the ‘Boost’ side, it should be more ‘Eco’-nomical than it is.
The fact that the Focus is out-sold by many in the class, including the ageing Mitsubishi Lancer and far less capable Holden Cruze and Nissan Pulsar, is a poor reflection of Ford’s marketing.
With all that it’s got going for it, the Focus deserves to be selling in much greater numbers. We’d recommend a very close look at the Ford Focus Sport.