Twin Review: 2016 Ford Focus Facelift, a pair of turbocharged wonders


So, which is the world’s best-selling car? Statistically, it’s always been the Toyota Corolla, but one of Blue Oval’s most successful model, the Ford Focus is also known as world’s best selling nameplate. Which appeals more, a reliable but relatively boring Altis or the more engaging Focus?

While model facelifts are mainly nip-and-tuck changes, the facelift for the Focus is more than just a change of looks. The much revised Focus finally gets the new EcoBoost powertrain and SelectShift gearbox (that’s a torque converter by the way), new touchscreen panel, neater audio instrument and an all-new grille design.2016 Ford Focus Facelift Review - AutoBuzz.my

QUICK FACTS

NameFord Focus TrendFord Focus Titanium+Ford Focus Sport+
Engine1,498cc; turbocharged inline-4, DOHC
Transmission6-speed SelectShift automatic with paddle shifters
Max Power177 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Max Torque240 Nm @ 1,600 – 5,000 rpm
Price (before taxes and insurance)RM118,888RM139,888RM139,888

The Focus Mark 3 (codename C346) was introduced in 2012 with the 2.0-litre Duratec engine mated with a six-speed Powershift twin-clutch gearbox. The Focus back then gained much attention for being the first car in Malaysia to automatically park by itself via the Active Park Assist system.

Watch our First Drive Review in Adelaide, Australia

It also handled impeccably, but its glorious ride and handling characteristics were eclipsed by the unsettling judder produced by the gearbox. It’s also common for owners to repair or replace the gearbox, but Ford plans to change all of that with the introduction of this facelift model. And at first glance, things have indeed paid off. Ford Malaysia is offering three variants for the Focus: the Trend hatchback as its entry model, followed by the Sport+ hatchback and Titanium+ saloon. Here, we sampled the latter two, each with its own distinctive characteristics.

EXTERIOR

Apart from the new and obvious trapezoidal front grille, Active Grille Shutter is also fitted at the front to reduce drag which improves fuel efficiency. Both Sport+ and Titanium + models get LED daytime running lights and rear lights, as well as heated side mirrors. Oddly, the inclusion of halogen headlights in this era is akin to savouring a delicious cake, minus the cherry on top.2016 Ford Focus Facelift Review - AutoBuzz.my

The rim design has changed, with each model receiving a different set of multi-spoke rims. The hatch rides on 215/50 R17 series rubbers while the booted variant settles for a smaller 16-inch wheels with larger profiled 215/65 tyres.

As far as its exterior packaging goes, my preference leans towards the pre-facelift’s Kinetic design over the “Aston Martin” lookalike, although if given enough time, it’ll grow on me.

INTERIOR

The facelift also sees some glaring difference on the inside. To start, the four-point steering from the predecessor has been replaced by a leather-wrapped multifunction steering with a sportier three-spoke design. Notably, the inclusion of paddle shifters is a welcome addition, removing the awkward button-styled “+” and “-” shifters on the gear lever as seen in the preceding model. Thank you, Ford.

The 4.2-inch screen of old is also removed to make way for a larger, high-res 8.0-inch Sony touchscreen panel. Ford’s more advanced SYNC2 system is deployed here to manage all in-car connectivity and entertainment systems. Strangely through, GPS navigation is not offered with Malaysia-spec Focus, making touchscreen panel in the Focus feels incomplete, like a jigsaw puzzle minus one single piece. Oh, there’s also no reverse camera too.2016 Ford Focus Facelift Review - AutoBuzz.my

Just like its predecessor, the beige leather seats are reserved for the saloon while the Sport+ gets black leather upholstery. For reasons unknown, the six-way power adjustable seat is only offered for the driver’s seat in Titanium+ and the rest, including the sedan’s front passenger seat, are adjusted manually. The dual zone climate control is also available for the two pricier models, but sadly, the rear air-cond vents remain absent in this Focus.

The Focus Mark 3 did not score well in the interior space department and it seems that Ford could do little to improve it here, probably leaving a memo to its designers to add more space in the next-gen Focus. While space at the front is sufficient, legroom for the rear passengers can be of an issue, especially if  you’re over 180cm. Thankfully though, headroom is sufficient, and the seats do hold the occupants well.2016 Ford Focus Facelift Launched in Malaysia - AutoBuzz.my

While the interior is quite a bit of a hit and miss affair, the Focus gets class-leading safety equipment list, perhaps some of the best in its class. Both the Sport+ and Titanium+ variants get six airbags, Electronic Stability Program, Blind Spot Monitoring System (BLIS) with Cross Traffic Alert, Enhanced Active City Stop and the all-improved Enhanced Active Park Assist. To add up, both variants receive keyless entry, push start button, cruise control, overhead sunglasses compartment and folding rear seats.

PERFORMANCE

The big news here is the absence of the old naturally aspirated 2.0-litre Duratec Ti-VCT GDI engine. In its place is a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that produces a healthy 180 hp at 6,000 rpm and 240 Nm of torque from 1,600 to 5,000 revolutions. The Focus is off to a very good start, then.2016 Ford Focus Facelift Launched in Malaysia - AutoBuzz.my

To put that into perspective, the hot hatch of last decade, the Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk5, has just 17 hp more than this Focus. Also, such performance figures could put a few entry model BMWs to shame. The official 0-100km/h figure is absent, but that’s fine as we’ll get to that in a minute.

The Focus also ditched the dual clutch Powershift gearbox for a six-speed SelectShift automatic, which means the Powershift’s irritable jerkiness during city driving speeds is history. It shifts slower than the dual-clutch equivalent, but judging from the negative perception surrounding the latter, it’s a fair compromise.

THE DRIVE

Ford’s compact car is well known for its razor sharp drive and this Focus delivers it in spades. Via its signature independent control blades at the back, the Focus’ top notch handling characteristic is retained here, attacking curves with much bravado. Ford markets the Focus as a “seriously fun to drive car” and this stands true to both saloon and hatchback variants. The Focus’ steering is nicely weighted, thanks to an enhanced Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS).

The turbocharger just completes the package because when it kicks in at 2,000 revolutions, a volley of power gets liberated, and you don’t need to floor the throttle to get it up to speed. It’s effortless, and to think that you can have the same brilliant engine in a C-Segment hatchback for less than RM120k? Steal.

The six-speed SelectShift does its job adequately, and most importantly it delivers silky smooth gearshifts without the jerky characteristics suffered from the PowerShift gearbox. When adrenaline kicks in, you’ve got the paddle shifters right where they’re supposed to be, but you’ll certainly be pleased just leaving it in regular Drive mode the entire time.

Ford claims that the 1.5-litre EcoBoost consumes just 6.2 litres per 100km, but during my sampling of both variants, they averaged 9.4 litres per 100km. That’s impressive considering the number of times I’ve let slip my right foot when the roads ahead cleared up.

Of course, we have got to sample the Enhanced Active Park Assist which helps park the car either parallelly or perpendicularly. It takes a fair bit of trial and errors before you get the hang of it, but it’s not a completely fool-proof system that you should rely on all the time. However, it proves to be a significant step up from the pre-facelift’s self-park feature. If this isn’t a big deal for you, then opt for the base variant. Nothing much to lose there.

However, I would love to have my Focus with the Active City Stop. This system automatically stops the car when you approach the car ahead too quickly, but the system works at speeds no more than 50km/h.

Using better-insulated materials in the interior, the Focus absorbs most of the noises from the outside, thus creating a much quieter and comfortable space for all occupants. With the Titanium+’s comfortable ride and rather sedated looks, it’s the one you should pick if you want a continental-esque driving car with a hint of Japanese reliability.2016 Ford Focus EcoBoost Facelift at Bangkok - AutoBuzz.my

Perhaps it would be great to explain both variants’ driving experience, and I’ll start with the Titanium+. There is no sports suspension fitted to the Sport+ variant, but the combination of a more comfort-oriented suspension and Goodyear Assurance Fuel Save comfort tyres, this Focus tends to roll a fair bit when you carry too much speed into the corners. But drive it in cruising speeds and the Focus rewards you with its top-class refinement.

Move over to the Sport+ hatchback and it delivers a different level of drive. The hatchback’s lowered sports suspension and grippy Michelin rubbers means business. Unlike the saloon, body roll is better controlled and makes driving more encouraging and confidence inspiring. The tradeoff for hatchback’s sharper drive is the ride comfort, but it’s one we’re happy to live with.

IS THIS CAR FOR YOU?

While there are some niggling reservations on the product packaging as a whole, both the Focus saloon and hatchback are well-refined C-segment cars that carry a massive improvement over their predecessors.

Be it the saloon or hatchback, the Focus’s tremendous fun to drive factor is there, coupled with its stellar powertrain that should eliminate all the mechanical troubles faced by its predecessor. Certainly, those who prioritise practicality and comfort will feel at home with the Titanium+, while those seeking a competent warm hatch, the Sport+ will be their choice.

COMPARISONS

The C-segment passenger car suffers from a middle-child syndrome, no thanks to an abundance of B-segment and D-segment cars stealing away sales from the usual Civics and Corollas.  Given the Focus’ stunning dynamics, its fairest competitor will be our favourite C-segment car, the Mazda3, in both saloon and hatchback variants.

Both the Focus and Mazda3 share similar formulas; fun to drive, good powertrains and lack of a decent interior space. The Mazda costs almost RM20k less thanks to local assembly, unlike our Thai-produced Focuses. Mazda’s suite of SkyActiv technologies are praiseworthy, but Blue Oval’s equally impressive EcoBoost engine isn’t all that inferior as well.

Ford Focus Titanium+ Sedan
Ford Focus Sport+ Hatchback
Mazda3 2.0 SkyActiv Sedan
Mazda3 2.0 SkyActiv Hatchback
ENGINE
TypeInline 4-cylinder, turbochargedInline 4-cylinder, turbochargedInline 4-cylinder,Inline 4-cylinder
Displacementcc1,4981,4981,9981,998
Max Powerhp177 @ 6,000 rpm177 @ 6,000 rpm162162
Max TorqueNm240 Nm @ 1,600 – 5,000 rpm240 Nm @ 1,600 – 5,000 rpm210210
STEERING
TypeElectric power-steeringElectric power-steeringElectric power-steeringElectric power-steering
DRIVETRAIN
Transmission6-speed automatic6-speed automatic6-speed automatic6-speed automatic
SUSPENSION
TypeFront/RearMacPherson strut/Multi-linkMacPherson strut/Multi-linkMacPherson strut/Multi-linkMacPherson strut/Multi-link
BRAKES
FrontVentilated discVentilated discVentilated discVentilated disc
RearSolid discSolid discSolid discSolid disc
TYRE & WHEELS
Tyres205/60 R16215/50 R17215/45 R18215/45 R18
WheelsAlloyAlloyAlloyAlloy
DIMENSIONS & WEIGHTS
Overall Lengthmm4,5384,3604,5854,460
Overall Widthmm1,8231,8231,7951,795
Overall Heightmm1,4921,4671,4501,455
Wheelbasemm2,6482,6482,7002,700
Kerb Weightkg1,3661,3801,2201,292
Luggage Capacity (VDA)L372316408308
FUEL
Tank Capacity55 litres55 litres51 litres51 litres
Consumption (Combined) L/100km6.46.46.56.5
PERFORMANCE
Max Speedkm/hN/AN/A210210
0 – 100km/hsecN/A8.88.8
PRICE
RM139,888139,888120,705.30120,705.30

WILL I BUY IT?

On a personal note, I once had a profoundly deep interest on the pre-facelift Focus until I saw for myself all the issues related to the PowerShift gearbox. However, with that being sorted, the new Focus hatchback will be my pick if I’m shopping for a new ride.

Matthew’s Take: One of the Ford Focus’ key strengths in this midlife cycle is the new 1.5-litre turbocharged engine, and it is nothing short of stellar. No other cars in its class can dish out 180 horses, and the induction noise it makes when you rev it past 4,000 revolutions adds to the perpetually increasing sense of enthralment. Like Travis, my only gripe with it is the slower six-speed automatic gearbox. But Ford’s decision to go down the path of reliability as opposed to full-blown drivability just goes to show how committed they are in the C-Segment arena. And then comes the new turbocharged Honda Civic… 

Bravo, Ford Motor Company. Bravo.


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Travis Chang

Travis Chang

While his day job is as exciting as a certain beige saloon, he knows a thing or two about cars and motorsports. The true definition of motoring nirvana according to him is a clear and twisty tarmac surrounded with mesmerizing vistas, followed with a track list of indie tunes on the stereo. Any cars will do fine, not so for big MPVs which he loathes...
  • Leonon Nil

    On paper perhaps, the Focus engine output figures does put the 1.5L BMW engines(being the most entry level engine) to shame, again on paper but definitely not in terms of actual performance. A simple search online shows the 0-100 figures of 8.6s and 8.7s for the Focus and a 118i BMW(facelift) respectively. The 118i engine output has a meager 136hp 220nm. That said the Focus is a really good car and I would say has a better value over the 118i but wouldn’t put any BMW model here in Malaysia to shame, in terms of actual performance that is.

  • Diss-illusions

    The latest software update by Ford on the old dual clutch has addressed the gearbox issue. Wished I have the steering paddles though.. Would recommend picking up one from the dealer lot and sending it in for the software update. It’s a peach to drive. Only thing is the heft of the car remains and it compromises fuel consumption. But it’s a fair trade for its superb handling..

    By the way, good review guys!

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