So, Ford Focus. Harrison Ford holding a camera would probably be the first image to flash through your mind. Oh Internet, what have you done to us. To be fair, many would remember it as a successful global hatchback that was once the best selling car in the world. The new Ford Focus has just gone through not just a facelift, but quite a substantial upgrade to stay in the game. So, is this car for you? We went to the land Down Under to find out.
The Focus proves to be one of the best things to have ever rolled out from Ford’s production plant, replacing the friendly neighbourhood Ford Laser in 1998. Two iterations later, the Focus moniker went on to surpass the 46-year-old strong brandname, the Toyota Corolla, to become 2012 world’s best selling car. That’s really something for a relatively young nameplate.
|Name||2016 Ford Focus 1.5-litre EcoBoost|
|Engine||1.5-litre EcoBoost engine, turbocharged inline-4 cylinder|
|Transmission||6-speed Selectshift automatic|
|Max Power||177 hp|
|Max Torque||240 Nm|
A total of 12 million Focuses have been sold globally, with Asia Pacific contributing 2.3 million units. That means on average, a new Ford Focus is delivered every 90 seconds, just like hot cakes. Even Pope Francis owns a Focus MK2 hatchback!
The current third generation Ford Focus underwent more than a mere facelift. Apart from the entirely new front look, it gets a new powertrain, improved ride and handling, and plenty of safety technologies.
In case you didn’t know, Ken Block and Ford took this new Focus and created the bonkers Focus RS. Powered by the Mustang-sourced engine that makes 345hp and 440 Nm of torque, including a ‘Drift‘ button!
Codenamed ‘LZ’, it is Energised, Progressive New Focus Brings Increased Refinement, Improved Efficiency and Advanced Technology – the exact words from Ford. The American company is clearly confident with the new product and eager to show journalists from Asia Pacific region, on what the Thai-manufactured Focus has got to offer.
Available in the test drive fleet are hatchback model of entry level Trend (AUD24k), the performance themed Sport (AUD27k) and top range Titanium (AUD33k) variants. Based on the trend back at home, the Sport and Titanium variants should make it onto the local menu. Not a hatchback fan? Sedan variant is available as well.
It now has a new face with the same family identity that its siblings carry. The front facias is decorated with the signature ‘Aston-like’ trapezoidal grille as the centrepiece, a new pair of lights, followed by a new bumper. Together with the new ‘power dome’ bonnet directing towards the grille-mounted blue oval, it appears to be more sophisticated. And from certain angles, aggressive.
The new handsome grille is fitted with active griller shutter that closes for better aerodynamic to reduce drag which in turn improves fuel efficiency. It reopens when the radiator needs cooling. Cool 007 stuff there.
The new slimmer and sharper headlights resemble what the Fiesta and Mondeo have. They are with built-in LED DRLs which look like a frowning pair of stunted eye brows. If you look closely, the black inner casings do enhance the entire look, giving it an angrier expression.
If you look even closer, there are no LEDs or xenon bulbs to be found in the headlights. Sadly, they are halogen powered, including the fog lamps. Well, that could be an Aussie thang but, I’m pretty sure Malaysian buyers will not be happy about it.
Wheel sizes vary starting with 16-inch, 17-inch and 18-inch for Trend, Sport and Titanium variants respectively. The largest 18-inch looks really good. Ride quality could be a little pain in the ass, literally, but it does spec up the overall look of the C-segment hatch. The 17-inch looks like the ones on Fiesta, whereas the 16-inch… never mind.
As we go around the side, you’ll still see the same strong shoulder line which starts from the front headlights and extends to the C-pillars. Now, you could be fooled to think the rear is unchanged. The tail lights are new, now thinner, occupying less area around the new tailgate design. I have to say the rear end is now cleaner and perkier. The sporty rear spoiler completes it.
Driving in a convoy for miles on the winding country roads of Adelaide with beautiful forests, vineyards, sheep and cows as the background, with the rear of the new Focus as the foreground, it wasn’t boring at all. She’s a looker alright!
Closing the doors rewards you with a really satisfying thump – a Malaysian way of indicating good build quality. The interior gives a really upmarket feel, with comfortable fabric seats (leather in Titanium) and generous use of soft-touch materials.
The cabin is now less cluttered, a sure relief to Focus’s fans. Ford went for the cleaner look replacing the 4.2-inch display with a larger 8-inch high-resolution touch screen panel. Thanks to that, those tiny buttons on the head unit are no longer there giving the Sony audio unit a neater arrangement, and you a lesser headache.
SYNC 2 now takes care of the in-car connectivity and entertainment systems, upgraded to offer smarter and safer way to stay connected. So now operating the climate control, GPS navigation, mobile phone or multimedia system can be done via natural voice commands.
It was well demonstrated when one of the convoy marshals set the next destination for us. This Aussie dude just stuck his head through the window, activated voice command via the button on the steering, and voice commanded GPS destination. I expected Ms. SYNC 2 to get him to repeat, but no. Voila. It’s done. Impressive!
Fingering the touch screen display while driving was a breeze especially with the colour-coded corners. Its well organised interface makes on-the-fly navigation much easier.
The redesigned three-spoke steering wheel is thick and comfortable to handle. However, for the first half hour, I kept telling my co-driver Gerrard from Carlist.my that the wheel is too big. Some things are better smaller, you know. Steering wheel is one of them – my personal preference at least.
The biggest revamp in the new Focus happens under the hood. It now comes in a small EcoBoost Package – 1.5-litres to be exact. The fleet we tested was powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost turbocharged engine, making 177 hp and 240 Nm of torque. That’s is 7 hp and 38 Nm more powerful than the outgoing naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engine!
Ford ditched its six-speed Powershift dual clutch gearbox for the conventional six-speed Selectshift auto transmission, sending power to the front wheels. This powertrain combination will certainly be making its way to Malaysia, and will be well accepted. The six-speed manual variant for the Aussies will not though, which is fine. No thanks to the unique Malaysian car market.
The one thing I can’t brain is, the new Ford Focus doesn’t come with paddle shifters! It’s available as a cost option in Australia. Let us all hold hands and pray that it arrives in Malaysia as standard.
The new Focus is equipped with plenty of useful driver assist features, but mostly only available in the higher range Titanium grade. Boohoo.
The premium safety features include Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) that resides in the wing mirrors, Enhanced Active Park Assist that automatically parks the car parallel or perpendicularly, then Park-Out Assist will help you GET OUT from the parking space (seriously?), Cross Traffic Alert and an improved Active City Stop system.
The Cross Traffic Alert function is able to detect approaching vehicle or pedestrian (up to 40 meters away) from left and right as you reverse out of a space. Very handy for those who have the habit of NOT turning their heads to look when reversing. Ford, you are spoiling them!
Active City Stop can now work as you drive up to 50 km/h, an improvement from the previous 30 km/h. It basically stops the car when the radar detects an object in front of the vehicle. It’s another useful feature, especially to those who text and go on Facebook while driving.
Just like the Ford Mondeo, the new Focus comes with MyKey – a programmable car key that allows you to set speed limit, reduce audio volume, set earlier low-fuel warning and even mute audio system when seat belt is not secured. Very useful if you have a hormonal teenage child.
One of the highlights in the new Focus is the industry-first Enhanced Transitional Stability system that works hand in hand with the car’s Electronic Stability Control (ESC). It is a proactive system that predicts the loss of traction by monitoring vehicular speed and steering input. Yes, even before it happens.
So even before the car loses grip, ETS is ready and activates ESC which then reduces engine torque and applies brake force to any individual wheel. It may sound really helpful but it could be overly protective and intrusive. We didn’t manage or rather weren’t allowed to do any fancy driving to wake the nanny, so I can’t be sure.
I packed and brought along a set of expectation with me to this trip in South Australia. Knowing what the Focus is capable of, I anticipated nothing less than a fun drive. The regional drive for both Malaysian and Indonesian contingents started from the heart of Adelaide City, into the countryside near Golding Wines vineyard.
It all started with a pleasant city drive. Not so much on the B roads, where ride comfort showed its slightly harsher side. Not complaining at all, in fact the drive came alive as we went deeper into the countryside. The more we push the car, the more rewarding it gets. The new Focus performs really well on winding Australian roads and remains very much planted around corners. No surprise there as the Focus is made for this, now only better.
The ride has been improved through suspension bushes and shock absorbers optimization. It reduces vertical and horizontal movement by 20 to 25 percent, improving overall ride and drive.
Power delivery from the spunky hatchback is pretty impressive for a small 1.5-litre engine. Thanks to the award winning EcoBoost technology which essentially force-induces the 1.5-litre engine squeezing out better output. And it does come literally in a small package as the manifold is integrated with the engine, for a few good reasons.
Firstly, the engine requires shorter warm up time as it achieves its optimum temperature quicker, which improves fuel efficiency. More importantly, it minimises travel distance between turbocharger and cylinders. You probably know what that will do – it reduces turbo lag.
Turbo lag still exists in reality, but in a very much ignorable gap. I’m sure you can live with that. Conventional torque-converter six-speed automative transmission proves to be a better pairing. It provides a smooth power delivery to both front wheels, which goes really well with the drive.
Then, to my utter horror as I was about to take her to the next level, shift-paddles were nowhere to be found! A hot hatch on a nice winding road without paddle shifters can be frustrating. Sporty driving went all awkward with the plus/minus SWITCH on the side of the gear knob. No, not even tip/shift tronic kinda thing either. Potong stim weeeei.
Ford however explained that the steering mounted shifters are available as option in Australia. Let us all hold hands again and pray.. that the shifters will find their way to Malaysia, as standard in all variants.
This new Focus handles well with its nicely weighted steering wheel, just nice for a standard everyday hatchback. A tad too light for sporty drive but it does make handling it effortless. Yes, you’ve guessed it right, it’s been improved too.
Ford refined its Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) by reducing steering friction and disturbances, making it easier to manoeuvre and reduces fatigue from unwanted steering feedback. The lightness is compensated with the right kind of feedback you need, which grew on me after a while.
All in all, it was an enjoyable drive and Ford has done a great job making the Focus even better. I already can’t wait to see what’s in store for the all-new generation Focus.
SO, IS THIS CAR FOR YOU?
Well, it depends on what we Malaysians will be getting. But for now, let’s just assume they are as what I’ve tested.
If you’ve been looking for a C-segment car that drives really well, packed with technologies and you have no slightly-harsh-ride and boot space issues, (there’ll be a sedan coming, not so good looking though) then yes. By all means. It is solid with good build quality inside and out, handles well and looks pretty good.
WILL I BUY IT?
The Ford Focus has proven itself to be a winning product well accepted around the world, even the Pope. As time goes on and technology advances itself, staying in the game is crucial. Leading it is even better. However, with VW Golf and many other worthy competitors in its way, the roads ahead sure look bumpy.
I admire the extent of effort put in into making a facelift model this good. It really proves that Ford is darn serious in producing an all rounder C-segment contender. Job well done Ford! Looking forward to the all-new Focus come 2017.
Ok, back to the question. This new Focus is definitely one of the best hatchbacks out there. As much as I would like to own one as my everyday fun car, my ‘Minister of Home Affairs’ will not allow it simply due to size and space constraints. The Ford Mondeo however, would be the better choice for us.
2016 Ford Focus – Sedan
2016 Ford Focus facelift launched in Malaysia