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.
|Name||Ford Focus Trend||Ford Focus Titanium+||Ford Focus Sport+|
|Engine||1,498cc; turbocharged inline-4, DOHC|
|Transmission||6-speed SelectShift automatic with paddle shifters|
|Max Power||177 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Max Torque||240 Nm @ 1,600 – 5,000 rpm|
|Price (before taxes and insurance)||RM118,888||RM139,888||RM139,888|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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|
|Type||Inline 4-cylinder, turbocharged||Inline 4-cylinder, turbocharged||Inline 4-cylinder,||Inline 4-cylinder|
|Max Power||hp||177 @ 6,000 rpm||177 @ 6,000 rpm||162||162|
|Max Torque||Nm||240 Nm @ 1,600 – 5,000 rpm||240 Nm @ 1,600 – 5,000 rpm||210||210|
|Type||Electric power-steering||Electric power-steering||Electric power-steering||Electric power-steering|
|Transmission||6-speed automatic||6-speed automatic||6-speed automatic||6-speed automatic|
|Type||Front/Rear||MacPherson strut/Multi-link||MacPherson strut/Multi-link||MacPherson strut/Multi-link||MacPherson strut/Multi-link|
|Front||Ventilated disc||Ventilated disc||Ventilated disc||Ventilated disc|
|Rear||Solid disc||Solid disc||Solid disc||Solid disc|
|TYRE & WHEELS|
|Tyres||205/60 R16||215/50 R17||215/45 R18||215/45 R18|
|DIMENSIONS & WEIGHTS|
|Luggage Capacity (VDA)||L||372||316||408||308|
|Tank Capacity||55 litres||55 litres||51 litres||51 litres|
|0 – 100km/h||sec||N/A||8.8||8.8|
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.