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Driving Impressions

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Ford’s new Focus Delivers Next-Level Refinement

We recently featured the new Ford Ranger that demonstrated advanced capabilities and the new Fiesta, which delivered exceptional driving dynamics and great features while being frugal at the pump. We were curious about where the new world-platform Focus would fit in since the Fiesta was now overlapping into its previous market position.

As we walked into the dealership, we realised that the Focus had grown considerably from the last time we saw it. So far, only the sedan version is available, as the hatchback is still in transit. This sleek, new car is one of Ford’s slipperiest bodies yet, with a drag coefficient of just 0.297 for the sedan version. Its shape was penned by Ford’s executive director of design, Moray Callum who also designed the Mazda3, while His brother Ian Callum is now head of design at Jaguar. The new Focus was developed and tuned in Germany and the upcoming hatchback version promises to deliver even sharper handling.

 

Jumping into the Focus presents the driver with a sensorial experience, perfect for the modern generation of socialites, gamers and tech-savvy, web-connected people. You can instantly find and connect your phone to the car’s Bluetooth system and once you learn the keywords, issue commands like the captain of the Starship Enterprise. You can actually use the voice controls to adjust the dual-zone air-conditioning settings, make and answer calls though the car’s audio system, tune in to your favourite radio station or even find and play songs on your iPod or MP3 player. Apparently, there are around 10,000 commands on tap. The centre console is packed with controls and numbers are within easy reach for the driver although you need to be at a standstill or driving very slowly to be able to dial. The new Focus also features ambient lighting for the footwells, door handles and the lights near the rearview mirror, among other places, with a number of driver-configurable colours to help you set the mood or find your lost keys.

The interior is now of a much higher quality in terms of the use of soft touch material, modern design and overall comfort, with no detectable panel gaps or defects. It has the fit, finish and quality feel of the Germans like the VW Golf or Audi A3 with lots of leather and soft touch materials inside but with all the new-age appeal of the Asians like the Hyundai Elantra or Nissan Juke, thus bridging the gaps between value-laden features and traditional luxury (and no, they didn’t pay us to say that). The thick, comfortable steering wheel has controls for the centre console display and the driver information display located between the speedometer and tach. The wheel itself is shaped in a way that allows the driver’s hands to feel comfortable at the recommended 10 and 2 o’clock positions, and outward visibility is excellent.

The 1.6-litre Duratec engine with twin overhead, independently variable camshafts makes [email protected] and 117ft-lb of torque at 4000rpm. Fuel economy, however, is estimated at an absolutely impressive 29mpg city, 50mpg highway and 40mpg in the combined cycle. There is an upcoming 1.6-litre turbocharged EcoBoost 180 engine option with direct injection that will be producing 180hp and 199ft-lb of torque. Driving off in the Ford Focus presents a very different sensation, thanks to the new 5-speed dual clutch transmission, which gives a more direct transfer of power  since it is essentially an automated manual gearbox. This technology is also part of why the new Focus is so economical. We would prefer real paddles for the DCT, however. Even though the gearlever has an integrated shifting button, it is difficult to maintain an optimal driving position when trying to use it effectively. With a 0-60 time of 11.2s, acceleration is mild but inviting and at least you won’t be worrying about fuel consumption. We are longing for the upcoming Focus 1.6 EcoBoost 180, which should run 0-60mph in 7.9s, while offering 39mpg in the combined cycle. The top speeds on the 1.6-litre Duratec and upcoming 1.6-litre EcoBoost 180 versions are 122mph (196km/h) and 137mph (220km/h), respectively.

Handling and ride quality is definitely a strong point for the new Focus. The car is well planted and the ride feels like a more compliant version of a premium segment car like an Audi or BMW. It also demonstrates a wonderful willingness to turn in, limited only by the grip of the all-season tyres. The feeling of fluidity continues throughout the rest of the corner, and even with the variable-assist electric power steering, you still get reasonable feedback. Ultimately, if you push too hard on tighter turns, the tyres will protest and the car will understeer slightly, but it’s amazing how much handling the Focus is able to coax out of this comfort-oriented wheel and tyre (and tyre pressure) setup. It rewards neat, quick driving like a good solodex car should. High-speed cornering on long sweepers was also impressive where the Focus felt strangely comfortable at 150-160km/h. Upon investigation, we discovered that Ford has now incorporated torque vectoring, which optimally distributes power to the front-drive wheels, making the car easier to turn while accelerating. The soft-touch leather-trimmed seats also offer good side support during cornering and excellent back support while driving. There is also an optional, special-order only Titanium handling package, which offers firmer suspension and larger wheels and tyres.

Panic braking tests were good from both 60km/h and 80km/h. As usual, the 80km/h test required a longer stopping distance. Stability/accident avoidance also checked out in our ‘60-wiggle’ test in somewhat lively fashion with the focus requiring a quick stab of opposite lock to maintain heading, but not to the degree that we experienced in the Fiesta, tested in Zorce Issue #16. Anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assist are standard along with stability control. The Focus also flashes the indicator lights during panic stops to warn other drivers. Dual curtain, side and next-generation two-stage front airbags and tyre pressure monitoring round out the safety features.

Like they did with the new Ranger, Ford has upped the ante in this segment with this new Focus and while it does not offer sporty acceleration in this configuration, you do get a high quality, European premium car driving experience, fully loaded with a host of amenities to rival the Korean value leaders in a well-styled package– Ford has indisputably flipped the script on its competitors. The new Focus Trend sedan and wagon models start at just TT$219K on the road, while the Titanium package sedan that we drove starts at TT$245K. Both cars come with the standard five-year/100,000km warranty and the new five-year Premium Maintenance Package, which includes parts and labour on standard wear-and-tear items, like brakes, wipers and shock absorbers. Additionally, if you opt to finance your car through ANSA Finance, an additional five-year full comprehensive insurance package also becomes part of the deal.

TT Motorsport Car Clubs

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