Sophistication lifts the small Ford to a new level, writes Paul Pottinger
IF FORD can’t sell the new Focus, they should give the game away. Though it comes into a segment so crowded with rivals that listing them all could fill this page, the Focus is in the front row of its class.
Set for Australian release in the third quarter, the Focus was launched in Los Angeles last week.
Its engineer, James Hughes, says it is like night and day when compared with the slowselling but sweet-driving South African-made model now in runout.
Our cars will come from Germany, which is apt given the scare it should throw into Volkswagen’s Golf.
‘‘We looked at all our competitors, Asian, domestic and European, and benchmarked the Focus against the Audi A3,’’ Hughes says. ‘‘Its dynamics, interior and wind noise are better than the A3.’’
This is no empty boast as carsGuide found in 200km of testing on California’s freeways and B-roads.
As enjoyable to drive as the current Focus, the new one lives in a different dimension for technical sophistication and refinement.
LOCAL pricing is some way off, but indications are the Focus will stay price-competitive against its strongest rival, the Mazda3.
If Ford actually promotes the thing, they can claim a car that’s far more refined and poised, yet equally enjoyable to drive.
Diesels could come on line by the time of local release and a potentially GTI hunting turbocharged XT is due next year.
And, unlike the Golf, the Focus takes basic unleaded and won’t cost a fortune to service.
IF THE lean-running four-cylinder directinjection petrol engine isn’t exactly revolutionary (even the Commodore has DI these days), it is an improvement on the current naturally aspirated four. Better still is the six-speed twinclutch automatic, which replaces the current four-speed torque converter so much better they probably shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence.
Much of the tech story is in the interactive overload that is the My Ford Touch/SYNC system. This in-car connectivity system runs through LCD screens and an eight-inch video screen.
It’s capable of understanding 10,000 voice commands. Say ‘‘I’m hungry’’ and the nav system will guide you to any number of local restaurants.
And it’ll allow you to order takeaway via Bluetooth and direct you to the place while it is cooking.
Then there’s its myriad music and entertainment functions. If that’s not enough, the system makes the car a WiFi hotspot.
Expect it as standard on top spec models, optional on others.
NO CRASH test dummies have ‘‘died’’ yet in the Focus’s case, but five stars from all agencies seems a formality.
Airbags are ‘‘tailored’’, monitoring the passenger’s weight and the way in which they’re sitting before exploding into action.
Moreover, there’s a sense of door-thunking.
Head turner: (above) The new Ford Focus is unveiled at the Detroit motor show and (right) part of the upgraded package, the seamless gear changer.