Shift­ing Fo­cus

So­phis­ti­ca­tion lifts the small Ford to a new level, writes Paul Pottinger

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

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.

Value

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.

Tech­nol­ogy

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.

Safety

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.

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