BUDGET MODEL CANNED AS THE PRICE HEADS NORTH
FRESH-FEATURED after a facelift, the Ford Focus is in the market for cashed-up small-car suitors.
Those on a tight budget need not apply. Ford has dropped the entry Ambiente model so the range starts at $23,390, or about $3000 more than a base Mazda3 or Hyundai i30.
The new Focus adds improved interior styling and driving aids to its on-road talents but the pricing means it won’t be unseating the small car heavyweights.
And Ford needs the Focus to be a star – sales are down more than 50 per cent to date this year and it is being outsold five to one by the newer Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla.
Carsguide has long praised the Focus for its ride and handling and this version improves on that experience with stiffer suspension and sharper steering.
The bits we didn’t like, such as the cluttered infotainment switchgear dominating the centre stack, give way to an eight-inch touchscreen and the cabin look is more consistent.
Carry-over bugbears such as the lack of legroom and ventilation for rear passengers and the large turning circle aren’t as easily fixed.
The Trend is the entree to the Focus range and starts at $23,390 for the five-door hatch with a six- speed manual transmission.
The six-speed auto is priced to please at just $1000 more but all paint colours other than white are considered “prestige” hues and attract a $450 whack.
The money buys a car that is externally unchanged beyond the front-end tweaks needed to incorporate Ford’s signature trapezoidal grille and some more subtle work on the tailgate.
Trainspotters’ note: all models now have active grille shutters that close to improve aerodynamics and/or cut the time needed for the engine to reach optimal temperatures.
The reversing camera is aided by rear parking sensors and there’s cruise control.
The Trend rolls on 16-inch alloys and there’s a full-size steel spare in the boot, though the larger- -rimmed Sport and Titanium models make do with a space-saver.
A Sports hatch manual starts at $26,490 and adds a firmer suspension tune with 17-inch alloys, folding side mirrors, side skirts and rear spoiler, dual-zone aircon, push-button start, auto headlamps and wipers and digital audio.
Active safety is the preserve of the top-spec Titanium at $32,690 in auto-only guise.
It takes a step up in driver aids with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic parking, improved autonomous emergency braking that now operates at up to 50km/h (it was 30km/h). Two sedans will be sold in Trend and Titanium spec and auto-only, at the same price as their hatch siblings.
DYNAMICS have never been a problem for the Focus, with the small car more than capable of mixing runabout duties with a quick trip down a back road.
This model has improved that agility, though with a small dip in comfort.
Powering over some serious road undulations shows the latest Focus is a well-planted vehicle.
Traffic-pace obstacles, be they road joins or potholes, now have slightly more impact in the cabin.
It’s a trade-off I’d happily make — and isn’t as evident in the Sport as it is in the lower-profiled Titanium.
The light weight will appeal to city dwellers (the 11.0m turning circle not as much) without sacrificing feedback on more curvaceous tarmac.
The 1.5-litre engine is a rorty, willing accomplice in either case.
Build quality on the Thai-made cars was reasonable rather than exceptional, with the dash speaker on one car sitting proud of its surrounds.
Call Sinclair Ford, Mulgoa Rd, Penrith on 4721 4321.
Focus ... they’ve taken it up market.