12-month test: Ford Fo­cus Sedan 1,0 Ecoboost Trend Pow­er­shift

Can this small engine pack­aged in a fam­ily sedan live up to its prom­ise of a torque-rich de­liv­ery and fru­gal fuel econ­omy?

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

THERE were two things we were par­tic­u­larly keen to glean from this long-term test. The first was how Ford’s award-win­ning 1,0-litre Ecoboost engine would cope in a big­ger, heav­ier car than the Fi­esta in which it does such great service; and, se­condly, in this age of SUVS and crossovers, could a com­pact sedan still func­tion as a fam­ily car? With two adults, two teenagers and a tod­dler, this was go­ing to be an in­ter­est­ing one for the Piper fam­ily.

With the lat­ter in mind, safety was al­ways a non-ne­go­tiable for me and the Fo­cus Sedan comes well equipped with dual front, side and cur­tain airbags, rear Isofix an­chor­age points and a range of se­cu­rity and safety brake and sta­bil­ity sys­tems. Know­ing that the car was awarded a EURONCAP five-star crash-test rat­ing cer­tainly added peace of mind.

As a fam­ily car, in­te­rior space is al­ways a cru­cial char­ac­ter­is­tic and here we did find things a lit­tle tight. Be­hind the wheel, how­ever, the Fo­cus Sedan was cer­tainly com­fort­able, with a driver-ori­ented cock­pit well laid out with the car’s con­trols fall­ing easy to hand. The multi-func­tion steer­ing wheel was in­tu­itive to use and the six-way man­u­ally ad­justable driver’s seat com­fort­able enough, pro­vid­ing the re­quired sup­port.

The Ford Sync1 in-car en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem was a highlight. Con­nect­ing via Blue­tooth was a sim­ple task and an ef­fec­tive voice-com­mand setup made for easy and safe op­er­a­tion while driv­ing. It is a stan­dard fea­ture on this car, of which there is a fairly long list with other high­lights in­clud­ing cruise con­trol and hill-start as­sist.

There were also some op­tional ex­tras fit­ted to this long-term unit, in­clud­ing ac­tive park as­sist. I’m pro­fi­cient at par­al­lel parking, so this might not be a box I would tick, but it was great to show off to fam­ily and friends as a bit of a party trick. It’s as

sim­ple as push­ing a but­ton, tak­ing your hands off the steer­ing wheel and ac­cel­er­at­ing and ap­ply­ing brakes as re­quired.

As men­tioned, in­te­rior space for my ad­mit­tedly large fam­ily was tight on longer jour­neys. The all­round com­fort lev­els on these trips were rea­son­able with ad­e­quate legroom, but rear head­room for taller pas­sen­gers was not ideal. For ev­ery­day use, the 376-litre boot ca­pac­ity was more than big enough, swal­low­ing gro­ceries and school bags with ease. How­ever, week­end trips and longer-dis­tance va­ca­tions with the full fam­ily com­ple­ment were trick­ier.

We coun­tered this by adding Thule roof racks and a roof­mounted lug­gage box. And what a so­lu­tion it turned out to be. On a 2 000 km round trip to the East­ern Cape, we man­aged to pack all the kit re­quired to keep a fam­ily of five happy, in­clud­ing two surf­boards aligned next to the roof box. Sure, all pos­si­ble pack­ing space was utilised and it was a tight squeeze, but the thought of pad­dling in the warmer wa­ters of the In­dian Ocean made the trip that much eas­ier.

I have never re­ally been a big fan of an au­to­matic gear­box, pre­fer­ring the en­gage­ment a man­ual gives you, and I was in­ter­ested if spend­ing a year driv­ing a car fit­ted with a six-speed dual-clutch au­to­matic would al­ter that per­cep­tion. It did not. While I have come to ap­pre­ci­ate the ease of use an au­to­matic of­fers – es­pe­cially in the hus­tle and bus­tle of town driv­ing – out on the open road this trans­mis­sion fell short in terms of smooth, seam­less gearshifts, tend­ing to hunt a lit­tle too of­ten try­ing to ac­cess the ideal ra­tio to match the 1,0-litre engine’s revs.

So, what of this engine? Was the 1,0-litre three-cylin­der tur­bopetrol up to the task? It’s mostly a “yes”, but there is a “but”. De­liv­er­ing 92 kw and a 170 Nm of torque, I was im­pressed with the power un­der­foot from this re­fined and re­spon­sive unit, but it was ham­pered by the Geartronic trans­mis­sion. The prom­ise of the Ecoboost engine is more power and bet­ter fuel econ­omy and, while the for­mer was im­pres­sive, the lat­ter was nowhere near the claimed con­sump­tion fig­ure of 5,50 L/ 100 km. We av­er­aged a sig­nif­i­cantly higher 8,81 L/100 km. Ad­mit­tedly, I en­joy get­ting up to speed quickly. For much of the time, I was driv­ing in ur­ban traf­fic and the Fo­cus was also fit­ted with those drag-in­creas­ing roof racks, both fac­tors that im­pact on fuel econ­omy.

As men­tioned, I did get to ap­pre­ci­ate the trans­mis­sion’s ben­e­fits, too. With much of the time spent do­ing the stop/start dance of the morn­ing school run, the joys of an au­to­matic gear­box shone through. It’s here that many of us spend most of our time in a car and, in these cir­cum­stances, the sheer ease of driv­ing out­weighs the joy of man­ual gear shift­ing.

Out on the open road, the Fo­cus Sedan was a ca­pa­ble cruiser that, de­spite its small-ca­pac­ity engine, was able to eas­ily keep pace with traf­fic, as well as over­take when nec­es­sary. The stan­dard cruise con­trol with speed lim­iter came in handy, as did the (op­tional) lane-de­par­ture warn­ing. It alerts the driver through vi­bra­tions in the steer­ing wheel when ven­tur­ing out of a lane, with the amount of feed­back through the wheel able to be ad­justed to meet your pref­er­ence.

Typ­i­cally Ford, ride qual­ity and body con­trol are ex­cel­lent, even on poor sur­faces. On our re­turn to Cape Town from one fam­ily trip, we stopped for a short farm stay and I was pleas­antly sur­prised how well the Fo­cus han­dled the dirt road lead­ing to the farm and sur­round­ing ar­eas.

Tak­ing the Fo­cus through its an­nual service was un­event­ful and the only is­sue that had to be dealt with was a blocked air-con­di­tioner over­flow pipe. Service in­ter­vals are every 20 000km and it is cov­ered by a four-year/ 120 000 km war­ranty and a fouryear/80 000 km service plan.

TEST SUM­MARY

So, to an­swer the two ques­tions posed up­front: “yes” is the first re­ply. The 1,0-litre engine sur­prised me and had enough power at its dis­posal to han­dle the Fo­cus Sedan’s bulk in all traf­fic con­di­tions. It’s no sur­prise that it has just won the Best Engine Un­der 1,0-litre prize at the In­ter­na­tional Engine Of The Year awards for the sixth year in a row … this engine gen­uinely punches above its weight. Per­haps with a more con­ser­va­tive driver than I be­hind the wheel, it would also de­liver bet­ter fuel econ­omy. De­spite my mis­giv­ings of an au­to­matic gear­box mated with a small-ca­pac­ity turbo engine, I did ap­pre­ci­ate the ease of use it af­forded.

To the sec­ond ques­tion: that would be a qual­i­fied “yes”. Lug­gage space was some­times an is­sue, but we got round that with the Thule roof box that, on the oc­ca­sion when we did need that ex­tra room for hol­i­day lug­gage, proved in­valu­able. With the roughly R100 000 sav­ing this sedan of­fers over a com­pact SUV such as the Kuga, a com­pact sedan is a ver­sa­tile and cost­ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion.

Given all of that, should you be in the mar­ket for an af­ford­able fam­ily four-door with a sen­si­ble list of stan­dard fea­tures, this Fo­cus Sedan is def­i­nitely worth a test drive.

clock­wise from above left

Fo­cus’ in­te­rior is nicely laid-out, and some testers ap­pre­ci­ated the pref­er­ence given to hard but­tons rather than a mas­sive touch­screen to con­trol func­tions; look­ing spiffy in Na­maqua­land; the mul­ti­link-rear sus­pen­sion showed its worth on gravel; rear legroom good for the class, but over­all space is tight with three kids in a house­hold. op­po­site Neat three-box de­sign has aged well.

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