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?
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.
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.