Ford Focus in frame for success
FORD has struggled recently to sell anything in truly significant numbers, with the exception of the Ranger dual-cab (the success of which we will forever attribute to its Australian design and engineering, accusations of jingoism be damned).
True, the Mustang has been a massive winner but the sports car segment doesn’t shift huge numbers.
To the end of July, Ford’s market share for all of its non-ranger and Mustang models is below 5 per cent (the Everest doing the best at 4.8 per cent, though to be fair, it shares its segment with the Endura, which adds a 2 per cent slice).
So it’d benefit Ford greatly if the Focus can strike a greater chord with buyers. Small cars are no longer the biggest selling segment in the land – that’d be medium SUVS – but more than 100,000 have been sold in Australia so far this year.
And the Focus deserves some success; it’s one of the most fun non-hot-hatch small cars you can drive.
Now made in Germany rather than Thailand, all Focus variants have a 1.5litre three-cylinder turbo engine and we think it’s a beaut. It’s punchy off the mark and has some character to its exhaust note under acceleration.
It has the usual vibrations under load that most three-pots have, but it’s otherwise a smooth unit, aided by a slick eight-speed transmission which you barely notice, always a good thing.
It’s also pretty frugal; we didn’t get near the claimed 6.4L/100km fuel use figure but about 8.0L/100km was good considering the urban nature of most of our driving.
And it was rather enthusiastic driving, too.
The body control matches the engine, staying stiff and flat and making the Focus a lot of fun to chuck into corners.
It made us lick our lips at the prospect of the next Focus ST.
Also, unlike some other manufacturers, Ford has made the back seats actually useful; I could sit behind my own driving position with enough leg room and plenty of headroom. The 375-litre boot is about average for the class but is a big improvement on the previous Focus.
Up front there is also ample storage, aided by the gear shifter being a rotary dial and taking up less space.
In top-spec guise, there’s plenty of kit, as you would hope for $34,490 plus on roads, which is about as expensive as small cars get before moving into performance or premium territory.
The Titanium gets adaptive LED headlights, dualzone climate control, keyless entry and start, wireless phone charging, heated front seats, B&O Play sound system with nine speakers and subwoofer, and more.
Safety gear includes stop and go adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert; the latter two, it could be argued, should be available on lower grades.
Having to pay $300 more for a head-up display isn’t great either, though the test car had it fitted and it is very good.
The cabin is thankfully less cluttered than before but isn’t the final word on sophistication.
In fact, the car as whole can feel a tad dated.
My partner even asked if it was actually a new car when she hopped in for the first time (clearly, she’s been spoilt).
The Focus’s eye towards fun also means the ride can be a tad firm and noisy on coarse surfaces, particularly on the Titanium’s 18inch wheels.
Verdict: The Focus deserves attention from small-car buyers, and Ford’s marketing department. It’s a fun drive and though the Titanium has enough fruit to make it worth the money, if you just want the driving enjoyment you can opt for cheaper models, starting at the Ambiente grade for $23,490 plus on roads.