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The Focus is Back!

The Focus is Back!

The Ford Focus. Darling of the UK and many parts of continental Europe, as well as some parts of Asia. The ‘tough-as-nails/Everyman’ offering from Ford has always been at the top or very close, in its market segment. Known for its blend of practicality and driving dynamics, the Focus has always been the budget conscious family car, injected with a dose of fun; being responsibly need not be dull! In addition to even the base cars gaining the respect of automotive journalists for years, the cars sell well consistently and are known to be real work-horse cars serving generations of families at some point of their lives.

The Focus is also offered in a number of versions, ranging from the most responsible 'shopping-trolley' base model, to the 'mini-exec-luxo-barge' mimicking Titanium, leading all the way up to the super cheeky 'RS' with the 'Mad' dial turned way past the 'Max' point. Something for everyone, then.

No wonder Ford Sri Lanka decided to release the Ford Focus here with our growing desire to go for the less than obvious choices on offer, and our car-buyers' trending penchant for European motors. The Ford brand is no stranger to our nation, having been represented at the forefront of the motor-sports calendar, by cars like the Escort, Capri, Cortina, and of course, still the gateway-racecar for many, the Laser; which will bring strong memories to many of us. The Laser was the Focus' Asian cousin, and there was a time when getting a Laser was a mark of achievement to many in the corporate world. Will the Focus be able to capture the magic once again in Sri Lanka? Especially with the 1.0 EcoBoost power plant? We at Motor were curious to find out.

 

Exterior 

The Focus is a very handsome car. Featuring a ‘best of’ collection of design cues straight from Aston Martin is definitely a huge bonus, no doubt. The front is adorned with a sharp trapezoid grille, embellished in chrome, with slick integrated headlamps featuring Xenon bulbs, parking and signal lamps. This is complemented by fog lamps, standard with the Titanium spec.

The side profile is typically Ford, in that it is sporty but also quite conservative. The designers had struck good equilibrium design-wise with strong sweptback character line running level with the door handles, as well as a strong gash-like line running beneath, complementing the profile.

The rear is, again not too radical, and the boot fits the whole car’s profile well. This too is a little challenging for a surprising number of car manufacturers, as there are many examples where the boot seemed like a last minute addition to a hatch. None of that here. The Focus has great proportions, with a hint of the previous generation Mondeo in the roof-line that melds to form a decent sized, smart boot.

Overall the Focus is a great looking family sedan, like a good off-the-rack suit; no bespoke touches but you know it is smart enough to get the job done., with conservative European design. It won’t be turning a lot of heads (Hint: pick out the most Aston-looking colour and wheels!), but those who notice will tend to admire the lines and proportions achieved.   

 

Mech & Tech 

The 1.0 Litre EcoBoost is an inline three cylinder DOHC turbocharged motor pushing out a very respectable 125 bhp @6000rpm and 170Nm of torque @1400-4500rpm. This makes a lot of sense, as those figures are better than some of the best 1.5 litre engines available today, which power heavier cars as well.

Reading about the suspension however shocked me (pun intended!). The front has an independent set up, with Macpherson struts, lower control arms with hydro-bushing, an isolated sub-frame and an anti-roll bar. The rear, has an Independent ControlBlade multi-link system, with an isolated subframe and another anti-roll bar. All this is as STANDARD. Finished-off with all-around discs, the Focus was really setting up to be quite the drive.

Why am I so excited? Well, features like standard anti-roll bars are not found on entry level and mid-tier Japanese family cars. Macpherson struts and multi-link systems are often reserved for more premium cars. Having added front and rear anti-roll bars on an Aqua and enjoyed the tremendous benefits of a ride with more control and stability, the Focus having such a sophisticated suspension setup is a massive edge the car has over the competition. Or is it? Read on, as we took the Focus out for a drive!

 

Driving Experience 

Setting off, the 1.0 3 cylinder has the characteristic ‘thrum’; a word much used these days in Sri Lanka, but not as loud as you would expect it to be. The NVH (Noise/Vibration/Harshness) levels are kept to a minimum, and unless you knew what to look for, you wouldn’t be able to tell it was a 3 cylinder unit.

Work the engine, and you wouldn’t be disappointed. Turbo lag is barely noticeable, clearly demonstrating Ford’s prowess with the EcoBoost technology. The car moves gracefully, and the engine note becomes rather enjoyable as you progress through gears.

What irked us on the drive, were the ‘Select-Shift’ buttons placed ON the gear knob. This really isn’t as intuitive as some engineer had the R&D team believe, as instinctively you reach to move the gear up or down, rather than flick a switch with your thumb. The ‘Select-Shift’ would have seen more use as the typical +/- gate on the gear selector unit, or as some switches on the steering wheel or even, as tried and tested, as Paddles.

For a family sedan, the Focus is refreshingly agile. There is a tiny bit of body roll, but much less than you would usually expect from a car in this class. This is largely due to the sophisticated suspension set up. The Focus is as agile as some of the best in a few classes above, but it is quite easy for one to gauge what the car’s limits are as well. The steering is well-weighted, and is responsive, and the brakes kick in with a bite on the smooth side, great for sudden stops in and around traffic. There is a reason why the Focus is called the family sports car, as you can tell how crisp it is to drive within a few minutes of taking the wheel.

The car handles bumps with ease, and soaked up a lot of the ruts on Japan Lanka Friendship road. While there was a smidgen of tire noise, it wasn’t intrusive in any way, as the cabin seems to be adequately insulated from the environment.

 

Living with the Focus 

Starting off with the cockpit, the driver’s seat is well bolstered with a lot of support which would prove very useful in tight turns and long distance driving. The seats are not the most glamorous, but are very functional and equally comfortable.

All the controls are neatly arranged, and are clear to read and understand. The auto air-conditioner buttons and knobs are sized well enough to be used without much concern in damaging them. The AC Controls are placed alongside a seated human graphic, making it easier to find the right buttons. The AC vent control rotary dials I found were comically large, although potentially able to stand the test of time with their rubber based construction.

The Infotainment screen was a whopping 8 inches, and the display was pretty clear as well. All the controls and selections are clearly mapped so you would be able to be an expert on its operation in less than 10 minutes or so. Additionally in this Titanium version, you will find a central cubby and armrest for front passengers, especially useful to store your phone to charge via a 12v socket or a USB port., or link it up to the infotainment system via Bluetooth. The 6 speaker system was very Mid-heavy but overall pretty good for a car in this class.

There are a lot of cubbies around the cabin to store a lot of everyday items. Endless options to take along with you on that familiy trip (Even two spaces on either side of the rear seat, that we wouldn’t advise using for anything too valuable). 

The rear seat is comfortable and well contoured, and would fit a 6-footer with ease. The seats are 60/40 splits, which makes carrying oversized loads easier (like carpets for example). The armrest is nothing plush, but does have two cup-holders. There is also a cabin light for the rear; a feature only available in mid-tier Japanese cars. The illuminated boot is decent, not the largest in its class, but would do the job for an airport run no issue at all. This could be further improved with the rear seats folded as well.

Overall, the cabin is finished with materials that are nice to touch, but also seem to be able to stand the test of time. There is a lot of rubberized buttons and levers meant to be used and rightly so! This is a family sedan after all and should be able to take a bit of abuse. Undermining this impression of solidity are the door grips. There are the result of two parts, joined together and neither seem robust enough to last a firm grip, maybe a tad flimsy.

Nevertheless, the Focus’ cabin is a good place to be, everything is a bit grey, but it extremely functional. Remember that this is supposed to be a hard wearing car for families and for that purpose; this seems to excel.

 

Safety 

The Focus comes equipped with a host of technology, ranging from airbags, ABS and ESP as well as Hill launch assist, to make driving safer. The Focus has received a full 5 star safety rating from Euro NCAP, so rest assured you and your loved ones will be in a cocoon of safety.

 

Fuel Economy & Price 

The 1.0 is not a hybrid, it is a turbocharged unit running on the latest technology. Hybrids have ruined people, especially the Sri Lankan car buyer, who expects a petrol car to return the same fuel economy as a Hybrid. This just wont happen that often, especially with weight factoring in, as well as the controversial issue on the longevity of batteries. Ford says the Focus will return 13kmpl on a combined cycle, and it sure did feel like it on our test drive. With our traffic and road conditions, sudden stops this might be a little lower than official figures suggest, but there shouldn’t be a huge difference.

As tested, in Titanium guise, the Focus was listed at LKR 5.85 Million, but this could go up or down with time, and our brilliant tax policies. Still, with all the cost of being a citizen in this country worked into the equation, 5.85Mn is a great price for a family sedan.

 

Final Words 

The Focus is a solid alternative to the run of the mill family sedans currently available in the market. It drives well, and offers great cabin dynamics for the whole family, in a safe and comfortable package. The car feels well-made and solid right around, and Ford have been making the EcoBoost 1.0 liter with minimal fuss for quite some time. At this price point, there are quite a few Japanese and European cars to go for, but not many are as well-equipped as the Ford, though some might have a fancier badge on the boot-lid. Should you be in the market for something conservative, but different, economical and an absolute hoot to drive, look no further.

 

Tech Specs

Engine

1,000cc, 3-cylinder

Turbocharged

125bhp @ 6,000rpm

170Nm @ 1,400-4,500rpm

 

Transmission

Six speed automatic

Front-wheel-drive

 

Suspension

Front:

MacPherson

Rear:

Multilink

 

Brakes

Disc all round

ABS, EBD

 

Wheels & Tyres

215/55R16 all round

 

Misc

Length: 4,538mm

Width: 2,010mm

Height: 1,488mm

Kerb Weight: 1,594kg

Fuel Tank: 47L

Boot Space: 465L

 

Performance

0-100km/h in 11s

Top speed 193km/h

(manufacturer figures)