Ford Focus

Improved civility and value, but will it sell?

DAMION SMY

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

FORD Australia has some great cars in its line-up but itís not selling too many of them. So hereís hoping that this mid-life Focus update will provide renewed vigour to shift more product from Fordís showrooms.

The Focus is one of the last Fords to receive the new corporate nose, which also brings different bumpers and a subtly revised rear.

Inside, the centre console and dash have seen a litany of buttons smoothed over for a much cleaner, smarter look. There are optional paddle-shifters and much improved surface finishes, elevating this car much closer to its original target: the VW Golf.

The Focus line-up has been streamlined too, with the entrylevel Ambiente gone, the diesel ditched and the dual-clutch transmission binned in favour of a torque-convertor automatic.

That means all three trim levels, now starting with the Trend, then Sport and Titanium, come with the same 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder ĎEcoboostí engine. It replaces the 125kW/202Nm 2.0-litre GDi, and delivers 132kW/240Nm with better fuel economy, now 6.2L/100km compared with 6.6 for two-pedal models, thanks to an idle-stop system among its eco-arsenal.

The new engine is quiet at slow speeds, but give it a prod and itís a tad coarse, with a note thatís more gruff than buff. Teamed with the new auto, which shifts smoothly but has mapping that canít quite keep up with throttle inputs, and itís an adequate rather than rousing drivetrain, with the priority on around-town improvement obvious.

Thereís also a new tune for the electric steering. It feels too light at first, but itís intended to make life easier around town, with less resistance, and thatís exactly the result. Thereís excellent feedback at higher speeds, though, and while its lack of linearity may seem odd at first, the Focus is planted on long, fast sweepers.

The ride is firm across all models, with the Trend running 16-inch alloys among a swathe of standard gear that includes satnav and Fordís excellent SYNC 2 connectivity. It soaks up bumps well, even man-sized pot-holes on your local councilís to-do list.

Upgrade to the Sport on 17s and the ride is still firm yet compliant, but like the previous model, the 18-inch wheels on the Titanium brings a ride that is clunky and intrusive, despite the chassisís excellent poise.

The $23,390 starting price for the Trend is a substantial $3K more than the previous kick-off, but thereís more gear for the coin.

Overall, Focus mayíve had the edges of its dynamics planed off ever-so-slightly, but it still offers a compelling drive on all surfaces, and it grocery-grabs with ease.

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Ford Focus Trend 1498cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 132kW @ 6000rpm 240Nm @ 1600-5000rpm 6-speed automatic 1364kg 9.0sec (estimated) 6.2L/100km $24,390 Now

PLUS & MINUS

Lack of engine urge; ride on 18-inch alloys; still canít match Golf Cohesive look; excellent equipment levels; safety pment gear; improved cabin

A shift from DCT

FORD says that dropping the ĎPowershiftí dual-clutch íbox is not a backward step. ďThe dual-clutch is very good in matching the efficiencies of a manual transmission,Ē said Focus chief program engineer, Mark Rampling. ď[But] we found the torque convertor transmission more refined, smoother, and our customers are saying that they miss that.Ē Itís also cheaper: the step up from a manual is now $1100 instead of $2200.

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