13 August 2012

Ford Focus - design and drive impression

Ford Focus was introduced to the world market in 1998, signalling the end of an era for the long-living Escort model. The then new first generation Focus brought a new hall mark in the C Segment hatchback/sedan, where the new benchmark for styling, space and handling finesse has been redefined. Such is the phenomena that the first generation Focus has set, that all the new comer after that were judged based on this standard. The second generation arrived in 2004, bringing about a bigger and more spacious body. The styling is more restrained, and later adopted the Kinetic Design philosophy during the 2008 facelift. The third generation arrived in late 2010 where market entrance commenced in 2011. This is the generation we are getting today (or more accurately this September). Assembled in Rayong, Thailand since late June 2012, the new Ford Focus is set to shake the C Segment in the Asia region hard unlike its predecessor which was never capable enough.
The right essence is there. The exterior styling is modern interpretation of Ford design language. It can be termed as the big brother to chic-looking Fiesta, especially the Focus hatchback. Comes in two body styles, the hatchback is named as Focus Sport, while the sedan is called Focus Ghia. Two trim levels are available for both, Sport and Sport+, and Titanium and Titanium+. Thus, there are four variants altogether. Sime Darby is yet to fix the final price, but the indicative pricing is RM135,000 for the + variant, while the cheaper version is good RM15,000 less. Equipment level can be described as generous, especially compared to the sparsely-equipped Japanese challenger launched last month.

The new Ford Focus wears the new Ford corporate face which is an evolution from the Fiesta. The front end is dominated by the large headlight which is is very formal looking as it lacks the inward sharp thrust edge that usually lends some aggressiveness to the outlook. Instead, the inner lower edge of the light is curved back upwards. Similar concept is applied to the front bumper too. Instead of trying to inject some air of sportiness via massive and meshed air intakes, Ford applies a 3-segment setup, with the outer 2 triangular in shape and the inner one rectangular is outlines and run all the way to the top, almost joining the upper grille. Mild chrome is applied here. Its quite pleasing to look at in flesh, as the car is really one of the most non-photogenic that MMN has come across.
The side profile is dominated by the cab forward stance. The A-pillar is outreached far  to the hood area, and the hood trailing edge shut line is almost nearly at the front wheel centre axis. There is a strong belt line, that character-fully run crisper near the fender where it joins another line that subtly exist on the door panel. There's some character line too on the door lower edge, making the side panel of the new Focus as sleek as it can get.

It is the rear end that significantly sets the sedan and the hatch apart. The hatchback is far more sporty, almost as rakish as the smaller Fiesta, albeit in an inflated form. The gigantic rear light blends all the planes well. The interplay of different surfaces in intricate here, but effective in application. The rear end of the hatch back is finished with the nice-looking spoiler. The sedan meanwhile is more sedate. The tail is more elongated looking, with similarly horizontally stretched rear light (instead of vertically stretched for the hatch). The overall stance is still acceptable, and if it still does not convince you, you won't see how your car boot looks like from the driving seat! This is an important criteria as the difference in boot space between the two version is significant.

When MMN tested the new Honda Civic last month, MMN concluded that it is spacious, despite the slightly sparse looking. The new Ford Focus is totally opposite of those. It has adequate space (1094mm front legroom, 848mm rear legroom) but it is cocooningly cozy instead of letting you lose inside like the Civic. The seats too is more bolstered, more cushioning in the padded material and generally slightly larger to the Japanese competitor.
The dashboard is really orgasmic. Where the Japanese competitor is as exciting as tree, the Focus item is chunky, with prominent meter binnacle with elaborative housing. The centre console is hooded, housing a 4.2" display screen. The aircon vent is substantial, and chromed lined. The audio actually has a lot of button (listen to this Honda!!!!), highly glossy in finishing and the buttons are tactile to press. The climate control variation of button and dial sizes that impart some classiness. The climate control is dual zone by the way. The floor console is high, increasing the sense of cocooning as aforementioned. The gearknob is snazzy, while the hand brake arm is as per the abandoned FD Civic item. If you are really considering the age of the car, the new Ford Focus is actually an older car compared to the new Civic. When the European Focus was unveiled, the new Civic is pounding the dessert under the watchful eye of the spy photographer. So technically, the Ford engineers could be looking at benchmarking the Civic FD cabin at the time the Honda engineers are thinking of abandoning some of the costly concept.

The application of soft touch padded plastic is strategic,namely on the dashboard upper section and the front door trim upper part. The rest of the interior is moulded from the harder material, but thankfully garnished in expensive looking texture pattern. The door trim design is visibly different in philosophy from the Japanese. It has large plastic area, with minimal section wrapped in fabric/leather. There's also an ambient lighting shining from the door inside handle housing. The power window panel is blessed with chrome insert, tastefully lifting the interior classiness.
There floor console has some storage space behind the gear console, which is partitioned by the twin cupholder. There's however no aircond vent, but the front vents are already quite substantial. The seat upholstery is nicely done, especially around the back of the front seat where no zipped section is visible. The same cannot be said about some of the Japanese competitor.

The color scheme for the Sport and Ghia (hatch and sedan) differs greatly. The hatchback interior is nicely done in all-black plastic material. The centre console is silver-trimmed, with dials set in contrasting black. The seats are half-leather, with dark fabric insert in the middle.

The sedan meanwhile gets a two-tone cabin. The main theme is slightly brownish. The lower section is lighter in its hue. The seats are full leather covered instead of partially. The seat color scheme is similar to the dashboard, light hue, perhaps can be describe as a light watery brown, but definitely not beige. Subjectively speaking. The climate control panel is silver instead of black like the hatchback.

Steering wheel for both version is rich is features. The right button panel is for the screen in the meter binnacle displaying the driving parameters (fuel consumption etc) while the identical left panel is for the Ford SYNC panel  displayed in the central 4.2" screen. There's also chunky lower button controlling the cruise control and voice activated and bluetooth phone respectively on the right and left. The wheel rims is thickly padded giving a real firm grip, essential when navigating the car that can corner this hard. More after the jump.

Both hatchback and sedan has similar amount of rear and head room. They are not spacious as MMN would like to be, especially for the leg. But you won't be left feeling short changed. The main difference is the interior volume between these two version is the boot volume. The hatch will accommodate 316L while the sedan is quoted as 421L. But these figure are obtained assuming space saver tyre(like Malaysian car), but quoted from Ford Australia as Sime Darby does not quote any.

Only one engine is offered for Malaysian market. It is the 2.0L Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT). This powertrain unit comes with the direct injection system instead of the typical port injection. One should not feel short changed with the lack of EcoBoost series as the Ti-VCT is cutting edge too, albeit without the downsizing technology.

The engine still punch a healthy amount of output. The horsepower is 170PS@6,500rpm while the torque is 202Nm@4,550 rpm. For comparison, the 2.0L Honda Civic kicks out 155PS@6,500rpm and 190Nm@4,300rpm. Typical to modern Ford drivetrain, drive is channelled via the dual clutch transmission with 6 ratios, dubbed Powershift. While no century sprint figure is given, top speed is quoted as 202km/h. The engine will accept minimum RON95. The fuel efficiency rate is given as 6.6L/100km in combined cycle.

Chassis & Dimension
The new Ford Focus sits on 2,648mm wheelbase (Civic 2,670mm & Proton Preve 2,650mm). Overall length is 4,534mm for the sedan, while the hatchback is a tad shorter at 4,358mm. Width is 1,823mm while height is 1,484mm.

Ford Focus is suspended at the front by Independent McPherson strut with hydro bushing subframe isolated lower control arm. The rear end is taken care by the Focus-customary Independent Control Blade with isolated subframe too. Both end are installed with anti-roll bar. 

Braking is provided ventilated disc at the front and solid disc at the back. There's host of electronic trickery to the braking and handling assistance. All models gets the ABS with EBD and BA. Traction is enhanced by the ESP, Traction Control System (TCS) and Torque Vectoring Control which independently controlled the torque supplied to each of the front wheel which in effect create a LSD effect. Hill Launch Assist is available too.

The new Focus sits on 205/60 R16 in sedan guise while the hatchback rides on 215/50 R17.

Driving Impression
For all its chassis setup and handling enhancement trick, the new Ford Focus handles like a dream. MMN tested the car on a mix of straight road which we've seen a burst of 160 km/h, and also a series of flowing sweeper. 

Right from the go, Ford Focus does not suffer from the throttle lag that many modern cars suffer. It is instant from the nought. The engine is never too loud under the heavy throttle, and the Powershift changes gear seamlessly, progressing in both rapid and smooth manner. The gearchange in its autonomous is satisfyingly quick.

The new Focus can attack the corner really hard too. While the is some body roll, one can feel the wheel just track the cornering line, adhering to the chose trajectory while lending enough feel to the helm. It is weightier than the Preve setup. The body also flows nicely in the undulating corner, even with sudden change of direction is a slight downhill section. It is really mesmerising. It is a combination that a C Segment family sedan best can offer. MMN personally think that the overall effect is even better than the Proton Preve, despite that majority of Malaysian media said is the best. 

To top it all, all those dose of adrenalin does not come with the penalty of stiff ride and interior noise. The noise insulation is good. The dual clutch does not while like the CVT and bite instantly. The steering is fully in support of the chuck-able handling nature. MMN personal opinion is that this car stands as fun as the Honda CR-Z with a perfect interaction between steering and tyre and body action, albeit in higher seating position. The Honda Civic tested last July suddenly feels so clinical.

MMN tested only the saloon, so we can't comment on how the hatchback does. But we strongly feel it is should be more or less the same as Ford does not outline any difference in chassis setting between the two.

The only setback is the lack of real manual overide for the dual clutch gearbox. This is such a waste that you can't really satisfyingly control the ratio by yourselves. The only consolation that Ford provide is the +/- button the gearknob (which needs to be slotted to the "S" first). It is nowhere near thundering at the autonomous change as there's some lag in the button operation. At the very minimum, Ford can supply the paddle shift.

The new Ford Focus should give Ford a stronger representative in the Malaysia C Segment market. The car is generously equipped. Standard across the range include ABS with EBD and BA. Traction is enhanced by the ESP, Traction Control System (TCS) and Torque Vectoring Control which independently controlled the torque supplied to each of the front wheel which in effect create a LSD effect. Hill Launch Assist is available too. Dual front SRS and side airbags are include too.

As for the cabin, the list of gadget encompasses they keyless entry with push button, automatic dual zone climate control, leather wrapped steering (with audio controls), gearknob and handbrake, express up and down power window, 4.2" color multi-function screen, Ford SYNC audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, USB, 9 speakers setup, leather seats (partial for hatchback), powered 4-way adjustment for driver and sun visor with illuminated vanity mirrors.

For enhancing the fuel economy, Ford new Focus is ECO mode as well as innovative Active Grille Shutter with closed the outer two intake in high speed condition to reduce drag.

Opting for the + trims will gains you curtain airbags, Bi-Xenon headlamps with washer, Follow-me-home lighting, rain sensor, automatic headlamps, cluster variable dimming, auto dimming rear view mirror, Active Park Assist, Active City Stop, Blind Sport Information System and Cruise Control. Speaking about the Park Assist, the system can really parallel-park the car with you controlling only the brake and gear. It is quite spooky to see the steering wheel move by itself. However, the system can only work if the available space is 1.2 times the length of the car, which might not continuously exist in real life.

The official launch is set to be in September. The order book is already opened for now. The tentative pricing is RM120,000 for the standard variant and RM135,000 for Titanium + and Sport+. The actual pricing will be announced closer to the launch date. However, with the current sublime handling and refinement package, topped with generous equipment level, MMN can strongly recommend the new Ford Focus as good buy!

The gallery of the Focus Ghia (sedan) and Sport (hatchback) can be found below.

Ford Focus Sedan

Ford Focus Hatchback

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