Since its launch in 1998 more than 10 million cars have sold, the Focus has become a firm favourite with consumers worldwide. You hear people saying “It doesn’t do one thing fantastically, it just does everything well”. This is the third-generation Focus and it shouldn’t really be any different, and although the design is a fairly sizeable departure from its predecessor, it is easily recognisable as a Focus: Ford has played it pretty safe. The new car’s longer, but it is lower, which helps to keep CO2 emissions down and there’s also a long list of new active safety features available. Over the years it’s become the modern day people’s car especially in Europe. A reliable, practical and affordable vehicle that’s liked by everyone who want something enjoyable to drive. Ford Australia are pinning their hopes on this car in the Australian market, but the competition in this segment is fierce, how good is it?
Let’s check it out:
Behind the wheel
If you include the convenience and safety packs with your purchase of the Sports model, your steering wheel will look like the control panel for the Starship Enterprise (beam me up Scotty). With all the buttons and levers it can get confusing even after a browse at the owner’s manual so it’ll take some time to get used to. The dashboard is less of a daunting but it’s not a completely logical layout – you will find things less complicated when you are sitting in some of the competition. It is, however, a satisfying modern design and the materials feel and look of a decent quality.
The Focus has always had a good reputation for cornering so I expected the new model to be an improvement and I wasn’t disappointed, the Focus has brilliant handling. It’s a fine art to achieve the right balance between comfort, compliance over broken tarmac and gravel, and handling performance. When you enter bends in ‘Angel Mode’ you will enjoy decent levels of grip, turn in is sharp, thanks to a superbly engineered front-end. The new Focus can carry higher speeds into a corner and hold very tight lines through it. On a winding road, even a slippery one, it is very sharp and very quick, which will require you to lift off the accelerator to get the car to tuck in similar to the superb Volkswagen Golf for instance. If I had any ‘small’ criticism, however, is with the steering – the introduction of electronic steering has dulled the feel slightly, which means there’s less feedback coming through the wheel. The rest of the controls combine to give a very positive driving experience: the brakes are excellent for example
There are three engines, 1.6-litre petrol, 2.0-litre turbo diesel and 2.0-litre petrol – with five-speed manual and six-speed DSG PowerShift auto. The 2.0-litre diesel is the pick of the bunch as it is quiet, smooth but punchy and deal for long distance motorway driving. The torque is immense too and on the motorway you’ll rarely, if ever, drop below sixth gear due to the 120kW/340Nm on tap. The double clutch Powershift manumatic is the pick as it offers the best of both worlds, however it does dull the performance slightly and if you do switch to manual mode, you will have to use very counter-intuitive ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ buttons located on the side of the gearknob to change up and down. It feels awkward and I believe a fixed paddle shift would have been a better solution.
There’s little to complain about it. The seats are comfortable and with a broad range of adjustment plus the offer plenty of support both under the thigh and in the lower back. The reach and rake adjustable multi-function steering wheel is a beauty and it’s easy to find a decent driving position. The ride is excellent and probably the best in class and even after a couple of hours’ of hard driving you emerged from the car feeling very fresh with no aches or pains. There’s also more room inside than you may expect, courtesy of that extended swoopy roofline. Even with the front seats pushed fully back there is room for longer adult legs in the rear. The shaped rear bench is comfortable with ample shoulder room for two adults, or for 3 children. Road and engine noise was well contained, but there is a little bit of wind rustle coming from the wing mirrors. I would have liked a little more lateral support in the seats to hold you in when cornering tightly.
The new Focus is longer and although it’s a few millimetres narrower, there’s a little more width inside the cabin allowing for more shoulder room. Legroom in the front is ample and so is the legroom in the back. Surprisingly, the height reduction hasn’t affected the headroom so even taller passengers in the back can sit comfortably without having to duck down. The boot is generous too: with the seats up and a tyre kit there’s 363 litres of storage space available but with all the rear seats down you’ll get 1,148 litres at your disposal. The rear-seat fold-down system is fantastically easy to operate and you can tilt the seat base up and then fold the backs down in a matter of seconds without having to take the headrests off. The rear bench is split 60:40 for extra flexibility. Forward visibility is reasonable, but the A-pillar can be intrusive on tight corners and the shallow rear screen does limit the view out of the back.
The equipment list on the Sport or the Titanium is endless, rather than bore your socks off check out the Ford website if you have a spare couple of hours to burn. Some of the highlights however, include an integrated satellite navigation system as standard equipment, featuring a new 5.0″ multi-function colour display screen (previously a 4.2″ screen), the satellite navigation system is integrated within the Sony audio and communication systems, adding to the exceptional array of smart technology and driver assistance features already offered on Focus Sport and Titanium models including adaptive radar-based cruise control; voice-control for audio, climate and other cabin functions; and Active Park Assist, which enables you Focus to park itself. The Park Assist system comes standard on the Titanium, along with a smart key with push-button start, heated front seats, leather upholstery and 18-inch alloy wheels on the Titanium and 17-inch alloys on the Sport.
New Focus features a patented front chassis subframe, which de-couples during severe frontal impacts, avoiding deformation in the passenger cell foot well area. Pedestrian protection has been boosted by the addition of a “soft” cowl design in the front body structure and Ford has also relocated the windscreen wiper system to help further reduce injury risks. Other safety technologies like Torque Vectoring Control which ensures the Focus feels solid on the road by delivering power to the wheel with most traction, while it’s also fitted with six airbags, electronic stability control and a host of other active and passive systems to help it achieve the maximum five-star safety rating from ANCAP.
Since its introduction in 1998 the Ford has sold millions of its Focus models. Introduced in 2011 and dubbed the 2012 LW, a short drive or a week long test will quickly have you understanding why the European press has heaped such praise upon it. It has been in the past a rather unassuming hatchback that has become the default choice for many and a car against which everything else is measured. Over the years it’s become the modern day people’s car especially in Europe. A reliable, practical and affordable vehicle that’s liked by everyone who want something enjoyable to drive, with the pick of the bunch by a long way being the diesel. Great one Ford.
What is good and not so good?
What is good?
Enjoyable to drive
Ample load space
What’s not so good?
Electronic steering gives little feedback
Counter-intuitive Powershift gearchange
Seats could do with more lateral support
Pillars restricted visibility
Vehicle Ford Focus 2012 LW Sport $33,690
Drivetrain 2.0L Duratorq TDCi 6-speed Auto
Power and Torque 120kW 340Nm
CO2 Emissions g/km 144 g/km
Green Vehicle Guide Rating ▼▼▼1/2
Fuel Economy L/100km (ADR comb) 5.5 L/100km
Tow Capacity N/A
Tow Ball Rating N/A
Warranty 3 year/100,000km,
Alternative Volkswagen Golf
Alternative Holden Cruze
* Manufacturers List Price does not include government or other statutory charges, insurance or dealer-delivery fee.
AnyAuto Ratings 84/100
Behind the Wheel 8 Practicality 9
Comfort 8 Fit for Purpose 9
Equipment 8 Value for Money 8
Performance 9 Build Quality 8
Ride & Handling 9 Environment 8