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Ford sharpens local Focus

2009-04-03 07:08
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Ford
Model Focus
Engine 1.8l, 2l, 2TDCi
Power 92kW @ 6 000r/min, 107kW @ 6 000r/min, 100kW @ 4 000r/min
Torque 162Nm @ 4 000r/min, 185Nm @ 4 500r/min, 320Nm @ 2 000r/min
Transmission Five-speed manual, six-speed DCT
Zero To Hundred 10.3-, 9.3-, 9.6 sec
Top Speed 196km/h, 206km/h, 200km/h
Fuel Tank 55l (53l diesel)
Fuel Consumption 7-, 7.5-, 5.8l/100km
Airbags 4 (Ambiente) 6 (Si)
Tyres 195/65 R15 (Ambiente) 205/50 R17 (Si)
Front Suspension MacPherson struts
Rear Suspension Control blade muli-link
Service Intervals 20 000km
Service Plan 5 yr/90 000km
Warranty 4 yr/120 000km

Lance Branquinho

When the first generation Ford Focus came to market back in 1998 it shocked traditional C-segment hatchback buyers for two peculiar reasons.

Firstly, the Jack Telnack-carved New Edge styling was perhaps a little too avant garde for the suburban minded C-segment buyer.

Secondly, it had independent multilink rear suspension and subsequently boasted plush ride characteristics and handling balance more akin to a sophisticated performance saloon than a family runabout.

A little more than a decade later, Ford has now introduced the facelifted second generation Focus locally.

Local Focus fans will easily pick off the new styling details which essentially usher in the styling changes we’ve seen on the ST since July last year. The differentiated product cycle updates were due to ST being fully imported (and phasing in the facelift on a European timetable) whilst the remainder of the Focus range is locally built.

The most obvious new details surround the redesigned bonnet, which is flanked by those sculptured headlamps (giving the front view a more rakish, yet balanced, appearance) and underscored by the enlarged, trapezoidal lower grille, framed by a chrome strip.

Around the rear you’ll notice the new, clear, tail lamp design, which I think doesn’t work exceptionally well with the narrow proportions of the fifth-door’s frame.

Clear design effect on the rear lamps have a decidedly aftermarket look to them.

Beyond the exterior styling revisions there are equipment revisions to the range too. Differentiating the two trim levels, Ambiente and higher spec Si, are curtain and side airbags as well as standard USB/iPod connectivity on the latter.

Inexplicably there is no option of a full-sized spare wheel on Si models, which is a big no-no for long-distance touring safety in South Africa, especially in rural areas...

Beyond the understated exterior and interior design updates, the facelifted Focus sees entry level petrol 1.6 models replaced by 1.8 derivatives, with dual-clutch automatic shifting now engaging the 2.0 TDCi engines.

New engine and transmission options

Dynamically the facelifted Focus has dropped the 1.6l engine as a buy-in point, replacing it with 1.8l power instead. Oversquare in its architecture, the 1.8l engine is an improvement in all respects.

In terms of output it bests the 1.6 by producing 92kW and 162Nm compared to 77kW and 145Nm. Efficiency is improved too, with the larger engine consuming 0.2l less fuel, averaging out at 7l/100km.

You don't get paddle-shift functionality, but the six-speed DCT autobox is very capable, even when left to its own devices.

The other new feature with respect to drivetrain design is the addition of a dual-clutch (DCT) gearbox. Engineered by esteemed German manufacturer Getrag, the PowerShift transmission is essentially the same one you’ll find in Volvo’s PowerShift S40s with some calibration changes for the Focus application.

Featuring six forward ratios, and rated for a maximum rotational force of 450Nm and speed threshold of 8 200r/min, it’s a neat bit of kit and about 6% more fuel efficient than a conventionally driven manual gearbox.

On paper Ford says the PowerShift-equipped Focus 2.0 TDCi will shift (excuse the pun) from 0-100km/h in 9.6 seconds, and return 5.8l/100km on the average combined cycle, which in reality is a euphemism for cruising without air-conditioning on.

On the road, dynamic performance, crummy cabin

Driving the facelifted Focus range in the Lowveld was an experience of bliss tempered with minor irritation.

Firstly the issues - and they all concern the interior. Let us not be coy; this facelift concerns a car that has essentially been around since 2004. However, the ergonomics are at times hard to fathom for a contemporary design…

There is not even the trace of a proper left footrest on the manual-gearbox models (PowerShift autos have a neat one though), nor a sunglass holder, which is unacceptable in South Africa considering our climate.

All Si trim models now have standard USB/iPod connectivity, with the USB interface a real boon for people who prefer to do without the hassle of stowing an expensive iPod out of harms way each time they leave their car.

As thankful as I am for the new Island Style (not kidding) infotainment centre and USB/iPod interface on the Si models, the audio satellite controls are still a mess. Located on a fixed pad on the left-hand side of the steering wheel column, they don’t turn with the wheel, so what’s the point?

Beyond these ergonomic irritations, the Focus remains an unwittingly entertaining car to drive, perhaps too entertaining for most C-segment customers to even ever realise how good it is.

I am sure it cost Ford a pretty penny to develop (and stick with) the independent, multi-link suspension system since the late 1990s. As finicky to set up properly and expensive to mass produce as it may be, the ride and handling benefits are beyond reproach.

Steering feel, precision and body control (especially when traversing alarming mid-corner undulations so characteristic of Mpumalanga’s passes) simply remains class leading.

On the launch I regularly found myself deliberately late on the brakes – much later than I would be on any other C-segment car which was not a dedicated hot hatch – determined to flick the Focus in as late as possible, just for the sheer tactile reward of its dynamism.

In a straight line the 2.0 TDCi’s DCT gearbox is a little tardy on the downshifts considering its dual-clutch billing, yet with "driver assistance" the upshifts are positively instantaneous.

With Golf VI’s local debut imminent – it’s coming late in April – Ford had to rationalise its offering in the C-segment to entrench a sales position.

Focus operates in a terribly competitive segment of local car market, where there are very few bad cars. Though the interior ergonomics irritate me to some degree, the driving dynamics edge away at your conscience.

If you are a family man who actually enjoys the chore of driving the family around, and derive pleasure from placing your car inch-perfectly on challenging roads when traversing the country on vacation, Ford Focus remains your buy.


Ford Focus 1.8 4dr Ambiente                    R 185 590
Ford Focus 2.0 4dr Si                               R 235 150
Ford Focus 2.0 Auto 4dr Si                       R 243 800
Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi PowerShift 4dr Si        R 269 750

Ford Focus 1.8 5dr Ambiente                   R 185 590
Ford Focus 1.8 5dr Si                              R 210 950
Ford Focus 2.0 5dr Si                              R 235 150
Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi 5dr Si                       R 254 850
Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi PowerShift 5dr Si       R 269 750

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