Ford has sharpened its Focus not only in terms of tech, dynamics and efficiency but also in pricing to take a steady shot at C-segment market leader Toyota.
Motoring media at the Eastern Cape launch were expecting only a mild makeover for the world’s best-selling nameplate but Ford surprised us all with dramatic changes to the range that include not only a bolder body but also interior improvements and new driving assistance tech.
And, most important of all: smaller, more frugal, yet more powerful, engines.
But first, let’s focus on why this is such an important model for Ford...
Since launch in 1998 (when its radical styling shocked the world) more than 12-million Focus units have been sold worldwide, 6.9-million of them in Europe where a new Focus is built every 90 seconds.
The cars are now sold in 140 countries and, to meet demand, Ford has increased capacity worldwide to eight plants on four continents producing more than 1.5-million Focus vehicles a year.
IMAGE GALLERY: 2015 Ford Focus
The restyling has followed Ford’s One Ford global design language, called Kinetic 2, expressed in a lower bonnet with the corporate inverted trapezoidal grille now flanked by slimmer headlights and elongated fog lights. The Focus 'face' now has a strong resemblance to the Fusion; at the rear there are subtle chromed details and thinner tail lights.
Ford says the interior changes were the result of customer: simplified central stack with fewer switches and controls (let’s face it, the old one was a shambles), new steering-wheel, “black satin” trim and chromed detailing, a redesigned central storage console with more space and a new sliding, integrated armrest.
FOCUS ON POWER
The Focus now has a more powerful, yet less thirsty, engine line-up: the award-winning 1.0 EcoBoost (also in Fiesta and EcoSport) replaces the 1.6 non-turbo engine and 1.5 EcoBoost (made its debut in the Fusion) petrol engines.
A measly one-litre mill in a Focus? I hear you ask. Well, with 92kW/170Nm (up from 159Nm) it soon becomes abundantly clear why this mill was named International Engine of the Year for a third consecutive year in 2014.
As we found on the test route through the Eastern Cape the entry-level Focus is no slouch: acceleration from 0-100km/h in a respectable 11.1sec with a six-speed manual and listed fuel consumption of about five litres/100km (combined cycle) which translates to CO2 emissions improved by 20% to 116g/km – due in part to fuel-saving technologies such as stop/start, a grille shutter and EcoMode.
As on the bigger and recently launched in SA Ford Fusion, the new 1.5 EcoBoost turbo engine (132kW/240Nm) is a star performer: less tha nnine seconds to 100km/h. Ford also claims a 17% cut in fuel consumption (to 5.5 litres/100km) from the two-litre non-turbo engine it replaces.
CO2 emissions drop from 154 to 127g/km
It also has a six-speed manual with a six-speed auto to follow later in 2015.
FOCUS ON KIT
Interior appointments and the engines come with a number of optional driving assistance systems such as hands-free parallel and perpendicular parking, Cross Traffic Alert (while reversing from a parking slot) and Park-Out Assist (to help when leaving a parallel parking space).
City traffic collision avoidance now works at up to 50km/h (previously 30km/h) and braking, adaptive cruise control and distance-indicator standard.
The new Focus is also for the first time equipped with Ford’s MyKey technology.
FOCUS ON MODELS
There are six models in two body styles (four-door sedan / five-door hatch) and two equipment levels and two six-speed auto derivatives will be added later in 2015.
The 1.0 EcoBoost Ambiente entry model is, Ford says, nevertheless comprehensively kitted with equipment such as remote-control central locking (remember to watch for jammers), powered front windows, electric power-steering, a trip data computer with EcoMode, and airon.
It also has a comprehensive audio system, a 10cm screen, Ford SYNC with Bluetooth and voice control, and a 12V socket with auxiliary input.
The 1.0 EcoBoost Trend adds alloy wheel rims, fog lights, colour-coded door releases, cruise control, power windows all round, two 12V power points in the centre console, leather trim for the gear-shifter, and curtain air bags.
The 1.5 EcoBoost Trend largely matches the features of the smaller-engined Trend but option packs are available: a styling pack (R14 810) for the five-door hatch with colour screens for the radio and instrument cluster, auto-dimming mirror, auto headlights (on/off and high/low beam) and wipers, 17" alloy rims and a rear spoiler.
The Trend driving assistance pack (R11 940) adds parking assistance, lane-wandering warning and city stop/start.
The new Focus also has a stiffer front end, revised suspension and shock-absorbers, and stability control. Also available (for the first time) is hands-free parking for parallel slots.
PRICES (inc VAT)
Focus 1.0 EcoBoost Ambiente - R212 900
Focus 1.0 EcoBoost Trend - R229 900
Focus 1.5 EcoBoost Trend - R265 900
Focus 1.5 EcoBoost Trend a/t - R279 900
Focus 1.0 EcoBoost Ambiente - R217 900
Focus 1.0 EcoBoost Trend - R234 900
Focus 1.5 EcoBoost Trend - R271 900
Focus 1.5 EcoBoost Trend a/t - R284 900
All units sold with a four-year or 120 000km comprehensive warranty, four-year or 80 000km service plan, three-year unlimited distance roadside assistance and a five-year anti-corrosion warranty. Service intervals are 20 000km