After much anticipation, the updated third-gen Ford Focus finally made its Malaysian debut last week, and in conjunction with the unveiling, members of the media were given the opportunity to take the car for a spin for a few hours through a fixed route, in order to let us see for ourselves how much the car has changed. So, without wasting anytime, we got over the launch and got our hands on the car to see if there has been any improvements.
As mentioned in our launch report, the new Focus is being offered in three variants:
- Focus Trend hatchback: RM118,888
- Focus Titanium+ sedan : RM139,888
- Focus Sport+ hatchback: RM139,888
While the previous Titanium sedan and Sport hatchback variants have been dropped, replaced by the new Trend hatchback as the entry-level variant.
This new Ford Focus, which is a mid-lifecycle update for Ford’s C-segment model, is also the Blue Oval’s answer to the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla Altis, Volkswagen Jetta, Hyundai Elantra, and Kia Cerato.
Now that models like a new entry-level VW Golf variant, as well as the highly anticipated new Civic are on their way here, it was about time Ford prepared itself to face the competition.
The big news with the new Focus besides the “Aston-Martin-inspired” front grille is the new powertrain package, which comprises a turbocharged 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine that is paired to a torque converter six-speed automatic gearbox.
In case you’re wondering, the current combo replaces the outgoing model’s naturally aspirated 2.0-litre Duratec engine and the six-speed Powershift dry dual clutch automatic transmission.
Output-wise, the new engine kicks out 180PS and 240Nm of peak torque, compared to the outgoing model’s 170PS and 202Nm of torque.
Besides the engine, the car has gone through a few subtle, yet significant mechanical upgrades as well. For instance, the electric power-assisted steering has been tweaked to offer a more effortless yet fulfilling driving experience, the suspension is 25 per cent stiffer, and the electronic stability control system has been enhanced with the Enhanced Transitional Stability (ETS), in order to reduce the car from spinning out during hard driving.
In terms of standard equipment, the Focus now comes with Microsoft’s Sync 2 infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen as standard, replacing the outgoing Sync which came with a 4.2-inch screen. Unfortunately, there is no GPS navigation.
How is it like to drive?
The variant which we drove was the Sport+ hatchback, which came with a few exclusive goodies like the sports tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels, LED tail lamps, black leather interior, as well as the additional adjustable lumbar support on the driver’s seat.
After driving the new Focus for a few hours around the Klang Valley, we noticed three things. First and foremost, the new engine and gearbox make the car an absolute joy to drive.
Unlike the predecessor in which the maximum torque was only available at 4,550rpm, the EcoBoost engine delivers all 240Nm on a silver platter from as early as 1,600rpm all the way until 5,000rpm. So, regardless of whether we were driving in town or the highway, at low rev or high, power was just there, being delivered in a very seamless manner. To be frank, it didn’t feel like we were driving a 1.5-litre car at all.
The changes to the suspension on the other hand, resulted in a ride that is firmer than before, but never once did it compromise the occupants’ comfort. We even drove through a couple of small bumps and lumps on purpose to see how the suspension took it and we were not disappointed at all. Complementing the suspension setup was the set of 17-inch rubbers which provided more than adequate grip throughout our stint with the Focus.
Secondly, the level of noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) has improved tremendously. Ford mentioned that its engineers worked their magic on components like the windscreen, the door panels and what not to reduce the amount of road noise and provide a more refined driving experience than before, and truth be told, they seem to have done a pretty decent job.
Thirdly, the car is smarter. While most basic functions revolving around the Microsoft Sync 2 infotainment can still be controlled via voice command, the 8-inch touch screen made things so much more convenient and practical. However, that is not the point here.
As many of us know, the Focus was the only car in this segment that could literally parallel-park itself. But with the new Focus, Ford has taken things a notch higher with the Active Park Assist 2 feature. Believe it or not, the Focus can now perpendicularly park (reverse-park) itself.
It was just a matter of approaching a spot, pressing the Park Assist button, and wait for the car to detect an appropriate spot, and once it does, it signals the driver to begin the procedure by following the onscreen instructions. All the driver has to do is press the accelerator pedal or the brake, and change between ‘D’ and ‘R’, while the car steers itself into the parking spot. And then, there is also the Park Out Assist function, which guides the vehicle out of a parallel parking spot.
Besides these three big leaps forward, things remain similar to how they were with the Focus. While cubbyholes and a couple of storage compartments have been made deeper to store more, leg space still seems to be a small problem both in front and rear. Besides that, we don’t really have anything to complain about the new Focus.
The Focus is arguably one of the safests car in this segment. Offered as standard are six airbags, a wide range of driver aids like the Enhanced Active City Stop, Blind Spot Information alert, the Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Active Park Assist 2, Park-Out Assist, and keyless entry with push start technology among others.
As we mentioned above, the new Focus might just be a mid-life update but it has improved by miles from what it was in terms of driving dynamics and also the equipment offered. And now that competition in the C-segment is about to get tougher, it was timely that Ford updated the Focus to what it is now.
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