When Focus was first introduced to South Africans, it was, at the time, a radical departure from the ‘norm’ in terms of car design but, like many other groundbreaking designs, has rather become the very norm it was seeking to leave behind.
In the hotly contested ‘C’ segment of the market any edge could be a winning one for a manufacturer, which is why good looks are quickly copied and sometimes improved upon – hence Ford’s all-new ‘Kinetic Design’ styling philosophy that carries across its various models, already entrenched locally by the Fiesta.
In fleet terms the Focus is a major player for Ford in a market featuring opposition from almost every other automaker and the new-look Focus comes at the right time with most of those other players having launched (or about to launch) their own revisions.
A chiselled jaw, sleek profile, rising character line and taut rear-end, all contribute to the hatchback’s purposeful stance, the more fleet friendly sedan version looking, perhaps, a tad more conservative at the rear.
A streamlined shape and steeply raked windscreen contribute to reduced drag, while optimised aerodynamics help reduce wind noise at speed and contribute to improved fuel efficiency. Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels have been reduced and driving dynamics improved by the increased stiffness of the body structure, with 30% greater rigidity than the previous Focus model.
The interior moves upmarket with better detailing and higher quality materials. The busy central console and sculpted dashboard provide more of a driver-focused interior than the Golf, but will not convert those who prefer the more conservative minimalism offered by its German rival. Rear-seat space feels little different to the previous generation, with enough room to accommodate two medium-sized adults in comfort and three at a pinch.
Where the Focus moves things forward is through the selection of driver aids and safety. Some of the driver aids include cruise control; ‘Hill Launch Assist’ that prevents the car from rolling backward when the driver’s foot transitions from the brake to the accelerator, as well as Voice Control, which recognises numerous commands to control functions like the radio, CD and electronic climate control.
Passive safety features include a new generation of advanced air bag restraint systems with driver and front passenger air bags, side front air bags and side curtain air bags (only available on the Trend and Sport models) for front and rear-seat occupants, as well as a strong and light steel body shell. The driver’s front air bag features enhanced chest protection technology designed to help reduce driver chest and rib injuries.
With the latest generation, Ford’s engineers have introduced a completely new Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) system, stiffening up of the body to improve handling, as well as updating the suspension system. Also key, is the introduction of a new ‘Torque Vectoring Control’ system, which behaves like a limited-slip differential constantly to balance the distribution of torque between the front wheels, resulting in reduced understeer, improved traction and better turn-in.
Ford engineers have also retuned and enhanced the innovative suspension concepts from prior models, developing optimised new designs for the Control Blade Independent rear suspension and the semi-isolated front sub frame.
From the very first incarnation, the Focus has always been a driver’s car. This latest generation retains that feel. While the diesel sedan was never intended to be a robot dragster, it nevertheless provides a positive experience for the driver, feeling sure-footed in all conditions with just enough spirit to want to straighten out the curves on a mountain pass.
Steering feedback is positive and inputs are precise and rapidly responded to. Even on the smaller, standard tyres, it feels well connected to the road and overall has no bad habits. All round visibility is excellent, making it easy to handle in town and in tight spaces.
A completely updated 2,0-litre Duratorq TDCi common rail turbo-diesel engine powered our test car and this now produces 120 kW and 340 Nm of torque, while sipping just 5,3 l/100km on average and emitting 139 g/km of CO2. The engine is mated to the latest six-speed PowerShift automatic transmission, which works particularly well with the diesel engine.
The Trend specification gains 16-inch alloy wheels, curtain air bags, steering wheel operated cruise control and audio controls, Bluetooth connectivity with voice control, driver and passenger one touch up/down power windows and rear power windows over the basic standard kit and a ‘Trend Option Pack’ (R6 300) buys rain sensing wipers, auto headlamps, follow-me-home lighting, an auto dimming rear view mirror, global close functionality on power windows, leather steering wheel and 17-inch Alloy wheels.
Focus customers will enjoy a comprehensive 4-year / 120 000 km warranty and 5-year / 90 000 km service plan. Added piece of mind comes in the way of a 3-year /unlimited km roadside assistance plan while service intervals are staggered at 20 000 km intervals for both petrol and diesel derivatives.