Ryan Bubear spends a week with the Ford Focus Trend Powershift 2.0 GDi Sedan...
Prior to its launch earlier this year, the new Focus was touted as one of Ford's most important models of recent times. Yip, there's plenty of responsibility resting on those sleek new shoulders...
You see, this year's model is the first Focus to be designed with the "Ford One" strategy firmly in mind, and is thus intended as a single product for a global market. In effect, this means that the Focus you purchase in Texas will be pretty much identical to the one you buy in Berlin, Leeds, Shanghai or indeed Cape Town (there will, of course, still be left-hand- and right-hand-drive varieties).
Perhaps surprisingly, this one-size-fits-all approach has resulted in a strong C-segment option that does just about everything rather well. In fact, one has to search particularly hard to find a weakness.
While it may now be seen as a "global" product, the third-generation Focus is offered in South Africa in eight different versions (see page two for models and prices): four hatchbacks and four sedans across two trim levels (Ambiente and Trend). Engines include a 1.6-litre petrol, a 2.0-litre diesel — only available in PowerShift automatic guise — and a 2.0-litre GDi (that's "Gasoline Direct injection" for the unAmerican).
Hatch vs Sedan
My test vehicle was the four-door 2.0 GDi Trend in Candy Red, featuring the option pack, which sees the addition of larger alloys, automatic headlights and wipers, follow-me-home lighting, auto dimming rear view mirror, and a leather-trimmed steering wheel.
The hatchback (particularly in Sport attire) is by far the better-looking sibling, with the sedan suffering from a "bloated-butt-in-the-air" affliction similar to that currently hounding the Fiesta sedan. Of course, the payoff is a boot capable of holding a good deal more luggage...
Indeed, the new Focus echoes the smaller Fiesta in the looks department in a number of ways, with the resemblance plain to see in the sporty nose, wraparound headlights and profile in general. This is, of course, by no means a bad thing, since the Fiesta (again, particularly the hatch) is a handsome vehicle that has aged exceptionally well since its launch back in 2008.
However, it may reveal the reason the new Focus didn't garner as much attention as I had expected it to over my testing week (initial "head-turn-ability" — especially with the big brands — is often a fair indicator of how popular a new design will be with the public, I have found). Nevertheless, the front end of the new Focus is quite tasty, with the sporty intake arrangement below the bonnet line a highlight.
Weight is kept to a minimum through the use of plenty of high-strength steel in the body-shell, which results in all-important rigidity and an improved fuel economy.
Can you say 'premium'?
The interior has a distinctively upmarket feel, despite the lack of leather seats. From the moment you clamber inside, and the sturdy door closes with a reassuringly solid thud, you know you're seated in a premium offering. Cabin materials in general are of a high quality and no buttons or switches have the dreaded "flimsy feel". The blue needles on the tachometer, speedometer, fuel gauge and temperature gauge are a nice touch too.
The steering wheel is of the multifunctional variety, but may be a bit too functional for its own good. Two five-way switches are found on the horizontal spokes (controlling the two main displays), and a number of buttons to regulate the cruise control are recessed to the left. On the right, audio, voice command and Bluetooth controls are found, meaning the wheel is covered in buttons; perhaps too many for the average motorist, with average dexterity, to have to worry about.
The radio/CD system on my test vehicle was familiar, since a similar version does duty in the Fiesta. For the record, the top-of-the-range Sport hatch comes standard with a 4.2-inch TFT screen and three extra speakers (nine plays six).
Possibly more important than all that though, is how the new Focus performs out on the road. The 2.0 GDi is an eager powerplant, churning out 125kW at 6600rpm and 202Nm at 4450rpm sans forced induction (strangely, Ford failed to list its 0-100km/h sprint time). While it's by no means sporty, there always seems to be power on tap when it is needed, and paired with the six-speed PowerShift automatic transmission, the 2.0-litre petrol unit does a decent job in traffic and on the open road.
It's the small things...
A small but ingenious feature comes in the form of simple "plus" and "minus" buttons on the side of the gear lever. These little toggle switches facilitate rapid up or down gear changes, without the driver having to resort to the traditional kick-down method. Need a bit of overtaking power sharpish? Then simply drop a couple of gears with this button.
The dual-clutch auto can be driven in either "D" or "S" mode, although true petrol-heads best wait for the launch of the new ST if they crave true responsiveness. There is very little in the way of jerkiness, and gear changes are actually rather smooth. Hill Launch Assist comes as standard on this model.
The exhaust tone is surprisingly — but rather pleasantly — a little gruff when you put your foot down. However, freeway cruising is quiet, with very little engine, wind or tyre noise finding its way into the cabin. Indeed, the ride is rather refined, with the suspension soaking up bumps with ease.
Despite the comfortable ride, handling is a strong point. Thanks to the introduction of Ford's spiffy "Torque Vectoring Control" system, understeer is kept to a minimum, meaning the Focus is a joy to drive on twisty roads. I found that the steering was precise — managing to avoid the vagueness so often present in today's electric power assisted efforts — and bodyroll was minimal.
Claimed fuel economy is also impressive, with Ford declaring that the 2.0-litre GDi PowerShift achieves 6.4 litres per 100km on a combined cycle.
Breaking it down
The PR-types at Ford must have spent an age coming up with very technical names and complicated explanations for all the awesome little technological aids hidden under the skin of the new Focus (ones the man on the street would probably never even know existed, never mind understand). But all you need to know is this:
The new Focus has admirable road manners, and an upmarket interior featuring a fair number of gadgets, and does everything it should without fuss.
It builds on the sound reputation of previous incarnations, and I think it'll be just as popular, if not more, worldwide.
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Click through to page 2 for specs and pricing.