Ford isn't mincing words at the launch of its all-new Focus lineup, claiming it's "quite simply, the best car in our 114-year history." It's a ground-up redesign with a new look, a heap more driver assist goodies and a sizeable jump in efficiency.
The complete overhaul of Ford's popular rally-bred getabout is part of the company's switch to a new design philosophy. There will eventually be five flexible basic architectures, upon which common body, chassis, electrical and drivetrain modules will sit to build out the American manufacturer's range in the coming years.
So it's far more than a cosmetic upgrade for this year's Focus, it's a top to bottom re-think, but one Ford insists won't impact the fun driving experience these things offer.
Visually, the new Focus takes some steps that'll split the crowd. There's more than a hint of Hyundai Veloster to it, with its accented wheel arches and crouched-over hatchback on the ST version. It's not a bad look – just perhaps one that might struggle to stand out. Still, the wheels and front grille are unmistakeable.
Engine, chassis and drivetrain
Under the hood, there are several options, from the 1- and 1.5-liter Ecoboost three-cylinder engines (which can deactivate a cylinder for even more economical driving), as well as 1.5- and 2-liter EcoBlue diesel motors for even greater economy. In terms of power, there are options galore. The 1.0-liter EcoBoost is available with 80, 100 or 125 hp, the 1.5-liter Ecoboost can give you 150 or 182 horses, the 1.5-liter EcoBlue diesel can give you 95 or 120 (with 300 Nm/221 lb-ft of torque), and the 2.0-liter EcoBlue diesel will give you 150 horses and 370 Nm (236 lb-ft) of torque. The buying experience could get a little laborious, but that's an impressive range of motors to choose from.
The transmissions, common to all versions, include an 8-speed intelligent shift auto that is said to be capable of detecting and learning your driving style to continuously improve its decision making. There's also a 6-speed manual.
Aerodynamic improvements yielding a drag coefficient of just 0.273, coupled with low rolling resistance tires and an average weight loss around 50 kg (110 lb) combine with the efficient powertrains to use some 10 percent less fuel per mile across the board. That sort of saving will add up for sure.
Handling has also been a… well, focus. The new body is 20 percent more torsionally stiff, and the car sits lower and wider than its predecessors, promising a terrific cornering experience for sportier drivers. On top of that, there's now a Continuously Controlled Damping (CCD) system that constantly reads the road and your driving style 500 times a second, and tweaks the suspension damping to suit. There's torque vectoring, torque steer compensation and stability control. It's got all the ingredients to be a ton of fun.
Interior and driver assist technologies
As for the interior, where to start? Perhaps with the profligate driver assist gear, which has taken a sizeable step forward.
Adaptive cruise control now goes all the way up to 200 km/h (120 mph) for the truly brave. It also goes all the way down to a full stop in crawling traffic, and will resume by itself if the car in front moves within three seconds. If not, the driver will have to tap the Resume button or the accelerator to get it going again.
The Focus will also actively steer to keep itself in a lane, giving it Level 2 autonomous driving capability. And in a very nice touch, the car will use its cameras as well as GPS mapping information to look out for speed zone changes and automatically follow speed limits in adaptive cruise mode.
The headlights auto-track around corners, but they're not connected to the steering angle as they are on many other cars. Instead, the same cameras the car uses to inform its lane keeping assist functions reads the white lines and road signs to tell the car what corners are coming up, and point the headlights predictively around the turn. If the system sees a roundabout or intersection, it'll widen the beam to give you more information to work with. Great idea.
Active Park Assist 2 gets the all-new capability of managing the gas and brake for you, meaning the car completely parks itself. So choose your parking spot carefully, because you're going to have to get out on your own!
Backing out of driveways gets easier with a super wide-angle reversing camera that gives you nearly 180-degree visibility out the back, as well as Cross Traffic Alert sensors as well.
There's a new heads-up display that Ford calls "the widest, brightest HUD on the market," while a new "Evasive Steering Assist" feature helps a driver steer around a slower or stopped vehicle if it detects a crash is imminent. That'll make life interesting.
Smartphone support is terrific, with a built-in FordPass Connect modem that turns the car into Wi-Fi hotspot. There's a wireless charging pad exactly where you'll want to stash your handset while you're driving, and of course Ford's excellent Sync 3 system with voice recognition and an 8-inch touchscreen. The sound system is now a 675-watt monster by Bang & Olufsen, and Ford is confident it's not the sort of system people will go replacing.
You can use an app on your phone to find the car in a parking lot, check the vehicle's status, lock and unlock the doors, remote start the thing or call emergency services – a task you'll also be prompted to consider after a crash.
Although the exterior dimensions haven't become much bigger, Ford says it's a much roomier interior. Passengers get some 5 cm (2 in) more legroom, and there's some 6 cm (2.4 in) more shoulder room all round. There's extra room in the trunk as well, and the feeling of space can be enhanced with an optional huge panoramic roof.
There are four models to start with, each aimed at a slightly different type of customer. The ST-Line is a younger, sportier model aimed at car nuts; the Vignale aims more toward luxury and refinement; the Titanium is your more practical family wagon; and the Active gets a slight lift kit and some protective exterior touches to make it a touch more capable off the tarmac.
The Focus will roll out globally, and no pricing information is available as yet. There will be 13 color options on launch, and we'd presume a muscled-up RS model won't be far off either, for those really keen on exploring the Focus's racing heritage.
Ford considers this car extremely important; the harbinger of a new generation of vehicles it sees as a bridge between today's you-drive and tomorrow's self-driving vehicles. It has thrown the kitchen sink at the new Focus. There are a ton of photos in the gallery. Let us know your opinions in the comments.
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