The Focus nameplate is the best selling in the World with over 12 million sold since it was launched in 1998 as a replacement to the Escort.
Ford builds a Focus every 90 seconds and they are sold in over 140 countries worldwide. Now Ford has eight global plants on four continents producing 1.5 million Focus vehicles annually.
Closer to home the Focus, C-segment lower medium sized range in 2014 was the UK’s second best selling model after the smaller Fiesta B-segment supermini models. A total of 85,140 Focus models were sold in the UK last year mainly due to demand from the fleet and the business-user sectors. Its main competitors, the VW Golf had UK sales of 73,880 units and the Vauxhall Astra sales were 59,689.
Now we have a refreshed Focus in both five door hatchback and five door estate body styles priced from £17,295 for the hatchback and £18,395 for the estate but as we know Ford’s new prices at dealerships are always negotiable. There is the choice of Studio, Style, the best selling Zetec, Zetec S, Titanium and Titanium X specification levels for the mainstream models. There are of course a wide range of high tech driver support and higher specification extra cost personalization options. Some of the high-tech driving aids include Active park Assist for kerbside and perpendicular parking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping alert, driver alert, traffic sign recognition, MyKey to tailor various settings, rear view camera, heated steering wheel and adaptive bi-xenon headlights.
In addition to the mainstream variants there are the higher performance ST versions in either hatchback or estate body styles with 2.0-litre 250hp EcoBoost petrol or 2.0-litre TDCi 185hp turbodiesel engine options with prices from £22,195 to £27,095. Just announced for arrival in 2016 is a third generation Focus RS five door hatchback powered by a 320hp turbocharged petrol engine with all wheel drive traction. The price is an estimated £30,000.
For now the latest mainstream Focus models are available with a wide range of engine choices to meet new lower emissions regulations. In addition to the award winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost 100 and 125hp petrol units there are two other new ones, the 1.5-litre EcoBoost turbocharged petrol with either 150 or 182hp and the main selling fleet unit - the 1.5 TDCi 150hp turbodiesel. Both of these engine sizes offer more power, lower CO2 emissions and better fuel economy than the old 1.6-litre units. Currently there is a limited choice of engines mated with automatic transmissions. Fuel efficiency improvements are up to 19% better compared with the outgoing models say Ford.
I have just had a spell in the top selling version, top because of its popularity with fleet, business users and high mileage retail customers. It was the Zetec five door hatch powered by the new 1.5-litre TDCi turbodiesel four-cylinder 150hp, 74.3mpg/98g/km engine with Start/Stop and a six-speed manual gearbox. The price is £19,495. Retail customers who cover a lower mileage are likely to choose the 1.0-litre, 120hp turbocharged three-cylinder 60.1mpg/108g/km petrol unit priced at £19,895 with same Zetec specification. But private buyers tend to go for the higher Titanium level and that costs £21,395 with the same engine choice.
The design for the latest generation Focus is more of an evolution. It has a lower, wider stance making it look more athletic on the road. Visually the new bonnet, grille, chiselled front headlights and elongated fog lights look very neat. The side profile follows the coupe style roofline lowering to the rear, the rising waistline theme all finished off with a neat rear roof mounted spoiler. Inside much of the change has come about from customer feedback. It has controls and switches which are far less cluttered and more intuitive. My test car had the Ford SYNC2 DAB navigation £500 option fitted and that comes with an eight-inch touchscreen rather than the standard fiddly to use 4.2-inch version. Bluetooth and emergency assistance features are still fitted as standard. There is a new centre console with improved storage which also acts as an armrest. Thicker carpets and side windows glass with improved engine bay insulation are claimed to lower noise intrusion although the low speed growl and resonance from the new 1.5-litre diesel unit was noticeably louder than I would have expected.
The standard Zetec specification includes 16-inch alloy wheels, electrically heated windscreen, front fog lights, very comfortable sports style front seats, electrically operated front windows but disappointingly the rear windows are manual wind-ups, air conditioning, trip/fuel computer, stability control, torque vectoring control, hill start assist, central locking and electrically operated and heated door mirrors. Unfortunately cruise control is an extra cost option on Zetec level and doesn’t come as standard until Titanium versions. With the Zetec spec level expected to be the most popular with fleet and high mileage business users leaving out the standard fitment of cruise control is a bit mean as is the lack of electrically operated rear windows.
Apart from the improved fascia layout the most noticeable improvement for the driver and their passengers was the much better ride comfort. The seats are really comfortable and offer good support. The space for rear seat passengers still isn’t as good as the VW Golf or indeed its Skoda stablemate the very roomy Octavia. The ride compliance of the Focus has always been its strong point and the latest versions are even better. It might not be as sharp in the handling department as the VW Golf but it offers much more comfort and the interior is visually better and the specification generally higher. Perhaps the badge appeal of Volkswagen and Golf are higher than Ford and Focus. Overall in its sector if you want the best driving car, or the best car to be driven in, then the Focus is hard to beat as are the real transaction prices at UK dealerships.
As for the new 1.5-litre, four-cylinder 120hp turbodiesel engine, more power from less cubic capacity with higher performance, better mpg and lower CO2 figures says it all really. Apart from its low speed resonating growl the new unit is relatively refined. Power delivery is linear with up to 270Nm of torque delivered from 1,750rpm. The well spaced ratios in the six-speed manual gearbox help this new engine to be responsive when needed and docile during stop/start or low speed crawling along traffic conditions. Top speed is 120mph and the zero to 62mph acceleration time is a reasonable 10.5 seconds. For a mile guzzling workhorse this new engine suits the Focus well. Officially this unit will return 74.3mpg in the Combined Cycle and my week long test driving resulted in a disappointing real-life 58.2mpg. I say disappointing only because the official figure looks so good on paper. In fact I was quite happy with my test car’s consumption. On a longer motorway journey the average jumped to 63.4mpg but fell back once I resumed driving on travelling on country A/B roads. With CO2 emissions of 98g/km VED road tax currently costs £0 but that will most likely increase in the Government’s March Budget. The Benefit-in-Kind company car tax rate from April we already know will be 17% going up from the current 15%. Insurance is rated as Group 11.
The latest Focus might no longer be universally accepted as the ‘top-dog’ in its very competitive sales sector when comparing what has improved, what it delivers and brand desirability. When you add up its plus points over negative ones it is now more difficult to say the Focus isn’t or is the best overall package. But it is still the benchmark model others are judged against.
MILESTONES: Ford Focus Zetec 5-Door 1.5 TDCi 120. Price: £19,495. Engine/transmission: New 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel 120hp, 270Nm of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual gearbox. Performance: 120mph 0-62mph 10.5 seconds, 74.3mpg Combined Cycle (58.2mpg on test), CO2 98g/km, VED £0, BIK company car tax 15% (17% from April). Insurance group: 11. Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,360mm, W 1,823mm, H 1,469mm boot/load space 316 to 1,215-litres. For: Refreshed exterior styling, much improved interior and fascia layout, improved seat comfort, a more comfortable ride, retains its well balanced handling, lower emission engines, low running costs. Against: Not as roomy in the rear seats as some in this sector, some optional specification items should be standard, boot not that roomy, didn’t come close to the official fuel economy figure, it’s improved but no longer the undisputed leader in its sector. Miles Better News Agency