DRIVING IMPRESSION: Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost Trend
Last year, it become the world’s best-selling new car with over one million units being sold, quite an achievement when you factor in how many different models are sold globally.
Now into its third generation, Ford has given its world dominating Focus compact hatch a mid-facelift with the aim of taking to the fight to the segment leading Volkswagen Golf as well as the ever present Opel Astra, Honda Civic and Renault Megane.
Although still recognisable as a Focus, the now redesigned front end draws heavily from the recently launched Fusion compact executive sedan and includes the same Aston Martin inspired grille, new front bumper with horizontal foglights and active directional Xenon turning headlights.
Changes to the rear are less radical and mainly comprises of a new bumper, redesigned boomerang-inspired light and tailgate.
Inside, the interior has also been reworked with the emphasis being on simplicity as well as connectivity. As such, the previous smartphone-inspired centre console that debuted with the Fiesta has been dropped in favour of a much cleaner layout with the top half being dominated by the upgraded SYNC 2 infotainment screen, flanked by the previous model’s vertical air vents, and clearer marked button for the sound system.
As the base of the facia, a storage area now sits below the controls for the air-conditioning and in front of the gear lever, while also housing dual USB slots and a 12v power socket.
Topping of the interior changes, the multi-function steering wheels now features toggle switches for the cruise control, Bluetooth and SYNC Voice Control instead of the large oversized buttons previously used, while the handbrake has been relocated from next to the gear lever, to slightly further back near the centre console housing the cupholders.
Underneath the bonnet, the Focus finally does away with its predecessor’s 1.6 and 2.0 normally aspirated petrol engines in favour of Ford’s turbocharged EcoBoost in either the multi-award winning 1.0-litre three cylinder, the subject of this review, or the 1.5-litre four cylinder that recently debuted in the Fusion and facelifted Kuga SUV. Diesel options will arrive later
To further help with fuel economy, the previous five-speed manual gearbox has been upgraded with an extra cog while the previous dual-clutch Powershift auto box gives away to a normal torque converter. This option will only become available at a later stage.
At launch, we could only sample the five-door hatch with the majority being fitted with the three pot mill and in range topping Trend trim level.
With 92 kW and 170 N.m of torque, the engine, which made its debut in the Fiesta and left a big impression on me, provided plenty of low-down shove on the go, but tended to require the dropping of a few cogs, admittedly when the scenery climbed, on the test route from our hotel through Seaview and on to the N2, before eventually finishing just outside Patensie. Even this was not an issue as the box sported a lovely slick shifting action while being direct at the same time.
Featuring a revised version of its famed control blade rear suspension, the Focus coped well with the myriad of imperfections that characterises the route leading from the N2 turnoff passed Loerie, Hankey and then Patensie, with the ride remaining comfortable and body roll to a minimum.
As before, all models feature torque vectoring to limit understeer while the electric power steering has been revised for sharper turn-in and feel, which it mostly does. As part of the optional Active Park Assist pack, the Focus also includes Perpendicular Parking which uses sensors to scan the ideal parking area before steering the car into position with the driver controlling the brake and accelerator.
Combined with the standard reverse camera, other safety includes the Active City Collision Avoidance, Park-Out Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Adaptive Cruise Control.
Despite it being called on to power the heavier and bigger Focus, the EcoBoost triple did an admirable job of whisking us along but more crucially, finally affords the power and go the previous 1.6 couldn’t achieve.
With its new found muscle, improved styling, levels of kit and prices starting at R212 900, choosing the Golf over the Focus has now become a lot harder.
2015 FORD FOCUS MODEL RANGE
|1.0 EcoBoost Ambiente||92 kW / 170 N.m||R217 900|
|1.0 EcoBoost Trend||92 kW / 170 N.m||R234 900|
|1.5 EcoBoost Trend||132 kW / 240 N.m||R271 900|
|1.5 EcoBoost Trend AT||132 kW / 240 N.m||R284 900|
|1.0 EcoBoost Ambiente||92 kW / 170 N.m||R212 900|
|1.0 EcoBoost Trend||92 kW / 170 N.m||R229 900|
|1.5 EcoBoost Trend||132 kW / 240 N.m||R265 900|
|1.5 EcoBoost Trend AT||132 kW / 240 N.m||R279 900|
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