Cars

Published on September 19th, 2015 | by Subhash Nair

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2016 Ford Focus Test Drive: Forced Induction Not Sold Separately

We were in Adelaide earlier this month getting a taste of the latest Ford Focus. The Focus has been offered in Malaysia for some years now, positioned above the Fiesta in terms of size, spec and price. Ford came up with the Focus at a time when it still owned Volvo Cars, and used a lot of the Swedish marques innovations to give the car an edge in terms of sportiness, and every new generation of Focus has built on this idea, adding incremental improvements and changes.

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Of course, the updated C-segment entry from the Blue Oval brings a lot of improvements to almost every aspect of the car as well, but let’s first talk about the biggest change to the Focus – its powertrain.
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Gone is the naturally aspirated 2-litre. In line with Ford’s vision for a fleet powered by small displacement, turbocharged engines, the new Focus comes equipped with a 1.5-litre Ecoboost motor. You can’t really blame Ford, even if turbocharged engines aren’t your thing. Research has shown that the future of the internal combustion engine seems to be brightest in that direction.

The transmission has changed as well, and not in the way you’d expect. Instead of the complex dual-clutch transmission (DCT) we had in the outgoing Focus, the new car comes instead with a six-speed automatic.

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So, a smaller displacement and a simpler gearbox, is this a step backwards? No. Not at all. When we asked Mark Rampling, Chief Program Engineer for the Ford Focus in Asia Pacific, about the change of powertrain he stated that the six-speed automatic had more immediate power delivery for this type of engine. And it’s not as if Ford has completely dropped the DCT either – it’s still an option in other markets.

The new gearbox also means smoother low speed driving characteristics, which will make the new Focus a better car to do the morning commute in. The best part is that the new powertrain manages to be better in every way. Compared to the 2.0L GDI setup, this new 1.5L Ecoboost produces 7kW more power, about 40Nm more torque, produces just under 5% less grams of CO2 per 100km, and has a uses 400 ml less fuel to go 100km.

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So it’s more powerful AND more efficient on paper – difficult to argue against that kind of result. And these figures are what you’d expect out of a sportier 2.2-litre engine, so that’s a really big achievement on Ford’s part. Behind the wheel, the car doesn’t at all feel like a 1.5-litre. Obviously, it doesn’t have the aggression of the 1.6-litre turbo in the Fiesta ST, but even with the added weight of the Focus, the smaller engine packs a mean punch. And when you put your foot down, the noise it makes is just perfect. It’s got a really distinct growl and personality – not what you’d expect from a car that just donned a corporate grille.

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Speaking of that new grille – despite what the word corporate connotes, we can’t help but notice that it looks really good on the Focus. I thought it looked best on the Mondeo, but paired to that protruding-backside silhouette, the hexagonal Ford grille looks especially handsome here. It manages to look mature yet sporty at the same time.

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On the inside, Ford has done a good job at cleaning things up. Material choices and the dashboard layout of the new Focus is pretty faultless. One thing that Ford really has to be commended for is their attention to detail here. Instead of using multiple colours and materials, they’ve stuck to just a few resulting in a more composed look. So if you see chrome on the air vents, it’ll be the same chrome that’s used on the logo on the steering. All in all, there’s nothing but improvements here, and the inclusion of Sync II’s accurate and consistent functions is absolutely welcome.

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It’s even a little on the larger side, considering it’s just a C-segment car. There’s definitely room for 5 large adults here, and the hatchback form factor doesn’t get in the way of the rather capacious boot as well.

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So what else is new with the latest Focus? Well, Ford’s objective for the new Focus was to build on the nameplate’s “fun to drive” reputation while making it easier to use, safer, and packed with more tech. So for example, while the outgoing Focus had a limited self-parking feature for parallel parking spots, the new car can not only get itself in those tights spots, but out of them as well. In addition, the car’s self-parking abilities have extended to include parking itself in perpendicular spots.

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There’s technology in the car that makes it safer too. The Active Park Assist feature, for example, helps drivers who are reversing out of a parking spot detecting oncoming vehicles. If a vehicle is approaching within 14 metres of your car, a buzzer will sound and visual alert will be displayed. Their “Active City Stop” feature is another great example of safety that makes the car safer. This system works has been applied to other Ford vehicles before, and now there are a few improvements.

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At speeds of up to 50km/h, the Active City Stop feature is able to detect an imminent frontal collision and try to deploy the brakes automatically. Even at higher speeds, the system still kicks in at the last second, but it’s not guaranteed to avoid collisions, merely to reduce the impact. Ford was actually willing to let us test both the Active Park Assist and Active City Stop features out. It was amazing to see just how far self driving capabilities had come, and even more of a thrill to think that Ford had brought these technologies to the masses by including them in the Focus.

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So the Focus manages to be more tech-packed, better looking, and just as dynamic to drive as the outgoing model. Some may not appreciate the Focus losing more and more of its its signature looks, but we see it as an inevitability, as the industry has moved towards more corporate designs shared between models. There are a stream of great Ford cars coming to Malaysia, and it looks like the Focus is going to be another product from the blue oval to look forward to.

2016 Ford Focus 1.5L Ecoboost

Engine 1.5-litre Ecoboost
Displacement  1,500cc
Transmission
6-Speed Automatic
Max Power 132kW @ 6000 RPM
Max Torque
240Nm @ 4300 RPM
Selling Price TBC


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