Published on October 11th, 2016 | by Amirul Mukminin0
Ford Focus 1.5L EcoBoost Sport+ – Test Drive Review
One of the most significant trends among major automakers is downsizing and turbocharging engines. As one of the biggest brands in the world, Ford took a bold step into the movement with the launch of the EcoBoost engine range in 2009.
Ford has come far since then and nearly all of its models now offer an EcoBoost version. This includes the facelifted third-generation Focus, which made its Malaysian debut in March 2016. It is available here in three variants; the entry-level Trend hatchback (RM118,888), the Titanium+ sedan (RM139,888) and the Sport+ hatchback (RM139,888) that we have here.
Of course, the focus here is the highly-acclaimed 1.5-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost mill that develops 180 PS at 6,000 rpm and 240 Nm of torque from 1,600 rpm, making it the most powerful candidate in the segment. Together with a six-speed torque converter automatic transmission, the unit replaces the 2.0-litre Duratec engine and six-speed dual dry clutch transmission used in the pre-facelift model.
Design-wise, the new Focus Sport+ retains the shape but everything else – the headlamps, grille, bumpers, tail lights and so on – are evidently much refined. The Aston Martin-esque front grille gives the Focus a much bolder look almost similar to the Mondeo, while the smaller LED tail lights blend well with the body lines, something the previous version did not deliver. A roof-mounted spoiler and a diffuser complete the hatchback’s taut styling.
The interior has a familiar feel but take a seat and you’d notice that the centre console is slimmer than before, giving the left leg slightly more room. The old 4.2-inch TFT screen and cluttered audio system have been given the boot, replaced by a much simpler Sony unit and an 8-inch touchscreen, which provides access to the car’s SYNC 2 infotainment system.
Though personally I don’t always connect my phone to a car, Ford’s SYNC 2 system proved to be smooth enough to carry out normal tasks like playing music and making calls. The kicker is that it doesn’t come with a navigation system, so you’d still have to rely on Maps or Waze from your phone as SYNC doesn’t support third-party apps for now. You can also make use of the voice recognition system through a button on the steering wheel.
Additionally, Ford has also enhanced the Park Assist system which now includes perpendicular parking in addition to the existing parallel parking. In a layman’s terms, the system calculates the optimum steering angles in order to get into the space. All you have to do is control the gear, accelerator and brake. The process is uncomplicated but it can be frightening especially for first timers.
Other new features include Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), Cross Traffic Alert and MyKey. The latter allows owners to program the key to a restricted driving mode setting that promotes good habits, such as increasing seat belt use, limiting the top speed and decreasing audio volume. The Active City Stop function now works at speeds up to 50 km/h, up from 30 km/h in the pre-facelift Focus.
As impressive as the list of assist and safety systems is, it’s the functioning combination of the punchy EcoBoost mill and a really capable chassis that really got me hooked on the Focus. The transition to the torque converter transmission results in a jerk-free low speed maneuver and while there is a slight hint of turbo lag, the Focus picks up speed faster than expected especially with a heavy right foot.
And even when you’re in the mid-range, the turbocharged four-banger still feels like it has plenty more pulling power to offer and this is no coincidence as there is a whole 240 Nm of torque spread evenly between the 1,600 and 5,000-rpm mark. This seems to work like a treat with the six-speeder, which has the tendency to work in a brisk manner.
Another quality that further heightens the overall driving experience is the well-sorted sports suspension that is clearly tuned to offer the best of both worlds in terms of comfort and performance. It gently handles uneven surfaces and at the same time sticks to the road like Velcro when driven hard around the bends and corners.
Also contributing is the improved Electronic Power-Assisted Steering (EPAS), which becomes noticeably light during low-speed maneuvers. Stab the accelerator, wring its neck and the steering adds a little more weight, just enough to give some feedback. Still a little light for my liking but at least it’s better than having vague steering.
It’s a good thing that while the driving dynamics of the Focus have largely improved, the engineers didn’t left out the NVH. Windscreen, sound proofing and door panels are among the number of items that have been reworked to keep the cabin quiet and as pleasant as possible.
All in all, the Ford Focus Sport+ is an appealing proposition and the fact that it looks so much better than the pre-facelift version makes it even more mouthwatering. No explanation needed – it is a 180-PS hatchback with plenty of fancy electronics and enough room to carry a small family. With a price tag of below RM150,000, it’s difficult not to regard the Focus as a bargain.
Ford Focus 1.5L EcoBoost Specifications
Engine: inline four, turbocharged
Power: 180 PS @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 240Nm @ 1,600 – 5,000 rpm
Transmissiom: 6-speed automatic with SelectShift
Top speed: –