Spotlight: Ford Focus
The fourth-generation Focus is a technological showpiece, out to re-assert itself in a segment that’s still a core part of the UK fleet sector. Alex Grant finds out how.
A Clean Sheet:
Ford says the newcomer is designed from a clean sheet; a new platform with a stiffer structure and longer wheelbase, creating space for larger wheels and pushing the cabin rearwards for a sportier silhouette. For the first time, not all versions will include Ford’s sophisticated independent rear suspension – a hallmark of the nameplate since 1998. A simpler twist beam will be used on cars with less than 125bhp.
In the UK, the range will launch with a choice of five-door hatchback and estate, the latter with a taller, longer boot than the outgoing car, with under-floor storage for the load cover and an electrically-operated tailgate. Both get new two-piece rear lamps, which means there’s a wider tailgate opening for getting bulky objects inside.
Falling in line with the new Ka and Fiesta, Ford will offer sports-tuned ST-Line, luxurious Vignale and SUV-inspired Active versions alongside the Zetec and Titanium trims. All feature new selectable driving modes, and there’s an option to add adaptive dampers which can pre-adjust suspension settings for taut handling or to counteract bumps and potholes.
But the engine line-up is familiar from the old car, with most UK customers likely to opt for the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol (with 85bhp, 99bhp or 123bhp) or 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel (at 95bhp or 118bhp). The EcoBoost unit can operate on two of its three cylinders under low loads to save fuel, bringing CO2 emissions down to a target of 108g/km, while the diesel will emit an estimated 94g/km. Ford will also offer 1.5-litre EcoBoost (148bhp or 180bhp) petrols and a 148bhp EcoBlue diesel, while an eight-speed automatic transmission will be available for engines at 118bhp or more.
Prices start at £17,930 for the Focus Style, a £2,300 price reduction compared to the old model, while the Focus Zetec and ST-Line, which account for 55% of sales, are £850 and £250 less respectively.
Higher-quality materials and a simpler, more intuitive dashboard with controls relocated to its central touchscreen move the cabin on from its predecessor, with a view to making it easier to live with. This will be the first model with the FordPass Connect on-board modem, offering WiFi for up to 10 devices, live traffic, and a smartphone app with remote status checks and the option to unlock and start the car.
The outgoing Focus had brought autonomous braking and park assist into its segment, and the new car gets the latest technology in the Ford portfolio. This includes adaptive cruise control with active lane keeping and the ability to stop and start in traffic jams, as well as adjusting its speed based on roadside signs. Park Assist 2 enables hands-free, feet-free parking, by pressing a button on the centre console.
What We Think:
Despite the growth of premium brands and SUVs in the UK, the Focus is a core offer for Ford, taking a quarter of its volume last year (69,903 units). So the new car is a showcase for its newest technology and, while not all of this will be relevant to fleets, improvements to connectivity, refinement and cargo capacity will all be welcomed by end-users.
It will be interesting to see if this generation has a broader role for electric versions, though.