BY BOB MCHUGH
Unlike the last generation Ford Focus, the all-new 2012 Focus is a glob-al car that’s essentially the same as its European counterpart, even though it’s produced in North America.
Built on Ford’s new C-car glob-al platform, the new Focus is produced at Ford plants in Spain, Russia, China and Germany, as well as Michigan.
In Canada, the new Focus comes in five-door hatchback and four-door sedan body styles and with a broad range of trim levels. In the Henry Ford way, Focus is packed with advanced technologies that previously were only available in more expensive cars. Plus, a full electric version will be available later this year.
The base “S” trim level only comes in the sedan body style. All the others – SE, SEL and Titanium – are available in both sedan and five-door (hatchback) body styles. There’s a price premium ($600 to $900) for the chic Euro-style hatch-back version, which looks even more attractive when you consider the extra utility advantages it offers.
Technology upgrades available include sensor touch entry and push-button start systems, a rear-view camera and navigation. Up-market trim levels come with Sync and MyFord Touch. These driver connect systems allow (hands-free) voice control of features and Bluetooth (wireless) connections with mobile phones and media players.
Focus is also the first car in its price range to offer an automated parking feature. Ford’s Park Assist technology first helps a driver identify a parking space that will fit the Focus, then automatically steers it into that space. In other words, it makes you look like a parallel parking grand master.
Power comes from a new direct-injection 2.0-litre gasoline engine with variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT). More powerful and fuel efficient than its predecessor, it can generate 160 horsepower and 146 lbs.-ft of torque, yet uses 10 per cent less fuel.
My test SE trim Focus 5-door came with a wheel package and the 5-speed manual transmission. The optional automatic is a new 6-speed PowerShift, which is a state-of-the-art automated dual-clutch manual gearbox.
Focus actually gets a better (lower) fuel economy rating with this automatic than its manual counterpart.
Accused of looking like a bigger Ford Fiesta (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), the new Focus is lower, longer and wider than its predecessor. It’s also, literally, a slick design, boasting a highly aerodynamic 0.295 coefficient of drag. The hatchback’s tear-drop shape is particularly appealing and best represents the Focus’s “energy in motion” theme. A character line feature that starts at the flared front fenders and travels through the door handles also adds to the impression of movement. The body structure is surprisingly strong with 25 per cent more torsional rigidity. More than 55 per cent of the new body shell is made with high-strength steels. This is a higher ratio of ultra-high-strength steel than any other Ford product.
The avant-garde personality of the Focus is even more apparent on the inside. There’s LED ambient lighting in a choice of seven colours to match the mood of its master, who sits in what can best be described as a driver cockpit.
While there’s seating for three in the rear, the attention is undoubtedly on the front pair of occupants. The driver’s seat has an impressive range of manual adjustments and can accommodate above-average-height users. It may, however, be at the expense of rear seat users as limited leg room is provided.
In addition to a strong body structure, a new generation driver’s air-bag uses a tether system that pulls in its lower section. This creates a “pocket” that lessens the impact on a driver’s chest and ribs when deployed. Smaller occupants also benefit from unique side airbags with shoulder vents that stay open to reduce pressure faster.
Focus is a good handling car and most drivers will find time spent behind its wheel very rewarding. A steering wheel that both tilts and telescopes, combined with a height-adjustable seat, means finding that perfect driving position is almost assured. It’s also attached to a quick-ratio, electric assist rack and pinion steering gear. Most impressive is the reduction of cabin noise. Improved door sealing, thicker side window glass, an acoustic windshield, sound-deadening body panels, foam injected body cavities and a sound-absorbing headliner are all part of the sound deadening package. The suspension is essentially the same as the outgoing Focus. However, the new car has different bushings, control arms, shocks, and anti-roll bar mountings. Its track is also wider (by 7-cm in the front and 6-cm in the rear) and my tester’s sport-tuned suspension had a neutral ride that was not overly firm. A Dynamic Cornering Control system that uses “torque vectoring” techniques is a new standard feature. It can enhance the cornering ability of the car by lightly applying the brakes to an inside wheel. It’s active all the time and can’t be turned off, so it’s hard to gauge its effectiveness. The 2.0-litre engine provides ample power and is an extremely smooth operator that’s easy on gas. In my tester it was linked to an easy to shift 5-speed manual transmission that was coupled with a light, quick action clutch. I prefer when reverse gear is positioned on the other side of the shifter gate (next to 1st or 2nd), but didn’t have any gear selection issues while driving.
A technology leader in the com-pact car class, the new Ford Focus looks and performs like a futuristic means of transport.
Henry would be proud.