It is better-built and roomier than the old car, and if marketing whispers are right, it will cost very little more. On the road, its engineers say, it is just as nimble and steers just as well as the class-leading original, but is quieter and more stable, with a better ride. Ford has put the new Focus through a very thorough development process.
Design and engineering
The Focus is a slightly bigger car now, but its proportions are quite different from the outgoing car’s. Its wheelbase is 25mm longer (shared with C-Max), its track is 40mm wider, it offers a roomier interior, and its exterior proportions are quite different, thanks to the fact that the centre of its windscreen has been pulled forward by a remarkable 140mm. The Focus’s already generous front overhang is maintained, but it looks shorter, thanks to significant rounding of the corners by the body designers. Most of the body’s extra length goes behind the B-pillar. Knee-room grows by 8mm. The boot is 113mm longer and offers 10 per cent more volume at 385 litres. The glasshouse looks much larger now and the whole car has a snub-nosed, forward-control, fastback look because its A- and C-pillars are much more steeply raked. Even in five-door form, the shape has a much sportier aspect than its predecessor, and the three-door (which shares the five-door’s silhouette) looks so much like a fastback coupé that it’s hard to believe there is a proper - let alone enlarged - accommodation package inside. The new three-door Vauxhall Astra does the same thing: big firms have adopted this strategy to protect their three-door hatchback versions from ‘poverty model’ associations.
Design director Chris Bird says the aim is to give the new Focus a more mature, grown-up look; to maintain the impression of cabin space but better reflect the car’s build quality, maturity and dependability through ‘a sense of order’. At the same time, Ford has enhanced the car’s sportiness as a way of visually reflecting its cars’ increasingly admired driving dynamics. Ford has moved on from the the we’re-doing-it-differently days of New Edge design, which produced cars that were a little too raw for modern tastes. The ‘chopped oval’ grille stays, but to this eye at least, it’s the Focus’s least successful styling feature. Ford has a strident, straight-bar grille on hold in the US, and we believe its day is coming. There’s a close engineering relationship between the C-Max, Volvo V40 and Mazda 3 in the main structure of the Focus’s steel monocoque body, but Ford’s body engineers have taken a good deal of licence to make their own car. When you see the new Ford, it never occurs to you to think of the others. The old Focus structure was admirably stiff, so even though the latest one is torsionally 10 per cent stiffer, most of the talk this time concerns the importance of ‘local stiffness’ where the suspension subframes and other key components meet the body, both to aid handling and keep noise low. There’s also extra stiffness in the subframes and suspension parts themselves. A key aim has been to improve so-called ‘rolling comfort’, one area where the previous Focus was beaten by its rivals.
Engines and transmissions
The new Focus pioneers Ford’s use of a new variable valve timing version of its ‘heartland’ 16-valve 1.6-litre petrol engine, now producing peak power of 113bhp at 6000rpm (up 14bhp), along with peak torque of 114lb ft at 4150rpm. It delivers about five per cent better fuel consumption in normal use, Ford engineers say. The engine’s secret weapon is that the timing of its inlet and exhaust cams can be altered independently of one another, hence its somewhat convoluted name: Duratec Ti-VCT, for ‘Twin independent Variable Cam Timing’. The result, engineers say, is considerably better torque at higher engine speeds. The engine has ‘a sporty kick’ at the top end, despite its greater efficiency. The 98bhp non-VCT 1.6-litre petrol engine stays in the range, and there are two other petrol engines familiar from other Ford applications: a 78bhp 1.4-litre and a 143bhp 2.0-litre. There are two ‘Duratorq’ turbodiesels, both already offered in the C-Max: the impressively frugal 108bhp 1.6-litre, and the 134bhp 2.0-litre, whose outstanding claim is its peak torque of 236lb ft at 2000rpm. Both have exhaust particulate traps.