Properly Focused | Ford Focus Sedan

BY Azfar Hashim

Now into its third generation, has Ford finally found its sweet spot in the mid-size sedan segment here?

Photos: Azfar Hashim


We all know how Toyota, Honda and now Volkswagen have been dominating the local sales charts with their sedans. Well, it’s no surprise why the Altis, Civic and Jetta are so well received here – it is the sort of car that our motoring masses need (with emphasis on ‘need’). It also helps that drivers here are merely the sort who are practical and safe, putting price high (second in the list, after brand) up in priority.

So here is the new Focus then, in its third and - what must probably be - the finest iteration. It’s not merely a facelift, mind you; it’s a major rework. Updated engine, new transmission, new exterior and even a new antenna. Well the chassis remains largely similar to the second generation, only points to note are strengthened mountings, improved bushings and steering, and better brakes.

There’s no denying that the Jetta is the new class-leader, thanks to the current COE trend that made the Koreans seem expensive and Japanese cars too much of a premium. This would surely pose a problem for Ford... Or not?

This, ladies & gentlemen, is really the latest Ford Focus. A far cry from its predecessor (even after a mid-life facelift) — goodbye square, unassuming and daft body shell, and hello curvier, perkier and far more contemporary exterior even in sedan form. Mondeo-esque when viewed from certain angles, the Focus was designed in accordance to Ford’s current ‘Kinetic Design’ language (if you’re not in the know, it simply means making the car look in motion even when it’s at a standstill). It gets pronounced lines along the sides, flared wheel arches for added visual drama, heavily sculpted bonnet and a face that’s far more distinctive even when placed next to the Golf GTI. Those LED daytime running light keeps it up to date with current trend, then again, the triangular front bumper’s supposed air-inlet seems more like an after-thought…

At the rear, the Focus gets for itself and oversized tail lamp, with the third brake light neatly integrated into the boot. Now, if you opt for the premium ‘Titanium’ version as seen here, you get for yourself those multi-spoke 17-inch alloys wrapped in 215/50 R-17 Continental ContiSportContact 3 donuts. The lesser I-don’t-need-extras ‘Trend’ will only get you a set of 16s, plus you won’t get Xenon headlights.

Interior wise, it goes a notch higher than the previous Focus. Besides the fancier dashboard, extensive use of soft plastic, faultless build quality and well-sized steering wheel, you also get a long list of buttons and controls. The Vertu-like center console gets carried over from the smaller Fiesta, no doubt about it; other cooler stuff includes gadgetry like a voice-control function that allows the driver (or curious passengers for that matter) to control the radio, climate-control and even phone just by using his, err, mouth. Other worthy additions include usefully large air-con vents to provide good ventilation throughout the cabin and a multi-function display screen. Just a pity that GPS doesn’t come standard for local variants, but however, a dealer-specified Garmin unit can still be opted.

It was designed for five adults, so there is ample leg and headroom in the rear, even for slightly taller passengers over long journeys. Having big windows all around certainly help give the Focus an extra airy feeling, particularly those seated behind. Speaking of which, those on the rear bench would surely notice how the seating position is slightly lower than, say, an Altis. The boot is adequate in all dimensions, and if need be, the backrest can be folded to house longer items.

Pop open the bonnet and you’re warmly greeted by Ford’s revised 4-cylinder, 16-valve 1.6-liter Ti-VCT (Twin-independent Variable Cam Timing) - Ford’s take on intelligent variable-valve technology - lump. Don’t be mistaken though, unlike the Jetta it doesn’t rely on force-induction, instead remaining N.A. Like the new engine, the Focus gets a new 6-speed Powershift dual-clutch automatic transmission, developed by Getrag.

Resulting output? 125bhp, and 159Nm worth of torque. Maximum speed is rated at 198km/h, and it will take 11.1 seconds to haul it from standstill to 100km/h. For comparison sake, the turbocharged Jetta 1.4 whips out 122bhp and 200Nm while the equally new Civic 1.6 some 125bhp and 151Nm.

It can work around town without much complaint, because the Powershift is effortless and smooth in auto mode, there’s good amount of punch on tap from the powerplant should you need it, and it even rides well. That said, larger road imperfections do crash through the structure. It feels stable and composed at speed, and with plenty of occupant space, this is a car that delivers its passengers in a relaxed frame of mind. The Focus’ helm feels properly weighted - not as meaty as the BMW 3 Series’, but close enough. It has pinpoint accuracy, and on-road dynamics wise, is simply superb stuff; you can just chuck it hard into a corner or enter the turn without much brake and it will gladly do so with almost zero drama plus minimal body-roll. So if you do find yourself understeering heavily, you should have a stern word with yourself because you’re being silly.

Out on the expressway, the Focus’ commendable refinement level once again has to be highlighted - the cabin is well insulated against wind and road noise, teaching the Jetta a lesson or two. This is a good long distance tool, the sixth gear keeping engine speeds low.

At the end of it all, can the Focus still catch up in this highly challenging league? Thing is, the list of competitors are horrifically long, and this particular Ford model wasn’t exactly a yardstick. But wait, here’s the interesting bit: the first batch of 40 Focus have already been spoken for, even before it was officially launched. Hence, if you’re (a) looking for an ingenious sedan that is value packed, (b) require a significant alternative to the Japanese band and (c) will never be ready to take ownership of a turbocharged sedan, the Focus is definitely the most highly logical choice.