Ford Focus Titanium TDCi Hatch: $36,090 ($38,390 as tested) manufacturer's list price.
I never thought the car that would take me by surprise this year would be a car nestled in the small car category. Especially a car that has traditionally been very conservative (unless it had a certain five-cylinder turbocharged engine planted under the bonnet) and pedestrian in the way it drove and the way it looked.
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Enter stage left the Ford Focus Mk3. Featuring a radical concept car design and features not uncommon to cars five times its price, the new Ford Focus is seriously hot property.
I spent three weeks testing the Focus range (Hatch, Sedan, diesel and petrol), but will focus (pardon the pun) on the car I thought shone the brightest – the Focus Titanium Hatch with the diesel engine.
If the Focus’s new design wasn’t enough to make it stand out in traffic, the test vehicle was Mustard Olive coloured, which is French for off yellow (not really). While the colour wasn’t exactly to my liking, I persevered.
The radical front end features a gaping mouth with neatly finished headlights and bonnet. The Titanium is further accentuated when fitted with the optional ($2300) Sports Executive Package, which comes with LED Daytime Running Lights (DRLs), Bi-xenon HID headlamps, four-way power driver’s seat and adaptive cruise control.
One of the coolest external design elements has to be the integrated fuel filler door. The door looks like a panel crease underneath the tail light and doesn’t stand out unnecessarily like a conventional circular or rectangular filler cap.
At the rear of the Focus, an integrated spoiler on the hatch gives the car a sporty look, without going over the top. The theme is followed with curvaceous taillights and sharp angles on the boot.
Great looking 18-inch alloy wheels finish off the Titanium’s sport stance. The only downside to the big wheels is a massive turning circle. Ford says it’s 11m, but I’m certain the Titanium’s turning circle is larger. I found myself continuously having to perform three-point turns in locations I could normally easily get away with a quick u-turn.
The Ford Focus range has been launched in Australia with four variants, three engines, two transmissions and two body styles. Starting off the Focus range is the Ambiente Hatch, which comes with a five-speed manual transmission, a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (96kW and 159Nm of torque) and is priced from $21,990.
The Ambiente sedan is available for an additional $2300, but is only available with a PowerShift six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The next model is the Focus Trend Hatch, which comes with either a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (125kW and 202Nm with direct injection) or a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine (120kW and 340Nm of torque). Priced from $24,490 with a five-speed manual gearbox, the PowerShift six-speed automatic costs an additional $2300. Diesel is an additional $3710, with both the diesel and sedan variants only available with the PowerShift six-speed automatic gearbox.
Next cab off the rank is the Focus Sport, which is available in Hatch and Sedan. The Sport is also available with the 2.0-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel engines. Pricing starts at $27,390 for the Sport Hatch with the five-speed manual gearbox, the PowerShift six-speed automatic costs an additional $2300. Diesel is an additional $3710, with both the diesel and sedan variants only available with the PowerShift six-speed automatic gearbox.
Finally, the Titanium is at the top of the tree and is available with the 2.0-litre petrol engine and 2.0-litre diesel engine. The Titanium is only available with the PowerShift six-speed automatic gearbox and starts from $32,590 with the 2.0-litre petrol engine. The 2.0-litre diesel is an additional $3500, making the Focus Titanium Hatch tested $38,390 (with the $2300 Sports Executive Pack).
Once you unlock the driver’s door using the proximity sensing key, prepare to be amazed. A sophisticated layout with an encapsulated driver’s segment sets the mood, while partial leather seats and a comfy leather-wrapped steering wheel take care of the rest.
A high-resolution LCD screen mounted in the centre of the instrument cluster displays vital trip computer information that is navigated using the steering wheel controls. Also included in the cluster is an eco computer that rates your driving style and fuel consumption. It’s a fun gadget that Ford has employed to help reduce fuel consumption.
If I had to be critical about something, it would be the number of buttons scattered all over the car. These range from 20 buttons on the steering wheel to 52 buttons on the centre console. It takes a great deal of time to master all of the buttons and remember where each button is and exactly what it does. Another strange trait is the location of the starter button in proximity key equipped vehicles. It’s hidden away from view behind the steering wheel and is likely to catch out new drivers
Luckily, the driver is able to manage most things from the steering wheel and doesn’t need to spend much time away from watching the road. The Focus was awarded a five star ANCAP safety rating, following testing in June, 2011.
Front legroom and headroom is very good and visibility out the front and rear is great. Rear legroom is limited, but on par with the competition. Cargo capacity in hatch variants is 316 litres (or 277 litres with 16-inch spare tyre), while the sedan offers 421 litres of cargo volume.
Tech buffs will be impressed with the level of connectivity on offer. There’s USB input, MP3 CD player compatibility, auxiliary input and Bluetooth connectivity (both for telephone calls and audio streaming) standard across the range. The Sport and Titanium also get a six-stack CD player with a nine-speaker Sony sound system that offers plenty of punch for such a small car.
Without doubt, one of the handiest features on the Titanium is the semi-automatic Active Parking. The system essentially takes advantage of the car’s electric steering system to virtually park itself. All the driver has to do is locate a park and hit a button on the dashboard to activate the sensors as they approach. The car will then measure the spot and alert the driver if it’s big enough to fit the car.
From there, the driver selects reverse and the car does the rest. The driver maintains braking while the car slips into the spot. I was amazed at the system’s level of accuracy, ease of use and the size of spots it could fit into. It’s systems like this that would make my partner’s driving just that little bit better.
As part of the Sports Executive Pack, the test vehicle also came with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). The cruise control system is able to keep a set distance between your car and the car in front. It’s an effective system for long drives and copes well with both light and heavy traffic. Vehicles with ACC also come with advanced driver warnings that allow the car to pre-warn the driver if the car in front suddenly brakes and there is still time to avoid an impact.
For $2300, this option package is certainly worth the added coin.
Behind the wheel, the new 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine really shines. With Ford’s six-speed PowerShift transmission, the Focus has a mountain of torque to play with, giving it the ability to perform lightning-fast overtake manoeuvres and zip in and out of city traffic.
Weighing in at just over 1500kg, the torque-laden diesel engine has the advantage of zippiness, along with frugal fuel consumption. The official combined fuel consumption figure of 5.5L/100km was easily achieved on test and is a testament to just how far the small car segment has come in recent years.
Steering feel from the electric steering system is exceptional. All aspects of the road are communicated to the driver, with adequate weight available during sporty driving.
The ride over bumpy roads is a bit jarring, courtesy of the Titanium’s sports suspension tune. It’s not overly intrusive, but becomes a little tiresome on low-quality back roads. The upshot of the firm suspension is next to no body roll during cornering. Grip is helped by exceptional Michelin Pilot Sport tyres that work in harmony with the Focus Titanium’s chassis.
It’s hard to criticise the package on offer from Ford. The new Focus really is light-years ahead of the outgoing Mk2 and shows how far small cars have come in recent years.
If it was my money, I would be buying a Ford Focus Titanium TDCi Hatch with the Sports Executive Pack. But, if the budget doesn’t stretch enough, the Focus Sport Hatch with the 2.0-litre four-cylinder direct injection engine and five-speed manual gearbox offers a riveting drive and a modest price tag.
Either way you split it, the new Ford Focus offers a new benchmark in this segment and should most certainly be included on your test drive list if you are in the market for a small car.