As the most expensive model in the range, the Ford Focus Titanium feels premium – but is it the best buy in the line-up?
If you’re focusing on getting the most luxurious version you can when you’re signing on the line for your new small car, perhaps you should be looking at this thing: the 2017 Ford Focus Titanium.
The Titanium specification is the flagship of the Ford Focus range, with a price tag to match its top-spec status. This model is $32,690 plus on-road costs, and you can have it at that price either as a five-door hatch like you see here, or a four-door sedan. Right now, though, and through until the end of this year, Ford is offering the Focus Titanium hatch for $33,990 drive-away.
No matter the body style you choose, there’s just one drivetrain option: a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with a six-speed automatic. There used to be a diesel option, but that’s been axed. More on that soon.
First, let’s take a deep dive into the spec on offer in this range-topping model, and perhaps more importantly, the stuff it misses out on.
Our vehicle, for example, has two option packs fitted: the Sports Executive pack ($1800) with bi-xenon headlights and electric sunroof, plus the Technology pack ($1500) with active safety items like lane departure warning and lane keep assist, driver fatigue monitoring, adaptive cruise control and auto high-beam headlights. Considering those two items push the price to $35,990, we’re entering compact luxury car territory.
That price is even more of an issue when you consider you miss out on heated seats, and – importantly for new parents – the car doesn’t have ISOFIX child-seat anchor points. There are three top-tether attachments only.
Still, if safety is your thing, the Focus Titanium has low-speed autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, semi-automated parking (parallel and perpendicular), a rear-view camera with guide lines, front and rear parking sensors, and six airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain).
And if you want the most luxury-focused Focus you can get, then this model has leather seat trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, and the brand’s Sync 3 media system with satellite navigation and extended smartphone connectivity (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), and two USB ports to support the car’s Bluetooth phone and audio streaming.
That top-notch connectivity means it scores some big points for owner-friendliness, with the screen quick to load, easy to learn and with a decent display and logical menu layouts.
The Focus is feeling its age a little bit on the inside – newer models offer better interior packaging and nicer finishes and displays… but the practicality side of things is still pretty well sorted for a car that is in its twilight. It has large door pockets up front, decent pockets in the rear doors, and twin map pockets in the seats.
There are decent sized centre cupholders with a movable floor section to store large bottles, and because it was designed at a time when phones were smaller it isn’t quite up to spec for larger smartphones. The USB point isn’t perfectly placed, but there’s a second USB port in the covered centre console (which, again, is quite small). The glovebox is a fairly good size, however.
It has electric driver’s seat adjustment – but manual seat adjustment for the front passenger – and for the driver it isn't brilliant because you can't independently change the tilt angle on the base of the seat, as it moves in one piece.
There are map lights in the back and grab handles all around, though there’s not a lot of soft material on the rear doors apart from near the handles. The back seat space is tight with not very much knee-room, quite tight headroom but good foot-room, in spite of its fairly intrusive central tunnel.
The boot measures just 316 litres, which is small by class standards, but in terms of usability it is decent, with a low load lip and nicely shaped storage area, albeit a little shallow. There’s a space-saver spare under the floor, and some Velcro straps to secure items, as well as a couple of shopping bag hooks.
It’s not perfect inside, then, but as we’ve said for some time, the Ford Focus is one of the best cars in the class for dynamics – if you like to drive, you’ll really like to drive this little hatchback: it handles better than some self-proclaimed hot-hatches.
The Titanium (and the Sport model below it) rides on lowered sports suspension, and rather than being crunchy or clumsy, the suspension is supple yet firm. The ride is perfectly acceptable on country roads and over pockmarks, even though it's riding on 18-inch wheels with Goodyear Eagle F1 235/40 rubber.
Indeed it is quite smooth in almost all situations – perhaps a little bit jolting over sharp edges, but never harsh, and the grip from the tyres is superb. The Focus has a beautifully balanced chassis, making it very fun to drive and allowing it to hold a very flat line through corners. The steering is terrific, with very good feel through the wheel and excellent accuracy, and a chunky steering wheel that is nice to grip, too.
That aforementioned 1.5-litre turbo engine is a lovely little unit; perky and refined, and with some involving engine noise (although it’s not the most enticing or inspiring engine note). The responsiveness offered by the engine is inspiring, though, because it so quick to react to throttle application.
The six-speed auto transmission is smooth and smart, but the lack of paddle-shifters is disappointing, and the silly little toggle shifter on the gear-knob is a joke. It doesn't really affect things, as the gearbox won't downshift when you want unless it thinks it should.
The transmission’s sport mode holds gears impressively and the smoothness is good, and the engine stop-start system is one of the best around: quick to re-fire and with barely any lag or lurch. The fuel use on test was 7.7 litres per 100 kilometres, which is a touch above the brand’s claim: 6.4L/100km.
It’s not all strawberries and cream, though. The thing is quite noisy – on coarse-chip roads it is notably louder than some rival cars (we measured a three decibel difference in identical conditions against, for example, an Audi A3). And while it has adaptive cruise control, the system isn’t advanced enough to come to a standstill. It will disengage at about 20km/h.
Ford’s ownership plan sees the brand offer free loan cars if you drop your car off for a scheduled service, with maintenance every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first. Over a five-year/75,000km period it works out to an average of $359 per visit (not including extras like brake fluid replacement). It can’t match the best in the business for warranty cover, though, with three years/100,000km of cover (Kia offers seven years/unlimited km).
With a replacement version of the Ford Focus due within about 12 months, we’d suggest that if you can get a good deal on a top-spec Titanium, you’ll be quite a happy motorist.
If you’re paying full freight, though, you need to consider that there are some really great small cars out there that can match – and in a lot of cases, better – the Focus Titanium for value for money and equipment. In that instance, we’d suggest you take a look at the Trend or Sport models, which both offer more convincing kit-for-cash ratios.
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