Drive: 2007 Ford Focus
Review by Feann Torr
you think of the Ford brand, what springs to mind? It's probably
something unsavory if you're a die-hard Holden fan, but for most
Australian drivers I'd wager it'd be large cars - perhaps a Falcon, or
Territory that first enters your thoughts. Or possibly even a Mustang
if you're into muscle cars.
In the next few months Ford will be trying very hard to move beyond the large car association many people equate it with; it wants people to think of small cars too, which are now make up a crucial part of its new car range.
Vehicles like the boisterous XR4 Fiesta and the superb Focus XR5 Turbo
are helping to attract attention to its small car offerings, which will
be further bolstered by a convertible version of the
Focus, expected to arrive later in the year.
In an attempt to move the spotlight away from its larger cars (at least until
the new Falcon arrives in the second quarter of 2008), Ford has just
launched an updated range of its popular Focus models, which herald a
subtle new look, improved safety features, an enticing new diesel
model, and a competitive new pricing campaign.
Ford's sales representatives, it's clear that the company is very
serious with this small car sales push. In recent times, cars like
the Mazda3 and the Toyota Corolla have been the top dogs, but are
now being aggressively targetted by the new pricing campaign which
includes half-price safety packages until the end of September
2007, and offers the Focus at under 20-large for the first time.
addition of a diesel model to the range is also a boon, and while Ford
predicts the new TDCi turbo diesel will account for around 10% of
Focus sales in the coming months, we reckon that's a conservative
figure. Having driven the new diesel car we can report that it
will be one of the class leaders when it goes on sale later this month,
particularly in terms of fuel economy.The old saying about cars running on the smell of an oily rag almost rings true with this eco-friendly four-wheeler.
It's taking on the current small diesel cars such as the Volkswagen
Golf TDI, Peugeot 307 HDi and Holden Astra CDTi and - crucially - has a lower price
point than its rivals. But don't think that this means you get less
bang for your buck.
diesel Focus represents a milestone for Ford as well, being its
first diesel passenger car, which shows a growing acceptance for diesel
at the company. And if things go well - who knows? We could be writing
about a diesel-powered Territory on these very pages...
Price: $19,990 - $29,490
Transmissions: 4-speed auto, 6-speed manual, 5-speed manual
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol, 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel
Car Supplier: Ford Australia
2007 Ford Focus Range
has a comprehensive small car fleet in Australia, but is most often
recognised as a large car brand. Two ways in which the company hopes to redress
this perception is by offering more traffic-stopping halo models, such as the Fiesta
XR4, Focus XR5 Turbo, and Focus Convertible, and revised pricing.
Here's how the new look Focus range stacks up in terms of pricing:
Focus CL - $19,990
Focus LX - $23,990
Focus TDCi - $27,990
Focus Zetec - $26,490
Focus Ghia - $29,490
We tested a number of models during the new Focus
launch, including the 2.0-litre petrol sedan and hatch models in
various levels of trim, and of course the brand-new 2.0-litre turbo
diesel model. Which is very nice to drive, I might add.
model in the revised Focus range gets subtle new features, including a
more sophisticated front apron design. On top of new-look alloy wheels
and integrated mirror indicators, the front end redesign gives the
cars a slightly sleeker and more modern appearance, and the diesel
model looks particularly imposing with its large air-to-air intercooler
visible behind the lower air dam.
On top of the new front end,
all models now get dual front airbags and ABS, including the entry
level CL model that is now priced from $19,990, undercutting the new
base level Corolla by a thousand bucks. And with that the price war
begins in earnest...
Under the skin, only the diesel model
benefits from any real changes, but this shouldn't be considered a bad
thing as the Focus chassis is one of the best in the business.
the road the 2.0-litre petrol models were able to keep up with the
powerful new diesel models for the most part, outputting 107kW and
185Nm. The 5-speed manual gearbox in the Focus Zetec model ($26,490)
offers short throws and precise shifts, and the 2.0-litre engine is
still one of the best in class. It's just a shame cruise control isn't
standard on the entry-level $19,990 CL model, but all other models
feature steering wheel-mounted speed regulation controls.
chassis feels composed and confident in most situations, whether
trundling through sleeping towns at 50km/h or sprinting down mountain
passes at 100km/h. We did notice some tyre noise though it was more
than likely the rough surfaces of the Queensland hills beyond the Gold
While fairly compliant on poor quality B-roads, the
Focus nevertheless manages to entertain on smooth sweeping corners and
tight hairpins, exhibiting relatively low levels of body roll which
allows you set your line and lay down the power through the bends
without too much understeer ruining the fun.
The steering feels
planted and has a bit of weight to it, and the overall ride and
handling of these cars is quite pleasant. There's a progressive feel to
the way the cars drive, and the German engineering is apparent. In particular
I thought the rear suspension was very good; it never felt like it was
being dragged around corners and simply propping up the boot, but
collectively felt like part of the chassis and contributed to the way
the car handled and tipped into corners.
Coupled to the 4-speed
automatic, complete with a trendy tiptronic mode, the 2.0-litre petrol
engine struggled up some of the steep hills we came across and wasn't
overly eager to kick down a gear at such times which made it feet
lethargic. Itneeded to be revved much harder than the manual diesel and petrol models, but in general it worked well enough and did a fuss-free job of getting things moving.
we returned from the hills and reached the traffic of the city
however, the 4-speed automatic in the Ford Focus proved to be much
better combination, and more adept at managing the stop-startdriving rhythm.
petrol-powered 4-cylinder Ford Focus has only one real rival and that's
the Volkswagen Golf 2.0-litre FSI, which ekes out slightly more power,
but costs more and is nearing the end of its life.
to its closest rivals, such as the Toyota Corolla, Holden
Astra, and Mazda3, the new petrol-powered Focus models don't have
much to worry about. The Mazda3 is the only model that makes more
power - by just 1kW - but with its new price point the Focus remains
the best value.
Yet even with a competitive petrol range, it's the new diesel model that impresses most, with its relatively quiet operation, effortless application, solid features list, and eye-opening fuel economy.
And it's fast! Though
the Zetec model has slightly firmer suspension and larger 17-inch alloy
wheels, the new TDCi diesel Focus ($27,990) has a lustrous torque surge
that not only makes the car quick, but remarkably relaxed to drive. You
rarely have to pin the throttle for long periods of time and the
gearbox and clutch are well paired.
Though no automatic version
of the new diesel Focus is offered, it won't pose a huge problem
(unless you have an automatic-only drivers license...). This is because
the car's huge 320Nm of torque is available so low in the rev
range (2000rpm) that you can pretty much leave the car in third gear at
almost any speed once you're off and moving. Just tickle the
throttle, and away she goes.
Compared to its diesel rivals, the
Focus stacks up well. The 6-speed gearbox is similar to the item found
in the XR5 Turbo, with short throws and a precise feel. I found myself
constantly changing through the gears not because it was needed, but
because it simply felt good to do so.
Because the Focus TDCi has
a heavier engine block made of cast iron, the suspension is tuned
slightly differently from other models, but retains the small cars,
ahem, focus on dynamics. Like the petrol models it tips into corners nicely and can hold a good line through a bend.
Standard features on the fleet-footed $28k
diesel-powered Focus include 16-inch alloy wheels and fog lights which
add some extra visual appeal, plus four airbags, traction control,
ABS, and air conditioning.
The engine outputs 100kW @ 4000rpm and
320Nm @ 2000rpm, which is on par with the current class leaders. The
engine also has a nifty 'overboost' feature that often kicks in with
downshifts, such as when you drop a few gears to overtake a truck.
Simply put, the turbocharger huffs a bit harder and torque is
momentarily boosted to 340Nm, giving you a bit more acceleration
when you need it.
The diesel powered Focus is quick, there's no
denying that. Where most petrol powered small cars need to drop gears
to achieve crisp acceleration, you can just ride the torque wave thanks
to the turbocharged diesel engine. And because it sits on the
tried-and-tested Focus chassis the diesel car has very good driving
dynamics. Like the other Focus models, the newcomer loves corners yet
because of the extra torque burst the turbo provides, this diesel
powered model can power out of corners much more swiftly.
you're mental image of diesel vehicles are those of slow and dreary,
loud and smokey cars, you're living in the past. Simply put, these
things are sensational.
Even from low in the rev range the engine
delivers a strong surge of power, yet never has the frenetic feel
of the petrol engines. With good throttle response thanks to
a variable nozzle turbo (or VNT for the tech savvy), the engine is
very user friendly thanks to its abundance of power, though it does get
a little loud if you rev it past 3000rpm. In retrospect
however, there's really no need to; short shift at around
2000rpm and the row the gears through 1st, 2nd, and 3rd and before long
you're at cruising speed.
While the extra performance this 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder diesel engine gives the Focus is more than welcome and, as we discovered highly
entertaining, it's heavier price is most convincingly counter
balanced with its wallet-friendly fuel consumption. When Ford insisted
the new diesel powered Focus could cover almost 950 kilometres on one
tank of fuel (which is the same size as the 55 litre tank used in the
petrol version) we baulked, but after thrashing the diesel car through
the scenic hinterlands of North Eastern Australia, it became evident
that these diesels are incredibly flexible motors.
fuel consumption figure, which is an average spanning city and highway
driving, is 5.6 litres per 100km and we actually recorded those exact
numbers after some brisk driving involving only a short stretch of
highway and mostly winding roads. This suggests that it would not be
hard to lower that figure to around 5L/100km if you drove the Focus
In contrast, the petrol powered Ford Focus
models, which also have 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engines, have an average
fuel consumption figure of 7.1L/100km, and witnessed real
world figures of around 8.0+ litres per 100 kilometres in the
4-speed automatic versions. That's quite a difference.
model features a monotone charcoal black interior scheme and though
it's hardly exciting, it does have a fairly ergonomic layout. The
dash plastics in all Focus models are good, with a soft rubbery finish
that doesn't glisten like hard plastics, and the Ghia models ($29,490)
with their light leather upholstery were the pick of the bunch in terms
of comfort - though leather is now an option on the sporty Zetec models
Ford has also added a few new models to the range, including
a sedan version of the Zetec variant ($26,490) and a hatchback
version of the luxury Ghia model ($29,490). All of the new Ford Focus
models can be optioned with safety packs, which add curtain airbags to
all variants and stability control to the budget models, and as
mentioned Ford hopes to increase the appeal of these upgrade packs by
offering them at half price for a few months.
The Ford Focus is a very competent small car that ticks all
the right boxes. It's got lashings of style, is well priced, it drives well
and has plenty of interior space - the sedan model has more boot space
than the Commodore even! The lack of an automatic diesel option may
hinder interest in the new variant somewhat, and DSC is an option on all
models except the range-topping Zetec and Ghia. Even so, the new
Focus makes for a compelling small car proposition.
If you are
thinking about buying a small car it's worth taking a test drive in a
diesel model too. They're frugal, they're spit out less carbon emissions
than similar sized petrol engines, plus they're seriously powerful. And
this new Focus TDCi is shaping up to be one of the best on the market.
longer content to be bridesmaid to Toyota, Ford is employing a new
strategy to try and wrest the small car crown from the Japanese
brand. Though it has a long road ahead to achieve this feat, the
reduced prices, upgraded styling, improved specifications, and the
addition of the sensational diesel option show prescience. But whether
or not it will be enough to change the public perception that Ford is a
large car company remains to be seen.
- Ride & Handling
- Fuel Efficiency
- Competitive Pricing
- New Diesel Option
- Manual-only Diesel
- DSC Optional Extra On Most Models
- Tough Competition
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