Face-lifted Focus hatch comes with a choice of 1.0 or 1.5 EcoBoost turbopetrol motorvation.
Face-lifted Focus hatch comes with a choice of 1.0 or 1.5 EcoBoost turbopetrol motorvation.
Focus contenders offer more power and more features than anything they are up against.
Focus contenders offer more power and more features than anything they are up against.
Plastics are good quality, as are the materials used in seats and carpeting.
Plastics are good quality, as are the materials used in seats and carpeting.

ROAD TEST

Ford Focus 1.0-litre and 1.5-litre Ecoboost hatches

Johannesburg - Ford is on such a product offensive these days that if you blink, you’ll miss a new model introduction or a mouth-watering special-offer price. That’s what happened to me a month or two ago, when I realised I hadn’t kept up.

My brother-in-law Neil had to point out to me that I had missed Ford’s introduction of the new face-lifted Focus hatchback and sedan - and, even more importantly, the quiet fitting of a 1.5-litre, 132kW turbopetrol engine into the Focus. I had heard, vaguely, that the company had put its award-winning 92kW, one-litre turbotriple into the mid-sized hatch, but was not aware that the 1.5, which also does duty in the big Fusion executive sedan, had also been included in the range.

What attracted Neil was the bang the for the buck on the 1.5 - the sedan starts at R265 900 with the hatch about R6000 more expensive.

A comprehensive drive assistance package - including reversing camera, park radar, lane departure warning, emergency city braking (it does it for you if you’re dozing and are about the hit the car in front), as well as an auto park facility – comes in at R12 000, which is also one of the automotive bargains at the moment.

That’s one hell of a lot of car for the money. To put it into perspective, a Volkswagen Golf TSi top-of-the-range petrol model with only 103kW is going to cost you just shy of R350 000 if you option it to the same level as the Ford (R283 900 in hatchback, driver package spec).

As with the 1.5, Ford’s one-litre, three-cylinder-powered Focus is also a strong value-for-money proposition with the entry-level sedan coming in at R212 900 and the hatch at R5000 more. Both the smaller-engined models also have the range of extra packs available, at the same really good prices.

MORE POWER, MORE FEATURES

Ford’s pricing has thrown the cat among the medium-hatchback pigeons because the Focus contenders offer more power and more features than anything they’re up against. And, to my mind, it is the Asian players who need to up their game to keep up the with Blue Oval. Why on earth would you buy a Hyundai i20 or Kia Rio (each with an asthmatic, naturally aspirated engine) when you can have a Focus… or for even less money, an equally attractive Fiesta, the Focus’ little sibling?

So, what do you get for your Ford money? Is it a case of gadgets and extra bling?

Well, if you do spend the little extra and take the driver’s package, for example, you get a very, very good - and sophisticated - car for your money, whether in one-litre or 1.5 form.

We had both variants on test - the one-litre with the package fitted and the 1.5 as the plain Jane. Both impressed.

Of the two, the one-litre’s little three-cylinder was really memorable: it has a lovely growl when accelerating and there is more than enough power and torque to cope with city traffic and highway overtaking.

After driving it, I was reminded of how far the Korean and Japanese makers are falling behind in the technology race by not including small-capacity turbos. A Honda, Hyundai or Kia in the same segment has an engine that runs out of breath and has to be thrashed to make it go.

LIBERATING THE KILOWATTS

The 1.5 is a version of the company’s 1.6 turbopetrol, which had its stroke reduced, bringing capacity down to less than 1500cc to meet tough Chinese tax bands. Yet, the 1.5 Ford doesn’t feel to me as though it pushes out a real 132kW.

I previously had an Alfa Romeo MitO on test, which had 125kW and the engine felt more powerful. But it must be said that the Ford’s accelerator really does require some heaving to get through its soft nature and liberate the kilowatts... maybe I should have thrashed it harder.

Still, it is nice to know you have that power underfoot and you didn’t pay much for it.

Although Ford is not quite yet in the VW league when it comes to actual and perceived quality, the Focus is not far off. Plastics are good quality, as are the materials used in seats and carpeting, although the odd squeak came through here and there on the 1.5 which didn’t manifest on the smaller-engined car.

I drove a hired Focus 1.6 diesel on a family holiday in Ireland in 2014 and was most impressed by its average fuel consumption of 4.9 litres per 100km. However, to say I was even more impressed by the performance of the new-generation petrol engines would be an understatement. I have a test route for checking consumption of test vehicles. It is about 140km along Gauteng’s highways and I try to average between 105km/h and 110km/h, which is about what you will do when travelling at the national 120km/h speed limit, and allowing for traffic and on and off-ramps.

On that route, the 1.0 Focus averaged 110km/h and returned 4.9 litres per 100km, while the 1.5 averaged 112km/h at 5.6 litres per 100km. That is the sort of consumption you would expect from a good diesel just five years ago.

Each car was fitted with 16-inch alloys and the standard, medium-profile tyres, providing an excellent ride without compromising the taut handling of the Focus, which has always been one of Ford’s best handling cars (Fiesta fans might argue about that, though…)

The clutch can feel a bit springy at times, which is more noticeable on the 1.5, but the harder you use it the better it gets. Gear change is also soft and easy and the Focus is, overall, an easy car to drive.

Legroom in the back is adequate, if not quite up to Golf/Jetta standards, and the boot, in the sedan especially, is more than enough for a family of four.

VERDICT

The Focus is an attractive package. It is well equipped, well made, has good performance, excellent economy and the peace of mind of Ford’s large dealer network. And the price is excellent. If you are in the market for a hatch, don’t decide until you have driven one.

FACTS

Ford Focus 1.0T Trend hatch

Engine: 1-litre, three-cylinder turbopetrol

Gearbox: Six-speed manual

Power: 92kW @ 6000rpm

Torque: 170Nm @ 1400-4500rpm

0-100km/h (claimed): 11.1 seconds

Top speed (claimed): 192km/h

Consumption (claimed): 5.0 litres per 100km

Base price: R234 900

Price as tested: R246 840

Warranty: 4-year/120 000km

Maintenance Plan: 4-year/80 000km

Ford Focus 1.5T Trend hatch

Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbopetrol

Gearbox: Six-speed manual

Power: 132kW @ 6000rpm

Torque: 240Nm @ 1600-5000rpm

0-100km/h (claimed): 8.6 seconds

Top speed (claimed): 224km/h

Consumption (claimed): 5.5 litres per 100km

Price as tested: R271 900

Warranty: 4-year/120 00km

Maintenance Plan: 4-year/80 000km

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