Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Vince Pornelos | posted January 02, 2013 04:14
Ford Philippines is one one amazing roll. In the past two years, they've given us the Fiesta, the Explorer and the Ranger, all three of which are definite frontrunners in their respective classes.
Being in such esteemed company, could the all new Focus live up to the hype? Let's find out.
This isn't our first time with Ford's new C-Segment model, as we did drive it in Thailand a few months back. The cars we drove, however, were all the top spec versions of the sedan called the Titanium, and the hatchback, otherwise known as the Sport. The one we're trying out this time is one of the midrange models, the 1.6 liter Trend sedan with the 6-speed Powershift transmission.
The Focus gets the full Kinetic design treatment, and that's a good thing. I like the touches they implemented to the car, using clever cues and design elements such as the Z pattern feature lines on the sides, muscular curves and LED lighting elements to generate a look of constant motion, even when sitting still in the garage. On the outside, it's hard to spot the differences between this Trend and the more expensive Titanium, though the wheel design isn't particularly striking or befitting (in my opinion, anyway) the overall look.
Inside, they've made use of gray, black and silver plastics and fabrics. To be honest, I quite like the piano black finish on the center console of the 2.0L models, though the 1.6's cabin isnt too far behind. The overall feel of the interior feels like an upgraded version of the Fiesta's, with the numerical pad similar to a mobile phone's. There are two main bezels on the gauge cluster; one for the tachometer and the other for the speedometer, with a multi-info LCD screen in the middle to compute fuel economy and other things.
The seats are comfortable enough for 5 adults, and given that this is the sedan version, there's a capacious trunk to speak of for hauling groceries. Of course, the hatch is more versatile in swallowing larger cargo, but nevertheless the seats can be folded forward to accommodate cargo lengthwise.
What's remarkable in this Focus is the long list of standard equipment; in fact, you might want to take some time to thoroughly read through the manual. Even though this is just a midrange Focus, it comes with a lot of tech such as Bluetooth for your mobile phone, a USB port, an auxiliary input port, dual airbags, four wheel disc brakes, ABS and even stability control. It even has an intuitive voice command system integrated into Ford SYNC, developed in conjunction with Microsoft that works great, and recognizes commands such as “Call Mom” or “Play Song Viva La Vida”... or “Play Song Gangnam Style” if that's what you're into.
While we've driven the 2.0L versions, this is the 1.6L model, and we're quite eager to find out how this one drives, if not compares. On paper, the 1.6L engine looks very good. It may just displace 1596cc, but it's been engineered with Ti-VCT variable timing and multi-point injection to generate a potent 125 PS and 159 Newton meters of torque, making the Ford Duratec 1.6 one of the most powerful naturally aspirated engines of its displacement.
Starting it up for the first time, the engine is obviously quite sprightly, and that with the 6-speed dual clutch transmission makes for a great combination.. I immediately took the car to the open road, up to the mountains, specifically. Here, the Focus 1.6 truly shines.
On the straights, the engine does well, but you should remember that the Focus has always been a heavy car, The suspension, the rigidity of the body, and the way body roll is controlled are achievements all their own, measured only by the amount of fun you can have tossing it around on some of the more challenging turns you'd find on mountain roads.
As a package, the Ford Focus Trend 1.6 PS is a very attractive proposition indeed. The combination of the design, features, technology and performance combine for a great all around package that's simply tough to beat. And with fuel economy figures in regular city driving at 8.1 kilometers per liter (light to moderate traffic) as well as 13.9 on the highway (steady 100 km/h, no traffic, 1 passenger), it's competitive indeed.
There is, however, something else. No car is perfect, and we as testers always have to say what needs to be said about a car; after all, it's typically the second most important purchase a person usually makes, after a house, of course.
The Ford Focus 1.6 has, by my reckoning, two issues; one is relatively minor, while the other is quite fundamental. The first one is the problem with front knee room, as the center console is so wide that it consumes quite a bit of leg space for the driver and the front passenger. Not so noticeable on short hops around town, but on a long drive, it's a bit uncomfortable.
The second issue is the Powershift transmission. The first thing I noticed was that the Powershift tranmission doesn't hold the car's position even on a slight incline, meaning you will roll backwards if you release the brake. The same enjoyment I had with the Focus on the open road is proportional to how I didn't enjoy it in city traffic despite the comfortable suspension. There's lots of shift shock, lots of gear hunting and a lot of inconsistency. I tried a lot of different ways of driving it, but in traffic, it really makes you feel like you're a student driver again; rough, unrefined, jittery and nervous. Not good.
I really don't know how the engineers missed that part on the Powershift transmission, but there it is. If you were in the market for the Focus, I would definitely recommend it, but with the standard manual gearbox instead unless they implement an upgrade for the transmission.
As a package, the Ford Focus Trend with the 1.6L engine and 6-speed Powershift transmission got it 99 percent right... it's just that the 1 percent turned out to be quite important after all.