The C-segment has been mostly populated by sedans that offer a stylish exterior, well-equipped cabin, along with a wide range of engines. There are however, a select few that have hatchback body styles which allow for a more striking design, albeit with less cargo space.
One such model that is available with five doors is the Ford Focus, which recently got an update for 2016. Now powered by an EcoBoost powerplant and sporting several exterior, interior and technical revisions, we see how the smarter, more powerful Focus fares against the staunch players in the segment.
Like the Focus Titanium+ we got to review a while back, the Focus Sport+ gets the same heavily restyled front end. Adhering to Ford's global design theme, it features a trapezoidal grill, tapered headlights with LED daytime running lights (DRLs) and a new bumper with elongated fog lights. Even though it has similar styling cues from its subcompact sibling, the Fiesta, the new look does give the 2016 Focus a more aggressive fascia as I wasn't a particular fan of the pre-facelift model's front end.
Towards the side, it has bulging wheel arches that house 18-inch alloy wheels, wrapped in low-profile Goodyear Super Eagle F1 tires. A more defined beltline was also made for the 2016 update while the chrome fixture on the window frame has been retained — a particularly nice touch. The taillights are now smaller and feature slimmer indicators, while the rear bumper has an integrated diffuser. Also present is a new tailgate that comes with a mounted spoiler.
Stepping inside, leather and soft-touch plastic envelopes the cabin of the 2016 Focus. Compared to the Titanium+ sedan which gets a beige finish on its seats, door cards and lower dashboard, the Sport+ gets a predominantly black hue. The driver’s seat was comfortable and provided good lumbar and side support. It is also power adjustable, to more easily get into a good position. The passenger seat, however, can only be adjusted manually. Head and elbow room at the back were also good, but occupants with a taller disposition may have trouble getting comfy, especially on longer journeys.
Infotainment is provided by Ford’s SYNC 2. It's a touchscreen and supports CD/DVD and external sources via USB, Aux, SD card slot, and Bluetooth hands-free telephony. All this is routed through a 9-speaker audio system. Sound fidelity was very good and has a good mix between treble and bass. Users can even set the equalizer that will suit their preference should they want to. The dual-zone automatic climate control performed rather too well as it is on par with the Camry 2.5S that I got to review months ago. It’s great in the summer months; just remember to tone it down after in case the cold gets too much.
Power locks, windows, and side mirrors all come as standard. Should you be carrying bags or other luggage, the smart key can even remotely unlock the tailgate. I just wished that it was programmed to open halfway as it was still quite cumbersome to open it while holding several bags.
As previously mentioned, there are no more 1.6- or 2.0-liter offerings for the updated Focus. Replacing them is a smaller but more powerful 1.5-liter GTDI EcoBoost inline-four that produces 180 PS at 6,000 rpm along with a healthy torque rating of 240 Nm available between 1,600 – 5,000 rpm. Managing all that power is a new 6-speed automatic gearbox which succeeds the previous 6-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Even with a small displacement, the inline-four benefits from a twin-scroll turbocharger and direct injection. With it, the refreshed Focus’ power output is more comparable to midsize sedans. With a prod of the throttle, the engine immediately propells the car with gusto. As torque was readily available at low revs, the car easily built up cruising speed. Overtaking was also a no-brainer thanks to the automatic gearbox that easily knew when to kickdown or shift cogs early. Did I mention it also had a deep exhaust note for such a small engine?
When it came to handling, the Focus did not disappoint as well. With struts at the front, along with the signature control blade multi-link at the rear, the 2016 Focus carved through bends with no drama. The Goodyear Super Eagle F1 tires were also quite the match for the Focus’ excellent handling. Also worth mentioning is the torque vectoring system, which allows the differential to vary power delivery to each wheel. The electronically-powered assist steering was light on slow speeds but stiffened up nicely when driving at significant speeds. There is still however a certain lack of road-feel from the steering wheel itself, a common trait shared with most electronically-assisted power steering.
Ride quality was quite fair, though it is more on the stiff side. It does sit on low-profile tires which could be a contributing factor to the ride comfort. This is more apparent in the rear seats as my brother complained about how the car bounced around when going over road imperfections. The Focus may be an ace when it comes to handling corners, though some improvement could be done on the car’s ride quality as this is still a family hatchback.
As previously stated, the 6-speed automatic transmission was superb, except when one opts to use its manumatic function via the paddle shifters. There is a noticeable delay when upshifting or downshifting through the cogs, which is quite a let-down given the car’s performance credentials. The Focus also had good brakes, though not particularly progressive. It felt spongy and I had to stamp on the brake pedals most of the time if I really wanted the car to stop abruptly or slow down along highways.
Over to fuel consumption, the Focus was only able to return about 6.1 km/l of fuel in heavy traffic. It did improve, however, on normal traffic conditions with a 12 km/l fuel average while travelling at 60 km/h. On the other hand, when it came to highway speeds, the Focus easily averaged 18km/l while travelling at 95 km/h. With those figures, the engine somehow performed like a midsize powerplant, great for the open road but quite thirsty in the city.
But even with its gripes, the 2016 Focus still had an ace up in its sleeve, Park Assist. If one finds a particularly tight parking spot, the onboard feature will do most of the work for you. When deployed, the system works by first recognizing a perpendicular or parallel parking spot. When it finds a suitable spot, it will tell the driver to shift to reverse and then steer the car towards the available slot. The user only has to control the car’s braking. Moreover, the system can even steer the car out of the spot for better convenience.
At PhP 1,278,000, the Focus is priced slightly higher than its closest competitors. With that said, it offers best-in-class power thanks to its EcoBoost powertrain and array of tech like Park Assist, SYNC 2, Cruise Control, Active City Stop and Hill Launch Assist. It also has LED daytime running lights (DRLs), but at its price, it should have HID illumination in my opinion.
The Focus has grown from a simple family run-around, to something that can easily rival more performance-oriented models while still keeping the wife and the kids comfortable on most days. All in all, the 2016 Ford Focus did become smarter and more powerful and is still something to look out for in the C-segment hatchback.