Marcus De Guzman / Marcus De Guzman | February 06, 2017 08:15
Budget Pocket Rocket
There comes a time when the young and foolhardy in us fades away. We grow up, become more practical and avoid taking risks. Ultimately though, we still crave that old familiar feeling of being wild and free.
So what do we do? We compromise. One such car that presents itself as a good compromise is the Ford Focus. Refreshed for the 2016 model year, the Focus is now powered by an EcoBoost powertrain and gets a revamped exterior that conforms with the brand's global design language.
We've already driven the Sport+ hatchback several months ago and was impressed by its power, handling and suite of high tech features. Now we get to test the entry-level Sport and see what it has to offer.
It may look like a bigger Fiesta thanks to the reworked front end but I can assure you that this is the 2016 Focus. To be frank, I actually like the new front fascia as I was not a particular fan of the pre-facelift's look. The sharp headlights and new trapezoidal front grill give the car an edgier appearance.
Shod in the wheel wells are 17-inch alloys wrapped in Michelin Primacy tires. It does not get the low-profile Goodyear Eagle F1 tires and the stylish 18-inch alloy wheels, but for those that value comfort over sheer performance, the slightly thicker sidewalls of the Michelin tires does deliver a more pliant ride. More on that later.
The rear practically remains the same apart from the smaller taillights and bigger spoiler. The bumper, on the other hand, now features an integrated diffuser for better aerodynamics.
Step inside and it's pretty much the same story as with the Sport +. Soft-touch plastic still surrounds the interior of the Focus Sport, along with faux metal trim pieces that contrast the pre-dominantly gray cabin. In truth, I have always liked the interior of the Focus as I find it sporty and ergonomic at the same time.
As this is the base model, it does not get the new Ford MyTouch system. Instead, it gets the older-generation SYNC 1. Despite its age, the entertainment system still delivered great audio quality. It is also quite ergonomic despite the plethora of buttons that may overwhelm some users. Aside from the usual AM/FM radio and CD, the onboard system also supports Bluetooth, Aux, USB (2x ports) and SD.
All of the seats are upholstered in leather and are quite comfortable. The driver's seat is only manually adjustable in this particular model, but it's something you can live with. It also has manual air-conditioning instead of automatic climate control, a smaller 4.2-inch multi-info display and only 6 speakers instead of 9.
Tall passengers may have a hard time getting comfortable seated at the back as the Focus still has limited rear legroom (both sedan and hatchback models). Hopefully the next-generation Focus will have improved space for rear occupants.
Sure some features have been removed but then again, it would not have been priced lower than the Sport+ model. It's good to know though that Ford opted to have both variants be powered by a turbocharged engine.
Residing under the hood is a 1.5-liter GTDI EcoBoost inline-four which succeeds the previous 1.6- and 2.0-liter offerings. Its displacement may be at par with B-segment cars, but with the help of direct injection and a twin-scroll turbocharger, the tiny engine is capable of generating 180 PS at 6000 rpm and 240 Nm of torque between 1600 – 5000 rpm. With boost readily available at low rpms, one had to only give a light prod of the accelerator to get the hatchback moving.
Don't mistake the engine's small size as the 1.5-liter motor can easily outrun bigger, naturally-aspirated engines. Bury your right foot on the accelerator and a wave of power sends the car forward with gusto. Set the 6-speed automatic transmission to Sport and the powertrain is practically egging you to have fun with the throttle.
For those concerned with safety, don't worry as the Focus comes with torque vectoring, traction control and electronic stability program (ESP) to keep things in check. It even comes with hill-start assist to stop the car from rolling backwards when stopped at an upward incline.
Handling on the Focus Sport was spot on as well. Take it to a mountain road and you feel like the car is one with you. I do miss the gripiness of the Goodyear Eagle F1s but the Michelin Primacy tires still delivered confidence even in the tightest of curves. The electronic power steering is a welcome addition to the Focus as it was light for city driving and has just the right amount of weight when driving at high speeds. Ride quality, on the other hand, is slightly better on the entry-level Sport. It's still quite stiff but the thicker sidewalls of the tires make up for it.
Like the Sport+, the base model Sport also returned similar fuel consumption figures. Drive around the city and the Focus will average around 10 – 11 km/l. Hit the highway and the Focus can easily return 17 – 17.5 km/l. Get stuck in heavy traffic and the Focus will only net an average consumption of 6.3 km/l.
After all that, is the Focus a great compromise between performance and practicality? It's a resounding yes from me. At PhP 1,088,000, the Focus already comes with a very potent turbo inline-four and a well-appointed cabin. Some key features have been removed like park assist, reverse camera, touchscreen audio, automatic headlights and window wipers, cruise control and active city stop for the sake of saving around PhP 190,000. But for me, these features are something that you can live without.
If one is interested in getting an EcoBoost-powered Focus for less, the Sport model presents itself as a viable choice for anyone wants a budget pocket rocket. Now all that's left to do is to convince the missus that this is still a safe and comfortable car for the family.