– Stylish inside and out
– Good ride and handling
– Class-leading engine
– Pricey with options
– Average rear legroom
– Noticeable road noise
When is an American car really a German car with an American badge? When it is a Ford Focus. The Focii that come to the Middle East are all built in the same country that ships you overpriced metal with premium badges. And for the first time ever, the American immigrant actually acts likes a German citizen.
In terms of styling, the new Focus looks great. Pointy details, metallic trim and 17-inch wheels were used to great effect in our well-specced test car. Also available in 1.6-litre sedan form, we hear that only the hatchback can be optioned up with the 2.0-litre engine, the sporty suspension and the fancy gadgets. It is put together flawlessly for the most part, aside from a couple of slightly-misaligned window-trim pieces that most would ignore anyway.
The interior is very futuristic to the point of overdone. We like it that way, as well as the fact that even the base model gets a fancy-looking stereo deck. Our premium model had an upgraded piano-black Sony deck. The dash top and upper door sills in the front are lined with cushy soft-touch materials, although the rear doors get hard plastic sills. We noticed that the base model gets hard-plastic upper sills up front as well, but then again, the door inserts and armrests on all versions are nicely padded. From the driver’s seat though, this is the nicest cockpit we’ve ever seen in this class.
Space is excellent up front, while the rear is just about adequate for medium-height riders, though very obviously less than cars such as the Honda Civic and the VW Jetta when it comes to legroom. The front seats in our car’s cloth-upholstered cabin were nicely bolstered, while the rear has a typical split-folding bench with three headrests. The Focus finally gets four useful cup-holders too, along with a central armrest cubby and pockets on all doors. The boot is decent in length as well as very deep, but we especially liked the four grocery-bag hooks back there. Some of the ergonomics are a bit weird though, with the overhead-light buttons placed right above the driver’s head, while the central armrest is situated too far back.
Our Focus was fitted with the usual power accessories we’ve now come to expect in compact cars as well as some unexpected ones. Like two full-colour screens, one between the gauges and one on top of the centre console, both configurable with the million steering-wheel buttons. There is also Bluetooth, sunroof, cruise control with speed limiter, front and side airbags, and a decent CD/MP3 stereo with USB/AUX ports in the glovebox. It also came with a dual-zone a/c that was unstressed in December weather but had no rear vents, while there is a keyless-start button but the key-fob lock/unlock buttons still need to be used.
We asked for the 2.0-litre 4-cylinder version, which is the only direct-injection engine offered on a GCC-spec compact car aside from, perhaps, the VW Golf. It packs an impressive 168 hp at 6500 rpm and 203 Nm of torque at 4450 rpm, sending power to the front wheels via a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The 1334-kilo hatchback moves well, as we clocked a 0-100 kph time of 9.5 seconds, never feeling as slow as other cars in this segment. The smooth-enough gearbox allows for manual inputs via thumb-buttons on the shifter, placed there simply as an afterthought. Leaving the shifter in sport mode is more fun. Otherwise, fuel economy was expectedly good, as we were averaging a solid 8 litres/100 km according to the trip computer.
It handles rather well, as we’ve come to expect from the Focus. One of the few remaining compacts to still feature four-wheel-independent suspension, body roll is unnoticeable on most corners, while grip is pretty good from the 215/50 tyres. The car simply understeers smoothly when pushed, and can even be made to slide out its tail a bit when swung on purpose. The ABS-enabled disc brakes are decent enough, while the sharp moderately-weighted steering offers up some feedback. There’s even a proper handbrake, should you feel like yanking on it inappropriately.
Surprisingly, Ford has managed to smoothen out the ride too. The new Focus feels a lot like a midsized Fusion on the highway, sailing over most road surfaces, with that slight tinge of firmness typical of cars with low-profile tyres. Wind noise and engine rumble are kept at bay as well, but road noise is definitely noticeable. Also, while forward visibility is excellent thanks to thin frontal A-pillars, the view out the small rear window is ridiculously limited due to the swoopy styling. It’s probably a good thing then, that our car came with the automated parallel parking feature that uses front and rear sensors to steer the car perfectly into a roadside gap, given enough space.
The Ford Focus 2.0 is pricey for its segment, but it is the first compact we’ve driven in a long time that didn’t feel like a chore. In fact, it is just a few steps shy of being a hot hatch. And then we remembered that sportier Focii do exist in Europe that don’t make it here. If only they did. But the one we drove is almost worth the premium price.
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