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Ford's new Focus range is more than a subtle facelift. Keener pricing, added safety features and the 2.0 litre diesel TDCi's arrival are the big news. With diesel sales on the rise, Ford Australia's first passenger "oil-burner" couldn't have come at a better time. There are more models too, with a Zetec sedan (in manual or auto) and Ghia hatchback (auto only) filling out the range.
External changes include mirror mounted indicators, a more aggressive looking front bumper treatment and new style alloy wheels for Zetec and Ghia. And there are two more colours too choose from - "Ocean" and "Tonic". All models have dual airbags and ABS with EBD standard plus optional "safety packs" (see below for details) which for a limited time will be offered at half price. While base model Corolla's have increased in price, Ford's accountants have sharpened their pencils, with reductions of up to $1,500, dependent on model. The entry level Focus CL manual hatch is $1,000 less than Toyota's equivalent Ascent hatch.
Under the bonnet there's little change for the petrol versions, while the big news is kept for the TDCi diesel. As the first diesel passenger car offered here by the "Blue Oval" our version is fitted with the top of the range 107kw Duratorq four cylinder. There's an impressive 320Nm of torque (not bad when compared to the Falcon six's 383Nm) allied to a six speed manual transmission.
The engine's common rail design stores fuel at high pressure (up to 1600bar) providing better fuel economy, lower emissions and less diesel "clatter". A Variable Nozzle Turbo (VNT) is integral in providing better response, power and torque, without adversely affecting fuel economy.
So with a greater choice of models, added safety features and better pricing, what's the new LT Focus like?
CL: Power front windows, trip computer, remote central locking, electro-hydraulic power steering.
Standard safety equipment
CL: Dual front airbags, ABS with EBD
LX/TDCi: as per CL plus front side airbags
Zetec/Ghia: as per LX plus Dynamic Stability Control, Traction control and Emergency Brake Assist.
Safety Pack -
CL: Front side airbags, curtain airbags, stability & traction control and Emergency Brake Assist. ($800 introductory offer until Sept 30th, then RRP $1,600)
LX/TDCi: Curtain airbags, stability & traction control and Emergency Brake Assist. ($650 introductory offer until Sept 30th then RRP $1,300)
Zetec/Ghia: Curtain airbags ($200 introductory offer until Sept 30th then RRP $400).
Prestige paint - $310, Smooth Pack (CL only) 15" alloys, body coloured mirrors, cruise control, leather steering wheel) - $1,400, 6 stack CD - $350, leather seat trim in ebony (Zetec) $1,600.
Even with a modest makeover, the Focus retains a conservative look. But don't judge this book by its cover. From behind the wheel the car's taut, solid construction is self evident. The interior's materials are nicely finished and have a durable look and feel - except for the Ghia's "woodgrain" inlays, which look anything but natural. Our test route took in a variety of conditions from tight, secondary switchbacks to open freeways. While the suspension coped with the worst of it, the chassis' grip and mildly understeering nature ensured safe progress. But the diesel's extra weight is obvious in the bends, feeling a little more nose heavy and marginally less nimble than the petrol version's agile character. And even with improvements to NVH, tyre noise is intrusive across the range - only the smoothest tarmac was peaceful.
What the TDCi loses in agility it gains in performance. The six speed manual has a slick, direct shift quality, and the hefty 320Nm of torque makes progress deceptively swift and stress free. Tight corners and steep hills, which the diesel took in its stride, were hard work for the 2.0 petrol. Its lazy response and lack of torque had you rowing through the gears to keep everything motoring. Worse was the four speed auto. Its widely spaced ratios provide a gap for the engine to fall into and, in Sport Shift mode, the dash mounted gear indicator was almost indecipherable.
Reduced prices and added safety features put forward a strong argument in the Focus' favour. Interior comfort and space are another plus. Plus it's hard to criticise the diesel's easygoing character and driveability, especially when compared to the petrol's lack of verve which was disappointing in a car with such good dynamic qualities.
Compared to the Corolla, Focus wins on handling, price and conveys a more robust nature. And while it may not have the style of Mazda's 3 or Honda's rakish Civic, the TDCi is the stand-out of the range. All it needs is an optional automatic transmission.
So its top marks for the Focus TDCi with the 2.0 Duratec petrol bringing up the rear.
Test vehicle supplied by Ford Motor Co Australia.
|CL man/auto LX man/auto
TDCi man. only
Ghia auto. only
|Ford Focus LT 2.0 Duratec Petrol||Ford Focus LT 2.0 Duratorq TDCi Diesel|
Ride and handling
Ride and handling
|Country of Manufacture||South Africa||South Africa|
|Number of cylinders||4||4|
|Engine size||1.999 L||1.997 L|
|Induction||Multipoint EFI||Common rail direct injection|
|Warranty||3yr / 100,000km||3yr / 100,000km|
|Claimed max power (kW)||107 kW @ 6000 rpm||100 kW @ 4000 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||185 Nm @ 4500 rpm||320 Nm @ 2000 rpm|
|Wheel type||Steel (CL), Alloy (LX, TDCi, Ghia, Zetec)||Steel (CL), Alloy (LX, TDCi, Ghia, Zetec)|
|Wheel size||15 (CL), 16 (LX TDCi, Ghia), 17 (Zetec) "||15 (CL), 16 (LX TDCi, Ghia), 17 (Zetec) "|
|Tyre dimensions||5/65R15V (CL) 205/55R16V (LX, TDCi, Ghia) 205/50R17V (Zetec)||195/65R15V (CL) 205/55R16V (LX, TDCi, Ghia) 205/50R17V (Zetec)|
|Spare tyre type||Spacesaver||Space-saver|
|Steering type||Electro-hydraulic rack & pinion||Electro-hydraulic rack & pinion|
|Turns to lock||10.7 m||10.7 m|
|Turning circle (measured)||2.9 m||2.9 m|
|Length||4341 (hatch), 4488 (sedan) mm||4341 (hatch) / 4488 (sedan) mm|
|Width (incl mirrors)||1991 mm||1991 mm|
|Height||1443 (hatch), 4488 (sedan) mm||1443 mm|
|Fuel capacity||55 litres||53 litres|
|Max towed mass||900/650 (manual), 750/650 (auto) kg||1000 (manual), 680 (auto) kg|
|Fuel consumption (best)||7.1 (manual), 8.0 (automatic) L/100km||5.6 L/100km|
|ADR avg CO2 Emissions||170 (manual), 192 (auto) g/km||148 g/km|