By Breda Corrigan
The first Ford Focus appeared on Irish roads in late 1998 as a replacement for the ageing Ford Escort. Now in its fourth generation, the Focus still remains one of Ireland’s best-selling cars. The current Ford Focus is based on a completely new platform, while a new design language and improved infotainment also feature. Originally available in petrol or diesel engine guises only, the enhanced Focus is now available with EcoBoost Hybrid technology for the first time.
Cutting-Edge Engine Tech;
The new EcoBoost 1.0-litre mild hybrid powertrain in the Focus features cutting-edge technology designed to keep pollution and running-costs down. Thanks to its 48V mild-hybrid system (mHEV) and cylinder deactivation, the new engine boasts increased fuel efficiency of up to 17% when compared to a standard, non-hybrid, 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine. Cylinder deactivation enhances fuel efficiency by automatically switching off one of the cylinders when full capacity is not needed, such as when coasting or cruising with light demand on the engine. The system can disengage, or re-engage, one cylinder in 14 milli-seconds with no compromise in performance or refinement. Regenerative braking reclaims energy as you slow down, and uses it to deliver a boost as you accelerate, helping to improve performance. A belt-driven integrated starter/generator (BISG) enables recovery of energy usually lost during braking and coasting to charge a 48-volt lithium-ion air-cooled battery pack. Locating this battery beneath the front passenger seat has allowed the mild hybrid powertrain to be integrated with no loss of cargo or passenger space for Focus occupants.
The Focus mHEV is available in a choice of six generously-equipped trim levels – Zetec Edition, Titanium Edition, Vignale Edition, Active Edition, Active X Vignale Edition, and ST-Line Edition, all of which come with a standard six-speed manual transmission.
With the exception of a discreet badge on the rear of the car, there are no visual changes to distinguish the mHEV Focus from its petrol or diesel counterparts. As with the entire Focus range, the mHEV is available in both five-door hatchback and estate body styles, with both also offered in crossover-style Active guise with a slightly raised ride height. The Focus is blessed with a distinctive and stylish exterior design language, which looks terrific from every angle, but Ford know that style is nothing without substance. With this in mind, the Focus rides on Ford’s latest ‘C2’ platform, which enhances the excellent driving dynamics and sporty characteristics that the Focus has become famous for. This new platform also enables the wheelbase to be 53mm longer than before, freeing up extra cabin space in the process. Rear knee room in the Focus has increased by 56mm over that offered by it’s predecessor and, thanks to re-profiling of the rear doors, rear seat passengers have more head room too.
The cabin of the new Ford Focus is pleasing on the eye, with a central band of polished trim on the dashboard, topped with a soft-touch section that spreads as far as the top of the door cards. The buttons for the climate control, and other functions, are all large and well labelled and, as so, are easy to identify. It is difficult to fault the cleaner, sharper ergonomics of the new Focus dashboard, as it benefits from a massive 50% reduction in button clutter, with as many functions as possible relocated to the prominent SYNC 3 infotainment screen. Boot space in the Focus is impressive, with 341-litres of cargo volume available with the rear seat backs in place, but this can be extended to a healthy 1,320-litres when the rear seat backs are folded flat.
My test car was a Focus ST-Line Edition 1.0-litre EcoBoost mHEV 125PS, which was finished in ever-popular Magnetic Grey metallic paint with 18” Machined ‘Gloss Black’ Alloy Wheels (a €488 cost option) for a truly sporty look. ST-Line Edition standard equipment includes key features such as LED reflector headlamps & day-time running lamps, front fog lamps with cornering function, power folding door mirrors with puddle lamps, large body coloured rear spoiler, polished twin tailpipes, sports tuned suspension, black cloth trim with red stitching, Ford KeyFree System with Keyless Entry & Keyless Start (with sleep mode key fob), rain sensing wipers, auto-dimming rear view mirror, rear privacy glass, auto-headlamps (on/off), Pre-Collision Assist with Autonomous Emergency Braking and pedestrian/cyclist detection, Lane-Keeping Aid with Lane-Keeping Alert, Intelligent Speed Assist (limiter), My Key®, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Mini Spare Wheel, Ford SYNC 3 with 8” TFT touchscreen & App Link Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, satellite navigation, FordPass Connect (Embedded Modem) and wireless charging. An array of keenly-priced optional extras are available across the entire Ford passenger car range, with my test car coming with a Driver Assistance Pack (Traffic Sign Recognition, Auto High Beam, and Adaptive Cruise Control @ €599) and a Convenience Pack (rear wide-view camera, door edge protectors, Active Park Assist and front & rear parking sensors @ €410).Getting comfortable behind the wheel of the Ford Focus is an easy task, as the car’s standard multi-adjustable driver seat and steering wheel offer multiple options. The 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost petrol powerplant in the Focus made its international debut in 2011 and, since then, has gone on to win multiple awards due to its ingenuity and cutting-edge technology. In mild hybrid (mHEV) form this unit gets a lower compression ratio and a larger turbo, and delivers a little electric boost from low revs to ‘torque-fill’ while you’re waiting for the turbo to wind up. Producing 125PS (123bhp) and 210Nm of torque, the EcoBoost mHEV engine is capable of propelling the Focus from 0-100km/h in 10.3-seconds, on its way to a top speed of 197km/h (where permitted). In terms of handling, the Focus continues to rank among the best driver’s cars in the class. The steering is quick, accurate and confidence-inspiring, while there is very little body roll when cornering briskly. Indeed, the well-appointed chassis delivers a composed and enjoyable drive over a variety of road surfaces, while fuel consumption as low as 5.1l/100km (WLTP) on a combined driving cycle is equally impressive. Thanks to a low emission rating, annual road tax is just €180.
Pricing & Verdict;
The new Ford Focus is a beautifully made, well-equipped and comfortable family car that now adds mild-hybrid engine technology to the mix. Pricing for the new Focus starts at just €21,117 (ex-delivery), with my test car specification priced from €26,712 (ex-delivery). The new Ford Focus mHEV is on sale now at Ford dealerships nationwide.