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First look: Ford uncovers fourth-generation Focus

Staying focused: Australia will no longer receive its Focus from Thailand, with the new model to instead be sourced from Germany.

Local Ford Focus sourcing to shift from Thailand to Germany as new model debuts

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Ford logo10 Apr 2018

By JUSTIN HILLIARD

FORD Motor Company has rolled out its fourth-generation Focus small car at a reveal event in London, with the critical new model set to be imported from Europe when it hits Australian showrooms later this year.

Significantly, Ford Australia has confirmed that it will receive its entire Focus line-up from the Blue Oval’s factory in Saarlouis, Germany, which has been subject to a €600 million ($A957 million) upgrade in preparation for production of the new model.

The current local range – excluding German-built ST and RS variants – is sourced from a plant in Pluak Daeng, Thailand, which will stop producing the Focus to concentrate on the Ranger and Everest.

As previously reported, the North American Focus will be, for the first time, sourced from the Changan plant in Chonqing, China, which replaces the Detroit, Michigan operation that is retooling in preparation for the US-spec Ranger and Bronco.

Available in four body styles – including the usual five-door hatchback and wagon, and four-door sedan – the Focus will be offered in high-riding Active five-door hatchback guise for the first time.

Ford Australia will likely bring to market the hatchback and sedan, while the wagon and Active body styles offered overseas are yet to be determined.

Two grades are expected to be on offer initially, including the mid-spec Trend and Titanium, while the entry-level Ambiente, which was dropped in Australia for the most recent facelift, sport-focused ST-Line and luxury-orientated Vignale – a new addition to the line-up – should expand the range next year.

High-performance ST and RS variants are also on the way and GoAuto understands that the former is set to break cover in 2018 ahead of a local launch next year.

Meanwhile, British publication AutoCar has reported that the RS will debut in 2020 with a mild hybrid powertrain, which could bump outputs up to 298kW and 576Nm.

Regular Australian-market variants will be exclusively motivated by an all-aluminium 1.5-litre EcoBoost turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine, which produces 110kW of power. Its peak torque is yet to be disclosed.

Carbon dioxide emissions have decreased by 10 per cent, partly due to the addition of a petrol particulate filter that helps to meet stricter Euro 6 emission standards.

Meanwhile, fuel efficiency has improved thanks to the inclusion of idle-stop and cylinder deactivation systems – the latter an industry first for a three-pot unit.

The 1.5-litre powertrain will also be available overseas with a 134kW tune, while a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol is set to be offered in 63kW, 74kW and 92kW forms.

Similarly, a 1.5-litre EcoBlue turbocharged three-pot diesel engine will be available in other markets in 70kW and 88kW tunes, with both producing 300Nm of torque, while a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel is set to develop 110kW and 370Nm.

While international customers will also have access to an optional six-speed manual gearbox for certain powerplants, the local Focus is set to be exclusively mated to a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission with torque convertor.

Given the Focus is the first model to be underpinned by Ford’s new C2 platform, it ushers in a “human-centric” philosophy for its clean-sheet exterior and interior designs, as well as a 40 and 20 per cent increase in front crash load capability and torsional rigidity respectively.

The A-pillars are positioned further rearward, resulting in a longer bonnet and front fenders, while the wheelbase is 53mm longer and the overhangs are shorter. Weight has been reduced by up to 88 kilograms in like-for-like variants.

Aerodynamics have been honed further thanks to a sleeker, lower profile and truncated corners as well as an active grille shutter, air-curtain inlets, an optimised rear spoiler and window strakes, and additional underbody shielding.

The result is a reduced drag co-efficient of 0.250 for the sedan and 0.273 for the five-door body styles.

As previously reported, the front end is dominated by a familiar grille that is larger in size and flanked by adaptive full-LED headlights with high beam assist and bisecting LED daytime running lights (DRLs).

Meanwhile, the rear end is characterised by two-piece LED tail-lights that accommodate a more versatile tailgate opening while being linked by the Focus nameplate spelt out in individual letters.

Inside, the centre console set-up is simplified and narrower thanks to the inclusion of an electric park brake and a rotary dial for gear selection as well as expanded Sync3 infotainment system functionality.

An 8.0-inch touchscreen ‘floats’ on top of the centre stack, offering satellite navigation with live traffic, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support and voice control.

A head-up display, which is projected onto a retractable polycarbonate screen, also makes its debut, with it showing current speed, navigation, entertainment and safety information. A 675W 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen Play sound system is also available.

Connectivity takes a step up thanks to the addition of a WiFi hotspot with support for up to 10 devices, while FordPass mobile application support – including vehicle locator, status and remote start – and wireless smartphone charging are also on offer.

Soft-touch materials have been applied to the dashboard and door trims, helping to elevate the Focus’s premium feel alongside polished glass and brushed finishes for the door trims and air vent surrounds.

Rear legroom has improved by more than 50mm, to 81mm, while shoulder room is up by almost 60mm. A panoramic sunroof is optional.

The wagon features a hands-free power tailgate, allowing access to its load area which offers more than 1650 litres of cargo capacity when the second row is stowed.

Thanks to the C2 platform, the Australian Focus is likely to ride on a short long arm (SLA) independent rear suspension with a new isolated subframe, which helps to improve ride comfort, dynamics, and noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels.

Performance should be further enhanced by Continuously Controlled Damping (CCD), which monitors suspension, body, steering and braking inputs every two milliseconds and adjusts damping responses to suit. A twist-beam rear suspension without CCD is available with some variants offered overseas.

The local Focus is expected to be equipped with five driving modes – Eco, Eco-Comfort, Comfort, Normal and Sport – that allow the driver to adjust throttle, transmission, suspension, electronic power steering and adaptive cruise control settings.

The ST-Line grade is further distinguished by its aggressive rear diffuser, larger roof-mounted rear spoiler and front apertures, and unique lower wing elements that direct air to the air-curtain inlets, while its interior has carbon-fibre-effect trim and red stitching.

Sitting 10mm lower than regular Focus variants, the ST-Line has unique springs, dampers and stabiliser bars.

Alternatively, the Vignale grade features a “coast-to-coast” lower front aperture and mesh front grille insert as well as a satin-aluminium finish for its roof rails, fascia and rocker inserts. Fine-grain wood trim and premium leather upholstery are found inside.

The Active body style offers a more rugged look with its elevated ground clearance, protective black wheelarch and rocker claddings, silver front and rear skid plates and rocker inserts, a bespoke front-end design, and textured interior materials and surfaces.

Riding 30mm higher than regular Focus variants, the Active has unique front and rear knuckles.

Ford’s suite of advanced driver-assist safety technologies, dubbed Co-Pilot360, has been expanded, with the adaptive cruise control system adding stop and go functionality, speed sign recognition and steering assist.

Park assist has also been further enhanced, now featuring fully automated support – including gear selection, throttle and braking – for parallel and perpendicular parking spaces, as well as an exit function for the former.

Additionally, the autonomous emergency braking system now detects cyclists as well as pedestrians, while post-collision braking is new and rear cross-traffic alert has been enhanced with automated braking.

The reversing camera has been upgraded too, offering a nearly 180-degree view, while evasive steering assist improves drivers’ ability to manoeuvre around a slow-moving or stationary vehicle if a collision is imminent.

Sales of the Focus dropped last year, with 5953 examples sold to the end of 2017, representing a 12.2 per cent slide over the 6783 deliveries made in 2016.

This effort meant the Focus placed 10th in the sub-$40,000 small-car segment last year, trailing the Toyota Corolla (37,353 units), Mazda3 (32,690), Hyundai i30 (28,780), Kia Cerato (18,731) and Volkswagen Golf (18,454), among others.

This downwards trend has continued in 2018, with 1414 vehicles finding homes to the end of March, equating to a 14.9 per cent decline over the 1662 examples sold during the same period in 2017.

Local pricing and specification will be revealed closer to the Focus’ Australian launch, but Ford’s new small car is expected to retain a similar cost structure despite the change in sourcing.

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