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Driven: Ford Focus fitter for the fight

Focal point: Ford's heavily updated Focus will still appeal to fleet buyers, despite the entry level Ambiente being discontinued, according to Ford Australia chief Graeme Whickman.

Customer feedback, more features and sharper looks freshen up Ford Focus for 2016


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2 Sep 2015

FORD Australia says it is not ignoring fleet buyers by discontinuing the base Ambiente variant in favour of the more generously equipped Trend that costs $3000 more than the outgoing entry level version.

Speaking with GoAuto at the launch of the Focus in Adelaide, Ford Australia president and CEO Graeme Whickman said that the goal is to better tailor cars to buyers’ needs, while cutting the proliferation of variants that dealerships have to sell.

“Firstly, one of the challenges that we’ve got is dealing with complexity,” he said. “We got a whole lot of new cars coming, and that means a full showroom that we have to service and train, and complexity will become a challenge for us.

“Secondly, we’re not walking away from fleets, and I wouldn’t like it characterised that way we’re just looking at the model composition. We are trying hard with retail, and we’re just trying to be a stronger retail brand of choice for consumers, but that does not mean we are ignoring fleets at all.” Along with the Ambiente, all diesels and several other slow-selling individual variants have also been cut for the range sourced from Thailand, resulting in one-third fewer Focus models compared with before the facelift. The recently facelifted ST hot hatch is sourced from Germany and continues unscathed.

“Another thing is that Ambiente was generally between only seven and 10 per cent of total Focus volume,” Mr Whickman said.

“It’s not as if we’re abandoning 20 or 40 per cent of something… and we’ve taken the same decision with diesel, for we were selling only about two or three per cent there.

“So there is sound reason to what we’re doing, for a number of different points. The company is orientated around making sure we’re answering customer requirements, and there are certain things that we’re trying to do better.

“I wouldn’t call it a battle. It was a very calculated way of how to go to market with these vehicles. (You see that) when you look at the relative pricing of the Trend over (the old) Trend, and you look at what has gone into it.” Announced in July, the Focus range now kicks off from $23,390 plus on-road costs for the Trend manual.

While that is $3100 more expensive than the Ambiente and $1100 costlier than the outgoing Trend, it gains a more powerful and economical 1.5-litre turbo EcoBoost engine, six rather than five forward gears, a reversing camera, satellite navigation, idle-stop, touchscreen multimedia connectivity, and alloy wheels among other standard features.

Additionally, all automatic versions ditch the problematic Getrag-supplied Powershift six-speed dual-clutch transmission for a more conventional Ford-built six-speed torque converter auto for a $1000 instead of $2200 premium.

In the $24,390 Trend auto that is expected to account for more than 50 per cent of total Focus sales, the resulting price jump over the superseded Trend equivalent shrinks to just $100, despite the specification increases. Other price shifts include $700 and $300 drops for the Sport auto and Titanium auto respectively, although the Sport manual actually costs $600 more than before.

The transition to LZ also sees the Focus undergo a comprehensive visual makeover, with a redesign featuring a different bonnet, headlights, grille (adopting the Ford hexagonal look as seen in existing Fiesta, Mondeo and Falcon), bumpers, air intakes, fog-light shapes, tailgate sheetmetal, front mudguards, and tail-lights.

Inside the instrument panel has also been overhauled for simplicity, functionality, and perceived quality, with the previous button-festooned centre console turfed out for a simpler layout dominated by a SYNC2 voice-control touchscreen for audio, navigation, phone, and vehicle settings access.

The steering wheel and (mainly analogue) instruments also undergo a restyle, with the latter at last gaining a digital auxiliary speedometer.

The Focus is also said to be quite a bit quieter thanks to concerted anti noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) measures, including better seals, more sound absorption material, thicker carpeting and more targeted liners, as well as slightly improved aerodynamics.

Underneath the LZ gains retuned electric rack and pinion steering for easier effort yet sharper responses, stiffer suspension bushes for the MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear ends with less horizontal movement properties for a more controlled yet suppler ride, and industry-first ETS Enhanced Transitional Stability Electronic Stability Control with braking sensors that anticipate traction losses by analysing inputs and speed.

Behind the grille is the smallest engine ever offered in an Australian-bound Focus – a variation of the 1.5-litre, double overhead cam, direct-injection EcoBoost four-cylinder turbo unit found in the Kuga Series II.

Usurping all previous LW engines – 92kW/159Nm 1.6 petrol, 125kW/202Nm 2.0 petrol, and 120kW/340Nm 2.0 TDCi turbo-diesel units – it delivers 132kW of power at 6000rpm and 240Nm of torque between 1600-5000rpm.

Aided by new-to-Focus brake energy regeneration technology as well as the aforementioned idle-stop, it averages a combined fuel-consumption figure of 5.8 litres per 100 kilometres (down from 7.2L/100km) in manual form, and 6.2L/100km for the auto (down 0.4L/100km compared to the LW 2.0 Powershift). As before, 95 RON premium unleaded is the preferred tipple, though Ford says the 1.5 EcoBoost will run on 91 RON.

Finally, other features adopted in the LZ Focus include a speed and audio volume-limiting function for the key fob Ford calls MyKey, while the up-spec Titanium is now offered with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Blind Spot Detection tech, along with an upgraded version of the existing Active City Stop collision avoidance system (it now works at up to 50km/h rather than 30km/h) and Active Park Assist featuring perpendicular as well as Auto Park Out functionality.

Ford refused to divulge sales expectations, with one spokesperson adding that the runout-associated stock restrictions that have contributed to the outgoing version’s near-55 per cent year-to-date volume drop won’t affect supply for the LZ.

2015 Ford Focus pricing*
Hatch Price
Trend $23,390
Trend (a) $24,390
Sport $26,490
Sport (a) $27,490
Titanium (a) $32,690
Trend (a) $24,390
Titanium (a) $32,690
*Excludes on-road costs

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