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Exclusive: Ford quietly now selling sub-$24,000 Focus

Point taken: The Australian-spec Ambiente has different 16-inch alloy wheels to the Trend pictured here, but otherwise the visual changes aren’t too easy to spot.

$23,490 Focus Ambiente slips into Ford dealers with old-tech engine, lower spec

Ford logo3 Jun 2019

FORD Australia has quietly introduced an entry-level Ambiente variant of its new-generation Focus that lowers the entry price to $23,490 plus on-road costs and is designed to bring prospective buyers into showrooms to boost sales of its all-important small car.
 
The price-leading variant misses out on key features of the fourth-generation SA-series model that launched late last year, foregoing the 134kW 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine and eight-speed automatic transmission for an older normally aspirated 90kW non-EcoBoost version with six-speed auto – as seen in the EcoSport small SUV.
 
You will not find the Ambiente on Ford’s website, where the Trend is promoted as the entry point to the European-bred range, priced from $25,990 plus on-road costs – a position that is $2600 higher than the gateway to the previous LZ generation, which kicked off from $23,390 for a peppy 132kW turbo-petrol with a manual gearbox, while automatic was available for an extra $1000.
 
But just as Hyundai found the going tough as it, too, pushed upmarket with its new-generation i30 and struggled to meet sales targets as a large proportion of buyers went looking for a cheaper deal with other brands – a situation that led to the $19,990 Go variant added to the range – Ford has brought forward Focus Ambiente to bring more traffic into its showrooms. 
 
GoAuto has confirmed that an unspecified number of Focus Ambiente variants are now on sale through Ford’s national retail network – possibly less than 1000 in this first shipment – and a ring-around to dealers has shown that the variant, which documents show was homologated for sale in Australia late last year, is readily available. 
 
It is not yet known whether this uniquely specified variant qualifies for a five-star safety rating from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), given the current rating is based on the higher-spec EcoBoost-powered models from the Trend upwards.
 
But a list of features provided through the retail network indicate that it still carries plenty of standard equipment – including six airbags, autonomous emergency braking and other high-level safety gear – and that the main deletions are items such as satellite navigation, climate-control air-conditioning (leaving manual air-con), and automatic headlights and wipers. 
 

Ford Australia has subsequently confirmed that the entry model also comes with a rearview camera with 180-degree split view, and that options include a $300 convenience pack (automatic headlights/wipers, follow-me-home lighting, electro-chromatic rearview mirror). Prestige paint adds $650.

 
As well as the powertrain downgrade, Ambiente goes without the unique rotary E-Shifter which is used instead of a traditional transmission lever.
 
Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the Focus Active model – a mid-series crossover-style version of the small car, priced from $29,990 – Ford Australia product communications manager Damion Smy confirmed that the Ambiente was now on sale but said that it was not expected to be a big volume player.
 
He also said that supplies were limited and that it may not be a full-time variant.
 
“It’s a lower-priced, obviously entry-level model,” he said. “But private buyers aren’t looking for that, and we’re not looking to do big fleet deals on a car like that.”
 
Mr Smy said Ford’s long-term strategy in Australia is based on building a sustainable business and not one that sees it “cutting the price of cars and dropping the resale” and the like. 
 
“It’s not about doing volumes. Ranger is a good example where obviously we do some good fleet deals with Ranger but it’s not a vehicle that we want to cut the price out of to get volume to be number one over (Toyota’s) HiLux, for example. 
 
“We could have done that but we don’t want to do that. 
 
“So with something like Focus we think Trend and up, the same way we did with LZ (previous generation), is the way to go.
 
“Ambiente is not in as a fleet special or anything like that and we don’t think it will find a lot of private buyers anyway – there’s just a small batch that came in that we’re retailing.
 
“Like every product, it would have been a result of consultation with dealers and customers … It’s not just a dealer model. It would have been chosen based on a number of factors, including dealer feedback and customer feedback.”
 
It seems clear that the Ambiente is primarily here to lure potential buyers into showrooms with its lower entry price, giving Ford’s dealer network the opportunity to present the benefits of the more upscale variants and hopefully clinch a sale. 
 
To the end of April this year, Focus sales are down 13.9 per cent with 1521 registrations. 
 
The arrival of the mid-series Focus Active is also expected to boost the numbers, with Ford trading heavily on the fact that it presents SUV buyers with a fresh alternative.
 
At the Focus’ launch in December last year, the company was anticipating that the new-generation model would stimulate sales growth. 
 
Back then, Ford Australia president and CEO Kay Hart, when asked by GoAuto about the prospect of introducing the Ambiente, said: “We have no plans at this stage.
 
“We’ve homologated the vehicle, (but) that doesn’t mean we will necessarily bring it in.
 
“I think there’s definitely room in the segment at that level, and we’ll just continue to evaluate whether or not we see the Ambiente fitting into it in the future.”
 
The Australian Design Rule (ADR) documents seen by GoAuto show that a six-speed manual transmission was also homologated for use in conjunction with the Ambiente’s non-turbocharged engine. 
 

The 1.5-litre atmo engine produces 90.5kW at 6500rpm and 150Nm of torque and 4500rpm.

 
The federal government’s Green Vehicle Guide shows that the automatic version has a combined-cycle fuel economy rating of 6.9 litres per 100km and emits 160 grams of CO2 per kilometre. 
 
This is inferior to the higher-output EcoBoost variants, which come in at 6.4L/100m and 148g/km.

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