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First drive: Diesel's most sporting Focus

Compression-ignition: Focus TDCi is Ford's first non-truck diesel model.

Ford shoots to the top of the class with its first diesel passenger car, Focus TDCi

6 Jul 2007

FORD’S Australian passenger-car line-up has finally commenced its adoption of diesel engine technology, with the Focus leading the charge. Out in late July, the TDCi will only be available in a single, mid-range LX specification (though it won’t use that nomenclature) five-door hatchback, with a six-speed manual gearbox.

So do not expect to see a Focus TDCi automatic or sedan anytime in the near future.

Priced from $27,990, Ford is charging consumers $4000 extra for the diesel experience compared to the equivalent petrol LX.

However, this does undercut the Holden AH-series Astra CDTi manual by $2000 – although that gap then narrows to just $700 if you match the Astra by specifying the $1300 safety pack option that features DSC stability control, side curtain airbags, traction control and Emergency Brake Assist.

Unusually, Ford will offer a number of varying safety packs across the LT Focus range for half price until October 1, to stimulate sales and increase consumer awareness, according to the company. Behind the redesigned front bumper (trainspotters may also pick the restyled air-intakes, repositioned side repeater lamps in the exterior mirrors, fresh alloy wheel designs on higher-end models, lack of body-side mouldings and new flip-out key fob that visually distinguish the LT from the outgoing LS Focus) beats a 2.0-litre twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine.

Dubbed Duratorq TDCi, it is a Euro IV emissions standard, 1997cc, lightweight, low-friction unit featuring high-pressure (to 1600 bar) second-generation common-rail injection technology, a valve-nozzle turbo-charger and electronic drive-by-wire acceleration controls.

Performance and parsimonious people alike will be pleased, since the TDCi delivers 100kW of power at 4000rpm and 320Nm of torque at 2000rpm, as well as 5.6L/100km and a carbon dioxide emissions rating of 148g/km.

27 center imageOther engine attributes include a dual-mass flywheel with integral damping, which aims to emulate the smoothness, balance and refinement of a petrol powerplant a special cylinder-head valve that prevents cold-start noise, reduces oil consumption and increases engine durability by keeping oil from draining out of the engine’s adjusters and a special cam cover that is designed for easy repair, maintenance and access.

A cast-iron block is employed for its strength and durability, while the cylinder-heads are made out of die-cast aluminium alloy, and sealed by a long-life multi-layered steel gasket.

Ford says the engine’s structure is super-stiff and strong, which also helps quell noise and vibration elements entering inside the cabin. This engine is part of a family of powerplants co-developed with French carmaker PSA (Peugeot/Citroen), and can be found in an array of related vehicles.

Ford's MMT6 gearbox is a three-shaft design that uses a wide spread of ratios, with an economy-orientated sixth gear that also cuts down engine noise.

A number of structural and mechanical changes have also accompanied the Focus’ diesel-engine installation.

Above the regular models’ pillar foam, beefed-up sub-frame attachment points, double seals, thicker glass and aerodynamic aids, the TDCi gains a full-size acoustic engine top-cover and engine compartment under-shield, increased exhaust volume and pipe resonator, and heavy layer carpets at the dash.

All add extra weight (contributing to the 1370kg TDCi weighing about 86kg more than its equivalent LX petrol hatch manual counterpart), but they also help quash noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) elements from assaulting occupants’ senses. Meanwhile, slightly stiffer springs and damper tuning measures are employed to counteract the added weight of the TDCi engine, MMT6 gearbox and additional anti-NVH measures.

Otherwise, like all Focuses, independent MacPherson struts and Ford’s Control Blade independent multi-link rear set-up – complete with anti-roll bars at both ends – are found beneath the TDCi.

The electro-hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering system is also common to all models, but the diesel’s fuel tank is two litres shy of the petrol versions’ 55-litre number.

Being LX hatchback based, the TDCi comes standard with dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, front seat-mounted side airbags, anti-submarining front seats, cruise control, all-door power windows, electric mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, steering-wheel mounted audio controls and some body-coloured trim. While the LT Focus range, except for the German-sourced XR5 Turbo, is sourced from South Africa, the TDCi engine is built at a Volvo facility in Sweden.

When the idea of importing the Focus diesel was first mooted seriously about two and a half years ago, Ford considered introducing the 1.6-litre four-cylinder TDCi unit.

However, it decided to maximise the diesel’s performance potential with the larger 2.0-litre unit, particularly as it better matched the Focus’ driver-dedicated theme.

A six-speed automatic gearbox courtesy of Aisin may arrive before the end of 2008 it is just being rolled out across some European-market Fords using the TDCi engine. Ford Australia is extremely keen.

Ford expects diesels to account for only about 10 per cent of the Focus’ forecast 20,000 annual sales volumes.

While Ford admits that TDCi sales expectations would be much higher with automatic availability, the auto/manual volume split for the petrol-powered Focus models is almost evenly keeled at 55/45, compared to most rivals’ auto-heavy small-car sales split.

2007 Ford Focus range pricing:
CL hatch/sedan $19,990
CL hatch/sedan (a) $21,990
LX hatch/sedan $23,990
LX hatch/sedan (a) $25,990
TDCi hatch $27,990
Zetec hatch/sedan $26,490
Zetec hatch/sedan (a) $28,490
Ghia sedan/hatch (a) $29,490
XR5 hatch $35,990

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