New 2014 Ford Focus
Ford product development boss Joe Bakaj has said that the new Focus, newly revised in the latest generation, will regain its slot as the best-handling car in the class when it goes on sale late this year.
The new Ford Focus was stung by the handling prowess of the latest Volkswagen Golf, which out shone the Focus as the best-handling car in its class, Ford has engineered a raft of detailed chassis changes as part of a deep-facelift that also includes re-tooled body panels, redesigned front and rear bumpers, new look front and rear lights, a brand new dashboard and new innovative cleaner engines.
"We want our handling crown back, that's why our engineers put a lot of effort into revamping the Focus chassis," explained a confident Bakaj at a pre-Geneva launch event for the new Ford Focus last week. Many of the chassis components are replaced, starting with new, high quality front dampers, which now offer more subtle body control thanks to the extra steps in the damper valving. The suspension stays the same, but there are new, stiffer bushes both front and rear, aimed at firming the chassis in a lateral direction with the benefit of more stability.
"The turn-in is already pretty good," says Bakaj, "but the new Ford Focus has little delay on turn-in and that extra edge of bite in cornering." Also retuned is the electric power steering, which Bakaj explained now offers better 'on-centre' feel. "The steering wheel weighting is now much more progressive, too," he went on to say. Even more handling improvements come from a reprogrammed ESC system, which is said to operate more smoothly with more delicate intervention.
Bakaj also says the new Focus model is now a lot more stable in high speed lane-change manoeuvres and can take on slalom-type courses at higher speed. "It gives you more confidence," he said. The roll centres have also been slightly adjusted by subtle geometry changes, which act to reduce cornering body roll. A battery of 18 electronic driver aid 'Assist' technologies has also been added to the Ford Focus for the first time, including the new 'Pull Out Assist' that uses blind spot sensors in reversing manoeuvres to warn off conflicting vehicles or pedestrians.
The new facelift program — the Ford Focus was all-new only in 2010 — is the deepest-ever cycle re-fresh applied to one of Ford’s biggest sellers since the Focus was launched in 1998 and follows on from similar revisions applied to the new Ford Fiesta last year.
Ford has also freshened up the Focus visually, with new metalwork, lights, grille and bumbers, created under design director for Ford Europe Steffan Lamm. The centrepiece of the new look is a hallmark, trapezoidal grille, now set higher up on the Focus nose in what Lamm explained as a 'prouder' position. "The grille is up high and looks more sophisticated. We have a sporty look, but with a touch of sophistication," said Lamm. Also new are more narrow, less dominant headlamps, a great design piece that Lamm says will become a feature on all new Ford models.
A range of revised engines, including a new 88g/km diesel and 99g/km petrol, are also going to keep the Focus competitive with rivals and all new and old engines now meet EU6 regulations, mandatory from September this year. The Focus is the first ever car to be fitted with a new Bridgend-built 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol engine, with 148bhp and 177bhp power outputs. Also new is a 1.5TDCi with outputs of 94bhp and 118bhp and built locally in Dagenham.
Entry-level models of the Ford Focus will continue to be powered by the 1.0-litre EcoBoost in either 99bhp or 123bhp versions or the newest version will offer 99g/km, which is claimed to be the first non-hybrid family hatch to slot below 100g/km. New detailed improvements to the 2.0 TDCi are said to have much improved economy by 14 per cent when matched to a manual transmission and 13 per cent with the auto. Also coming is a 1.5 TDCi mated to a Powershift auto, which promises at least a 19 per cent economy improvement over the outgoing version.
Ford says it responded to customer feedback and has redesigned the Focus centre console to eliminate the 'multi-button' look that many drivers hated. "Technology has moved so fast with touchscreens becoming available, so we listened to Ford buyers and invested in a cleaner-looking dashboard," said Ford Europe boss Barb Samardzich.
No details about the new Ford Focus ST are yet to be revealed. For has promised that it will “receive similar changes”. The metalwork and body panels changes will be a given, as well as a revised interior and centre console. But what will intruige enthusiasts will be the word of chassis changes and whether the engine gets more power. Ford execs have so far refused to discuss an RS model, but circulating rumours persist of a 300bhp-plus RS powered by a version of the 2.3-litre turbo four engineered for the new Mustang.