The Focus on Focus
IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE, the new Focus represents a huge step in Ford’s commitment to the Asia-Pacific region. Once a Europe/North American market, the Mk. I Focus has garnered for itself numerous awards and has become a favorite among buyers, including England’s Prince William. But while his Royal Highness has been enjoying the Focus’ class-leading dynamics, our market had to make do with a perennial underdog: the Lynx. Not anymore. This year, Ford has introduced the Mk. II Focus to the world’s fastest-growing automobile market, and from the looks of things, has nailed everything at the right places.
Last week, a group of media folks got to try the Focus’ abilities on the Batangas Racing Circuit, no less. And while it’s good to talk about the fun activities that day, it wasn’t the point of the event. In reality, it was to de-mystify Ford’s new C-segment fighter and what makes it such a class above the competition.
Of course, when talking about the Focus only one thing comes to mind: unparalleled dynamics. But before getting on that subject, there are a lot of things that show the sheer sophistication of this vehicle. In fact, Ford has summarized it into three key points: European Styling, German Engineering and Driving Dynamics. These pillars create one cohesive product that simply revolutionizes the segment.
At a passing glance, the Focus’ styling doesn’t call attention to itself. Like a precision engineered Swiss watch, only careful scrutiny will highlight the level of design detail. Chris Bird, Ford’s European design chief wanted the Mk. II Focus to move away from the brash, in-your-face look of the Mk. I. He thought that the world was ready for a more subdued, more grown-up feel without sacrificing the original DNA.
The resulting look is soft, simplistic and elegant. The Focus makes use of soft, clean lines to create strong looking sections and improvement in aerodynamics. The silhouette alone conveys an image of solidity while the strong “energy lines” create an illusion of movement. The bulbous wheel arches give a muscular stance, while 205/55 R 16 tires fill the wheel well.
Designers penned the Focus from the inside out, as evidenced by the long wheelbase, cabin-forward stance and wide track. As a result, it has best-in-class headroom and generous space for all occupants.
Inside, the Focus is equally precise with advanced level of ergonomics. Besides an excellent driving position, it offers wonderful ergonomics—all resulting in increased comfort, ease of use and safety.
The moment you shut the doors, the quality of this car is already evident. The reassuring, echo-free sound is a result of steel reinforced doors—one among many of the Focus’ improvements in reducing NVH levels. The thicker gauge windows, full loop double door seals and thicker insulation all contribute to lessen unwanted environmental noise.
The Mk. II also improved on one of the Focus’ original problems: fit and finish. Whereas other C-segment cars would have texture-less, hard plastics, the Focus utilizes premium materials all over. All the switches and controls including the grab handles and glove box are damped and soft to the touch. The panel gaps too are simply invisible, creating an illusion that the Focus was milled from a single block of metal.
The body’s solidity contributes to improve the Focus’ safety. Thanks to advanced active and passive safety equipment, it has been awarded full honors at European frontal and side-impact tests. The Focus features next-generation SRS airbags that lessen injury upon a collision. The seats design has also taken into consideration the trauma of an accident and as a result, incorporates under seat ramps to prevent the seat belts from sliding as well as whiplash mitigating headrests.
This emphasis on solidity and safety has resulted to a weight penalty of close to 100 kilograms over its next nearest segment rival. So, it’s just about appropriate that Ford chose to equip the Focus with their next-generation Duratec HE engines.
Standing for “DURAble TECnology High output low Emissions”, the Duratec engine series is Ford’s most expensive engine development program ever. The 1.8-liter motor under the Focus 4-door dishes out 125 horsepower and 165 Nm of torque—propelling this car with relative ease. It’s also designed to be maintenance-free with an expected life of 240,000 kilometers—that’s over ten years worth of hard driving!
The Focus’ engine is just an ingredient in the entire driving dynamics equation. In addition, the Mk. II Focus still features the trademark Control Blade independent rear suspension. Noted already for its ability to withstand lateral (improving handling precision) and longitudinal forces (improved bump absorption), the Focus made it even better with the introduction of hydro bushings (replacing rubber ones) and low friction double ball joints on the rear anti-roll bar (pioneered in the Mk. I Focus RS). The front MacPherson Struts meanwhile features twin tube gas struts and larger front dampers, all in all improving stability and precision.
Tackling the Batangas Racing Circuit at full speed proves little challenge to the Focus. It’s well adept at sudden steering inputs, continuing to be highly transparent and stable with its handling while offering a very comfortable ride. However, at the instance you’ll tend to overcook a corner, the Focus remains predictable thanks to powerful four-wheel disc brakes with an advanced Continental-Teves Mark 60 4-channel ABS system with EBD.
With that many improvements, anyone can foresee the Focus’ continued success, fulfilling the desire for enthusiast and novices alike. The original Focus was the first to win ‘Car of the Year’ in both sides of the Atlantic. And with Ford’s dedication to engineering, style and quality the new Focus will surely soar to even greater heights and deliver much, much more.
By Ulysses Ang | Photos By Ulysses Ang