The Future is Now: Ford Focus (2007)
They say, the engine is the heart of the automobile; and to a great degree, it’s often the deciding factor that separates a merely good car from a great one. In the history of the automobile thus far, we’ve seen great leaps in technology, making cars more reliable, faster and comfortable than ever before. In recent times though, there’s a paradigm shift towards the environment and ways to preserve and protect it. With so much more cars running on our roads than ever before, engine development is now being focused on minimizing the impact on our planet, without reducing our dependency on the automobile. One such solution is diesel technology.
Diesel engines offer much better fuel economy and 15 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to petrol, primarily because of the efficiency in the engine’s design. Despite the advantages, the higher cost of production combined with the sulfur content in the diesel fuel itself (more expensive to refine) meant they merely served as an alternative to the mainstream petrol engine. However, the spiraling cost of fuel in the 1970’s meant that diesel engines once again became the economical solution, especially for the European makes, which by this time, brought sulfur levels in diesel fuels down.
Currently, more than 65 percent of cars in Europe are diesel-fed and one excellent example that crossed the ocean to our shores is the Ford Focus TDCi. Like a sophisticated aristocrat, it arrives understated—with just subtle reminders of a different heart beating under the hood. It shares its taut lines and sporty styling with the 2.0 Sport, with the exception of the uniquely shaped front bumper, undoubtedly designed to feed and cool the turbo-diesel more efficiently. Aside from that, the only sure way to tell the TDCi apart from the petrol is the available dark blue color dubbed “Ocean Blue”, which is available only on the TDCi.
Editor's note: is seems that all 2007 Ford Focus models will get this revised front grille as well as side mirror mounted indicators also.
Inside, there’s little differentiation too—a good move given that there’s nothing wrong with the Focus’s interior in the first place. This means the TDCi is impressively featured for the price: black sport leather seats, a thick-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel and aluminized touches dot the cabin. That said though, interior space is much more of a premium here compared to others in its class.
While it looks and feels every bit like its petrol counterpart inside and out, brining the engine to life reveals a different story altogether. On idle, the distinguishable diesel clatter replaces the typical petrol purr. In this application though, the chatter’s been hushed to a minimum thanks to excellent noise insulation and use of common rail technology. All in all, the sound doesn’t intrude into the cabin and can be masked with the use of the Focus’s impressive sound system. Fans of stratospherically high engine speeds will be disappointed with the DuraTorq engine which maxes out at 4,000 rpm (its petrol counterpart does 6,000 rpm). However, it still manages to exact 134 horsepower (just 9 shy of the Focus 2.0) and 340 Nm of torque (equivalent of two Focus 1.8).
Thanks to the intrinsic properties of diesel engines, the Focus TDCi benefits from a wide torque band, meaning this car never runs out of acceleration prowess. A slight blip of the throttle sends this car rocketing forward with a locomotive-like efficiency, down to the feeling of being pushed into the seat cushions. The nicely spaced 6-speed manual is an ally too in exacting even more performance with its slick shift action and positive clutch engagement—a far cry from the grabby shifter/clutch from the discontinued Focus 1.6. However, the spacing between gears though is geared more towards speed than acceleration meaning the Focus TDCi won’t set drag strips on fire, but when it comes to everyday performance—it does a pretty fine job.
Despite the heavier engine upfront, the Focus TDCi still manages to keep its lightning reflexes around Manila’s tight roads. The all-around independent suspension (featuring the trademark Control-Blade rear struts) offers a great balance between riding comfort and handling. The electro-hydraulic power steering system offers finger light operation without feeling too boosted or dead. On the other hand, the brakes do an ample job of halting the Focus TDCi thanks to a nice, solid pedal feel and all-around disc brakes.
Ford claims 21.7 km/L on the Focus TDCi, and it’s quite possible on long stretches of road such as the NLEX or SLEX. In the city though, when bumper to bumper traffic’s the norm, the car squeezes out 13.33 km/L. After traveling 500 kilometers on varied road types, we averaged 14.50 km/L—not bad considering the amount of power and torque available.
When it first launched in the Philippines, the Ford Focus indeed revolutionized the compact car segment, delivering European levels of refinement and handling at affordable prices. With the introduction of the turbo-diesel engine though, Ford has brought the playing field to a much higher level. If Coke Light delivers both good taste and no calories, then the Focus TDCi offers both sporty performance and excellent fuel economy.
By Ulysses Ang | Photos by Ulysses Ang