Ford Focus Sport Plus: Dynamic yet Comfortable

By Lee Pang Seng
THE Ford Focus is not a new ‘face’ here but it enjoyed only a small share of the market with the earlier models. The latest model may change all that, given its high level of standard features against the established rivals. And the package is not just mere trifles but practical items that were first introduced in premium class cars.

A welcome feature is the Active Park Assist that uses ultrasonic sensors to scan a parking space and then steer the car in, while the driver only need to use the accelerator and brake pedals accordingly. Those who find parallel parking difficult would find this feature useful. All they need to do is to press P Auto button at the bottom of the central dash panel, just below the air-cond fascia.

The other item that is just as practical is the Bluetooth system with voice command. It’s compatible with most smart handphones, except for the Apple iphones, with which you won’t enjoy the full functions available. You can make and receive calls via voice control once you activate the Voice Command. That’s hands-free driving for you.

There is also the Ford SYNC that complements the Bluetooth function. It has more than 10,000 voice recognitions to help operate your MP3 and handphone. With this item you can hold a conversation with several people, much like having a meeting while you drive. It can also read and reply your SMS (short messaging service) for you.

These are a few of the features that you don’t usually find in a car of this category. With Ford making them available in the Focus without asking a high price for the car, rivals may be forced to include them in future models to come. At RM125,386.80 on the road without insurance, the locally assembled Focus Sport Plus that we had a few days with certainly is an attractive buy.

The price justification is also backed up by the 2.0-litre (1999cc) engine. It’s a direct injection Ti-VCT GDI I-4 unit, which means it has twin-independent variable valve timing, double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. With direct fuel injection, the compression ratio is higher at 12.0:1. Power is respectable at 125kW (170PS) at 6500rpm and with 202Nm of torque peaking at 4400rpm. Drive goes to the front wheels via the Ford Powershift six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

We figure the Focus probably weighs about 1.3-1.4 tonnes (kerb) so the power-to-weight ratio is about right to give it a sprightly pace. It didn’t disappoint as it took off quickly when we stomped on the accelerator pedal. At the same time, using the same pedal gently enough torque was produced early to move around easily in urban centres. This effortless pace, when used often, should meet Ford’s combined mileage claim of 15.1km/l.

Ford says the Focus Sport Plus can top 207km/h and a brief dash saw the speedometer needle hitting 180km/h easy enough before we lift off the pedal. It ran with a stable footing at a fair trot on the highway, and like most modern cars, the only intrusion was the road roar and increasing level of air turbulence around the roof and door mirrors as we picked up speed.

We like the Focus’ dynamic pace through our regular winding stretches and corners. The Torque Vectoring Control probably played a part here: it applies slight braking force to the driven wheel on the inside of a corner to prevent slippage while the outer wheel gains traction and control. It allowed us to take the corners a bit faster while the four-wheel independent suspension – MacPherson strut front and multi-link ‘Control Blade’ rear – kept the car pretty level and predictable.

We also liked the way the suspension was tuned to absorb the impacts over potholed roads that we drove on daily. Except for the really deep ones and some nasty ruts, which led to hard thuds, everyone on board hardly complained about the bad road surfaces. The Focus Sport Plus we drove had 17-inch alloy wheels with 215/50 R17 tyres.

While on holiday in Sydney, Australia, late last year, a friend took us around in his new Focus Titanic with 18-inch wheels and slightly wider profile tyres. Surprisingly, the ride wasn’t as good. Road impacts were harsh and the ride was bumpier. We certainly didn’t enjoy the ride as a rear passenger. As the roads in Sydney were far better than those in Malaysia, we were surprised at how the Australian-tuned suspension was so noticeably different.

That aside, the Focus sold here should draw little complaints. The interior is spacious enough for five adults, with decent legroom and thigh support, and the boot is huge enough for family luggage on a long weekend holiday. Mention should also go to the Active Grille Shutter (it alters the lower front grille to control air flow to engine, reducing drag and improving fuel consumption); and Active City Stop (senses and measures distance to vehicle in front that had stopped and applies brakes if you don’t).

And of course, there is the push button start and convenient keyless lock and unlock feature merely by touching a button on the door handle. With such a high standard specification, Ford looks likely to make greater inroads here with the new Focus.

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