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Ford Focus Titanium Sync

 

It's fair to say that the Ford Focus Titanium has had dibs on technology leadership in the small-car class.

With good stuff like adaptive cruise control, bi-xenon headlights with cornering illumination, PowerShift dual-clutch transmission, automatic parking and satellite navigation as standard, there's really nothing that can match the Titanium in its segment.

It doesn't hurt that the Ford is arguably still the best car in the class, full-stop. After all, the Focus range is the reigning New Zealand Car of the Year.

But you can't have too much of a good thing, apparently. Focus has been upgraded for 2013 and the Titanium in particular gets even more high-tech. It now boasts Active City Stop, an autonomous braking system that will act to prevent a nose-to-tail collision at up to 30km/h.

The technology is from former Ford subsidiary Volvo of course, but the Blue Oval claims the Focus is the first car under $50,000 to have it. They're wrong, as the just-launched Volvo V40 (starting at $49,990) has City Stop. But it's a worthy addition nonetheless.

Other upgrades for Focus Titanium include full leather upholstery, a new-design body kit, reversing camera (also on Sport) and the Sync system (on all Focus models).

Sync is the really big news, actually. It's a next-generation voice control system that understands not just words but individual letters, which means that it can analyse and understand natural speech patterns. It understands 150 different commands and seems remarkably intuitive.

Sync acts on cellphone and media functions. For example, if you have a contact called Henry in your phonebook, all you need to do is press the voice control button, say "Phone: call Henry" and Sync does the rest. Conference calls are also possible.

The interaction with your portable music player is even more impressive. You can instruct Sync to play an artist or even a specific track. For example: "Play track: Blunderbuss" will get the audio system to fire up your favourite Jack White track.

Based on first impressions, it really does work and you really can talk in a natural voice. The only real drawbacks are that track names don't work if the device by Bluetooth (you need a cable for that) and if your iPod is packed full of tracks like mine (120gb worth), not all Sync functions are available.

So that's a lot about crashing and talking, not a lot about driving. The extra equipment has come with the change in sourcing from Europe to Thailand, but in all other respects the Focus is the same brilliant car to drive.


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