It’s no longer the newest and most exciting small-car on the block. But the Ford Focus is still keeping an eye on business with a diesel-powered wagon version.
Base price: $40,840.
Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre turbo diesel four, 120kW/340Nm, 6-speed automated dual-clutch gearbox, front-drive, Combined economy 5.3 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4556mm long, 1505mm high, 2648mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 476-1502 litres, fuel tank 60 litres, 16-inch alloy wheels on 215/55 tyres.
We like: Torquey engine, engaging chassis, practical load bay.
We don’t like: Unrefined, weird pushbutton manual gearchange mode, aging interior.
How it rates: 6/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Things change awfully fast in the automotive world. A few short years ago, the Ford Focus was the critical choice in the small-car segment for ability, equipment and value for money. New Zealand Car of the Year in 2012, in fact.
It’s now been overtaken by newer rivals. For example, the Mazda3 seems several generations ahead on design and engineering. Even the humble Toyota Corolla has dramatically upped its game in terms of styling and dynamic ability.
So the Focus is no longer head of the class, but it is still an appealing machine. Especially if you’re a family or business buyer in the market for a small estate. The Focus Trend wagon is available with both petrol and turbo diesel engines – the latter a torquey 2.0-litre unit, making for a good drive and excellent fuel economy.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? A little crude, but effective. The Focus wagon’s turbo-diesel engine is not what you’d call ultra-refined, but it does have a supremely relaxed power delivery to offset the compression-ignition rattle.
Ford’s PowerShift transmission is a dual-clutch unit that is impressive in urban running, with smooth takeup in city driving and parking, but it doesn’t offer the rapid shifting at higher speeds that rival gearboxes of this type offer. If it’s a case of opportunity cost, perhaps it’s better this way around for such a practical vehicle with fleet/business applications.
The manual-shift control is a bit weird, though. You don’t get paddles or even a separate gate: instead, there’s a tiny switch on the side of the lever that you click to change up or down. Really, it’s too fiddly to bother with. Focus is still an entertaining car to drive, with communicative steering and a sporty chassis for what is a mainstream wagon. Even this lower-specification Trend model has torque vectoring, an electronic system which can automatically apply braking to a driven wheel to apply more torque to the other, enhancing cornering speed and stability.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The dense dashboard layout, with its layered curves and busy switchgear, is a bit out of step with current tastes and technology. The centre console, for example, with its ornate ‘fan’ of buttons, was supposedly inspired by the design of mobile phones. When was the last time you had a cellphone with buttons?
The Trend doesn’t even have Ford’s Sync voice control system, so sans a touch-screen the switchgear demands that you do things old-school style.
Nonetheless, there’s a good feel to the Focus cabin. The chunky steering wheel is nicely shaped (Ford has always been rather driver-focused, if you’ll pardon the pun) and the styling has a bit of a cockpit feel to it. Decent seats, too.
The Focus is still a really practical wagon where it counts. The rear-seat squabs tilt forward to allow the backs to fold flat, giving you a really useful load space for longer items.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? There’s no denying that the Focus is looking and feeling just a bit crude by 2015 standards; there’s a facelift model coming this year and it’s badly needed.
But the car does still have a certain something and if you’re in the market for a small wagon – especially a grunty diesel one – it should be on your shopping list.
Problem is, that list will still be quite long. Mazda might not offer a Three wagon and the Corolla load-lugger is only a glorified Yaris, but Hyundai and Holden both have rival diesel models and of course there’s the elephant in the room whenever we’re talking small cars: the outstanding Volkswagen Golf, which competes head-on with these mainstream models on price and is as impressive in wagon form as it is anywhere else in the market.
- Blind spot warning: No
- Lane guidance: No
- Cruise control: Yes
- Automatic lights/wipers: No
- Intelligent headlights: No
- Parking radar: Rear
- Self-parking technology: No
- Head-up display: No
- Satellite navigation: No
- Keyless entry/start: No
- Stop-start: No
- Air conditioning: Manual
- Heated/ventilated seats: No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: No
- Leather upholstery: No
- Power boot or tailgate: No
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
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