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Ford Focus

 

In a twist on Henry Ford's old slogan that you can have any colour so long as it's black, Ford New Zealand has decided local buyers can have any Focus, so long as it's a 2.0-litre five-door hatchback.

The German-designed, South African-built Focus will be marketed here in three variants - standard, luxury Ghia and more sporty Zetec - all of them with five-door bodywork and 107kW four-cylinder 2.0-litre engines.

Ford New Zealand marketing manager Graeme Whickman says the decision to go with one body style was made mainly to ensure the car reached the market quickly. It goes on sale here just months after its European debut rather than the four years it took for the older model Focus to reach NZ.

Sourcing cars from South Africa means Ford NZ couldn't get station wagon or two-door versions of the Focus.

Whickman says four-door sedans were available from the South African factory, but Ford NZ had decided to offer only the hatchback. He says there was little customer demand for the old model four-door sedan.

He referred to the no-sedan decision as "a judgement call. It was a crystal ball-gazing decision."

Kiwi Focuses are coming from the South African factory because it's in the same Asia/Pacific region of the Ford world.

Whickman says, too, that if Ford NZ had decided to source its Focus models from Europe Kiwis would be "waiting for a later arrival" of the model.

"Our preference was to get the new Focus in at the right time compared to (what happened with) the last model. We decided to take a risk on (marketing) no diesels, no wagons."

Whickman didn't say exactly how long it would have taken for European-sourced Focuses to reach New Zealand.

"There are countries in Europe which don't have the new Focus now. We would be well down the list to get a (production) programme to ship 200 cars a month."

A chunkier look
The new Focus' basic styling is an evolution of the previous Focus'; but the new car is slightly bigger and much chunkier.

It has a solid and purposeful look, especially in Zetec form with more aggressive front-end detailing.

The new Focus' A-pillar (which frames the windscreen) is 100mm forward of the old model's and is set at a steeper angle.

That has improved both cabin space and crash protection.

The nose sits lower and is steeply raked with the key lines of the body structures sweeping up towards the rear, helping create an athletic profile.

The new bodyshell is eight percent stiffer in torsion, and the car rides on a 40mm wider track and 25mm longer wheelbase, all factors intended to reinforce the Focus' reputation for fine driving dynamics.

The 2005 Focus includes a new bodywork feature, the front-mounted Grille Opening Reinforcement (GOR).

It's a mounting point for components that include headlights, bonnet, fenders and grille.

Ford designers say it eliminates the potential for variation in lines or gaps, as each of the components mounted on it clip to mounting points integrated into the GOR design.

The high-strength steel GOR also contributes to occupant safety in high speed crashes and aids the overall structural rigidity. Extending from fender to fender, it also hosts interior components including hoses and electrical wiring.

The new Focus' interior is 140mm wider than the outgoing model, and is 25mm longer, providing increased legroom for rear seat passengers.

The original model's 998mm headroom is retained in Focus, and the cargo load length rises from 812mm to 923mm. Luggage space rises from 350 litres to 385.

The driving position has been deigned to give a cockpit-like ambience, and the steering column is adjustable for reach and rake.

The centre console has been completely redesigned to provide controllable air-conditioning to the rear cabin.

Soft lining is used in the ceiling and full carpeting, in a variety of colours, is standard.

Instrumentation includes speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, temperature gauge and warning lights. A trip computer is standard across the range. It indicates average fuel use, distance to empty, average speed and external air temperature.

What you get

Focus hatchback: five-speed manual ($29,990) and four-speed automatic ($31,690)
Standard equipment includes air-conditioning, single-disc CD player, driver and front passenger airbags, ABS brakes and power front windows.

In addition to the optional four-speed automatic transmission with Sequential Sports Shift, Ford New Zealand will also offer an option pack for the base model.

The Smooth Pack includes front seat-mounted side airbags, body coloured power mirrors, cruise control with leather steering wheel, and rear power windows.

A 16-inch alloy wheel option costs around $2000.

Zetec hatchback: five-speed manual only ($35,990)
The Zetec adds to the base model's specification with 17-inch alloy wheels, front foglights, a unique sports suspension, stylish body kit, six-disc in-dash CD player, traction control and an anti-theft alarm.

Focus Ghia: four-speed automatic only ($36,990)
The Focus four-speed auto comes with Sequential Sports Shift, and the Ghia also has a six-disc in-dash CD player, six-way power adjustable driver's seat, dual zone climate control air-conditioning, unique 16-inch alloy wheels and an alarm.

Cloth upholstery is standard, but a leather option can be ordered for an extra $1500.

 Talking technically
The 2005 Focus' engine is an all-new 2.0-litre Duratec 16-valve four-cylinder.

It delivers 107kW of power at 6000rpm and peak torque of 185Nm at 4500rpm.

Ford says it will deliver fuel economy of 7.1 litres/100km with the manual gearbox; that's down from 8.7 litres/100km on the old 2.0-litre engine.

It quotes a similar reduction for the automatic version, dropping from 9.5 litres/100km on the old engine to 8.0 l/100km on the new one.

The engine uses high-lift camshafts, and pistons with indented pockets to allow for sufficient valve clearance. Engine knock sensors, revised intake ports and a new equal track length intake manifold are designed for efficiency and reliability.

The new Focus has electro-hydraulic power-assisted steering makes low speed manoeuvres easier while preserving precision on the open road.

The new Focus' brakes are bigger. The front disc rotors are now 278mm by 25mm (260mm by 22mm previously); rears are now 265mm by 11mm (252 by 10).

ABS, incorporating EBD, is standard fitment on all models.

The Zetec also has traction control.

Ford says the new brakes provide more feel, better emergency stopping power and longer brake pad life.

The strut-type front suspension has larger dampers for a better compromise between ride comfort and handling stability.

The rear suspension
Is a developed version of Ford's Control Blade set-up that debuted on the original Focus.

Safety a priority
Ford has engineered the Focus' bodyshell to provide a strong passenger safety cell.

Crush zones help route energy away from the occupants in a crash and help protect them from objects intruding into the cockpit.

The body is built from variable-gauge laser-welded panels of high strength steel.

All models have dual front airbags and the Zetec and Ghia also have seat-mounted side airbags (optional on the entry level hatch).

Seatbelt pretensioners with load-limiting retractors are standard as are child seat mounting points.

Focus in focus
The radiator grille is mounted to the front bumper for increased rigidity. It includes the same bonnet release system as its predecessor, with the Blue Oval badge swivelling to allow key access to unlock the bonnet release.

Focus buyers can choose from eight body colours. There are two solid colours - Satin White and Colorado Red - and five metallics - Dawn Blue, Jeans Blue, Black Sapphire, Pure Silver and Ruby Red and Oyster Silver.

Kiwi diesel car fans may be able to get their hands on a Focus oiler at some point in the future. Ford NZ marketing chief Graeme Whickman says that if proposed improvements to the quality of local diesel fuel come into being, Ford NZ may import diesel Focuses. If the fuel quality improves, "you'll probably see some diesels running around," he says.

Focus on the road
Ford makes much of the new Focus' abilities as a car for the keen driver, and after initial acquaintance with the range we think that claim is pretty well on the mark.

We drove all four versions - standard hatch manual and auto, Ghia auto and Zetec manual - for brief stints during the model's media launch last week.

And we got a chance to clock up a couple of hundred kilometres in a Zetec on more familiar roads.

The general impression is of very sound cars and a well-rounded range, despite only one body style being offered in NZ - a five-door hatchback.

Most of the media launch fleet were ultra-low mileage cars, and we suspect the engines will get a little livelier as they loosen up.

The Focus nameplate replaced the venerable Escort in Ford's range of model names, and both the new and previous Focus live up to the reputation for good-to-drive Ford small cars that began with the 1968 Mark 1 Escort.

The Escort Mark 1 offered safe, predictable handling in standard form, with high levels of roadholding despite the simple front strut, solid axle rear suspension.

Suspensions have become increasingly refined since the late 1960s, and the Focus' strut front/control blade independent rear set-up provides excellent grip and a lively sporty feel that would delight any Escort driver.

The Focus' electro-hydraulic steering provides good feel - not always a given with this sort of system as the lifeless, arcade game-like steering of Renault's otherwise excellent Megane shows.

And it's a communicative, sporty feel that is as good as the direct and precise rack-and-pinion steering of the Escort Mark 1.

Of course the Focus is a much more sophisticated car than its rear-drive ancestor, yet it provides a driving character that is in keeping with the tradition the Escort started.

The four-speed automatic gearbox fitted to the Ghia and the base model Focus shifted smoothly and cleanly, though we found it better to flick over into the manual mode to hold lower ratios on demanding roads.

Standard equipment is good, and we wouldn't feel short-changed by the base model's specification - except for the manual-wind rear windows.

We preferred the cloth upholstered Ghia to the leather-optioned model, finding the type of leather used to be a little slippery.

Our pick of the range, though, is the Zetec with the slick and fast-shifting five-speed manual gearbox (the same one used in the Ford Mondeo and Jaguar X-Type).

The Zetec has sports-oriented suspension tuning, and it showed with a greater precision. The car turns-in to corners beautifully and the steering has a nice, direct feel.

Roadholding is very strong and on a selection of favourite roads, the Zetec was extremely entertaining.

It has a nice, solid, predictable feel, and will corner confidently at high speed.

Despite the low kilometres, the engine provided good punch and the gear ratios got the best out of it.

Though it's more sports-oriented than the other two Focus models, the Zetec is not an out-and-out hot hatch, and it can sometimes get a little tip-toey and nervous as it nears its grip limits.

But there's little bodyroll and overall the car is a good compromise.

I found the ride quality fine. It's firmish, though I'd accept that in return for the car's handling abilities. The regular passenger, though, found the ride quality a little too firm - a criticism that has been levelled at the new Focus by British road testers.

In all, the Focus seems a good advance on the original model without compromising on that car's excellent dynamics.

On initial acquaintance we could live happily with a Focus Zetec in the garage.

- Mike Stock


Auto Trader New Zealand