If good looks and practicality counted then the wagon should be the best seller in Ford Focus line-up, but that’s never going to happen in a small car market where hatchbacks consume most of sales pie, leaving wagons and sedans to survive on the sales crumbs.
A mid life overhaul of the current brings increased refinement and improved driver assistance technologies, that among other things take the hassle and guess work out of parallel parking. Enhanced Transitional Stability, an industry-first technology that can predict when a car might skid, and intervenes early to potentially prevent a loss of control is another major addition.
Visually the car sports a fresh new face in the form of a lower, wider stance and a new hood that sweeps toward the cars signature trapezoidal grille. More rectangular, elongated fog-lamps add to the bolder face of the Focus for 2015. The rear of the car has a sleeker fascia and tailgate arrangement, thinner tail lamps, and a sculpted rear spoiler.
The simplified interior offers a variety of new convenient storage options for a more comfortable driving experience. Among these are an adjustable console that fits a variety of bottles and cups, and can simultaneously hold a 1-litre water bottle and a 400 mL cup. Cabin quietness has gone up a good notch or two with increased sound-insulation, thicker side-window glass and improved engine insulation.
One feature Ford are heavily promoting with this revamped Focus is its cutting-edge technology to help drivers stay connected and in control. It’s equipped with Ford’s advanced connectivity system, SYNC 2, which offers a smarter and safer way to stay connected. The car’s climate controls, entertainment system, navigation system and a linked smartphone can be operated with natural voice commands. A centrally placed, high resolution, 8-inch touchscreen with colour-coded corners for easy menu navigation is easy to master even for the techno-phobic.
A Lane Keeping System features a large repertoire of tricks designed to keep both the driver and the vehicle on the straight and narrow. The star turn is the Driver Impairment Monitor, which alerts the driver when it detects impaired driving like drifting off course and sudden steering inputs – that may indicate that the driver is tired and should take a break. If the system makes that call, it flashes a warning on the instrument cluster, followed by an audible warning if the erratic driving continues. However for it to work drivers have to act on these warnings.
A smart piece of pro-active safety technology is Ford’s MyKey. This is no ordinary key. You can program it to reduce the maximum speed of the vehicle, give an earlier low-fuel warning and limit volume from of the in-car entertainment system.
Unlike the Focus five-door hatch that’s manufactured at a relatively new Ford plant in Thailand, the two-model wagon range offered here, is produced in Europe. In $33,890 entry-level form it’s uses a dated 92kw 1.6 litre petrol motor.
Surprisingly this version misses out on the modern and sophisticated 132kw 1.5 litre turbo charged Ecoboost engine that’s now standard in the hatchback. If you want decent performance and refinement and who doesn’t, the $39,840 2.0 litre turbo diesel provided for this road test is well worth the extra money. By small wagon standards it isn’t cheap when you consider the larger Skoda Octavia turbo diesel wagon clocks in with a price that’s only a few hundred dollars more than the Focus.
The two-litre turbo diesel musters 110kw of maximum power, a 10kw reduction on last years model. In real world driving this apparent drop in power makes no discernable difference as the engine’s torque output remains unchanged to provide consistent and effortless performance in the low to mid rev range. Long up hill slogs are swatted aside with ease by a motor that pulls with real purpose and vigour, even a fully laden state. This Peugeot designed and built unit is deservedly ranked among s the best in its class and that’s high praise, given the strong competition it’s pitted against.
Ford’s Powershift six-speed power shift automatic allows the engine to showcase its considerable muscle and talents, with crisp swift transfers between gears. There’s a sequential shift mode that provides clutch-less manual gear changes anytime the driver wants a more engaging gear changing experience. For me, because the transmission did such a good job when left to its own devices I was never tempted to use the sequential shift mode.
The wagon is roomier and more practical than the five-door hatch with load space a real stand out and its super accessible via a high lift tailgate. A low boot lip makes it easy to slip awkwardly shaped cargo into the generously proportioned load cavity. Rear passenger space is bit on the snug side and it feels like this has been a trade-off required to create a larger than average rear cargo compartment.
From behind the wheel you are greeted by a modern well thought out dashboard design, with clear and legible instruments controls that are positioned, so they are within easy reach or view of the driver.
The wagon has much the same on-road agility and razor sharp steering of the hatch. Ford’s superb blade control suspension is at the core of the big wraps the ride and handling of the Focus has enjoyed for more than a decade, and the test wagon showed it is still on top of its game. With each iteration of the Focus it has some how managed to raise the already high bar its’ set for road holding another good notch or two. While a few of its rivals may have closed the gap in the last two or three years, the Focus still has its nose comfortably in front of the chasing pack.
What’s the verdict? An accomplished if somewhat dated and pricey Euro wagon. With demand for wagon of this size quickly evaporating, this derivative of popular Focus may have limited shelf life here.
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