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Motoring: Ford works to Focus on the improvements

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | December 5th, 2011

The last generation of the Ford Focus model sold in North America was, in a word, awful. It didn't look very good, had terribly uncomfortable seats and had the performance and handling of a UPS truck.

Internally, Ford knew they were about to serve the buying public a mish-mash curry made from bits and pieces of some of their other old models, and tried to dress it up with a heavy sprinkling of technology (like the SYNC system) to make the product look good.

Did it work? For a lot buyers, it did. The last Focus was not a huge seller, but it sold in big enough numbers for the production line to stay open.

However, Ford North America knew they could not pull off the same trick again with their next new Focus, and collaborated with their European division to come up with the model you see on this page today.

This model is now a Global model. Some technical and mechanical changes vary for different markets, but in general, anywhere in the world where Focus is sold, this is essentially the car you'll see.

From a visual perspective, it looks very nice. It is an attractive compact car in both its sedan and hatchback form. Personally, I much prefer the look of the hatchback version to that of its sedan sibling. My favourite design touch on this car is actually the fuel-filler door on the hatchback model and how beautifully it is integrated into the lines of its rear light cluster. Someone at Ford had their thinking cap on.

The interior is not as convincing. It looks fine and it has a lot of room, but the quality of the fit and finish is not great. It felt like they saved money on clips that hold pieces in place — not what I like seeing in a brand new car.

Thankfully, the seats have improved quite a lot over the old model, so they are fine on a long drive.

For driving you to your destination, the new Focus is currently only offered with one engine, a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder motor that produces 160 hp and 146 lb/ft of torque. This motor can either be equipped with a fivespeed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

My tester hatchback came with the manual gearbox. This gearbox has a nice feel to its throws and the clutch is very easy to use, but its engine is just not very willing. Honestly it felt like the car had half the power its manufacturer quoted. Progress on the road will not be very rapid.

Thanks to its excellent chassis and suspension set-up, the new Focus handles very well, and you can certainly carry a lot of speed through twists and turns — I just wish the powertrain would compliment this car's handling abilities, but with a turbo model on the horizon, that will address this issue.

Most people who buy cars like this are more interested in fuel economy rather than power. I averaged 8.6-litres/100km in my week, which is decent, but not a class leader in this category.

Prices for the new Focus start at $15,999 for the sedan "S" model, while the base hatchback is a better-equipped "SE" trim and it starts at $19,899. In general, a similarly equipped sedan is $900 cheaper than the hatchback model.

So what is the final verdict? The new Focus is much improved over the model it replaces, but some of its competition is better still. It's not bad and it's worth a close look if you're in the market for a compact car that looks good and handles well. Good job, Ford, now hurry up with the turbo model.
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