|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
In the Focus’s defense, no other car can manage a better fuel figure, bar a hybrid, so while it can’t be concluded that this engine tech squeezes more out of every drop, this can be said instead: it’s back. After being overshadowed by the Japanese in the compact car game, it’s now back as the segment’s best balanced choice.
Everything starts with the looks. The 2016 Focus was first glimpsed as a 5-door hatchback during its Adelaide drive, and now, here it is as a 4-door sedan. In this subdued shade of Magnetic Metallic, it actually looks more executive than compact. Instead of relying on swoopy lines, Ford has retained its highly angular shape making it a standout in the process. Designers opted to make the Focus look wider than it seems and this starts with the new front-end. The simpler treatment is certainly more pleasing to the eye; but why they HIDs omitted for the update remains puzzling. At the back, the re-shaped trunk lid, tail light cluster, and standard spoiler do the same trick as well. Finally, this top-of-the-line sedan finally gets the wheel and tire combination it deserves: 18-inch Y-spoke rims with Goodyear Asymmetric 235/40R18 tires.
Inside, Ford engineers have finally understood the concept that more buttons don’t necessarily mean easier to use. The once confusing dashboard design has been de-cluttered with less buttons and controls without sacrificing on use and functionality. The controls on the center stack are now clustered rationally with the 8-inch screen on top, the audio system below that, and finally the climate controls just in front of the shifter. Ford has always harped on how SYNC 2 enables you to use natural voice commands, but even without it, all the physical controls are (finally) easy to use. The 4-way split-screen is lag-free as well. Some controls have migrated to the three-spoke steering wheel, but they’re easy to find perhaps with the exception of the cruise control switches since it packs six buttons in such a small footprint.
The Focus has always been criticized for its poor space utilization, and it’s no different here. Personal space, most especially for those seated at the back, remains at a premium. So while ferrying five adults in comfort is a challenge, the seats, front or back, offer best-in-class support. This means the four adults who find themselves in a Focus can revel in comfort (except for knee space) even when stuck in traffic for hours. The revised center stack and transmission tunnel also frees up much more cubby holes than before. Interestingly, the front cup holders offer a movable partition and a sliding mechanism enabling you to accommodate a one-liter bottle and a 400-ml cup at the same time. For this iteration, interior materials have been upped a notch with more soft-touch plastics and crisp, solid feeling controls dotting the cabin. Unfortunately, Ford went for the traditional route and opted for a two-tone black and beige interior for the Titanium+ creating a strong disconnect to the otherwise sporty vibe (even the interior ambient lighting is red).
The same disconnected feeling, though not as strong, can be felt in the Focus’s steering. It still is one of the sportiest compacts out there, but the recalibrated steering does sacrifice a lot of linearity for a sportier feel. At sudden turns, the steering feels like it’s encashing a check that the chassis can’t handle. The steering’s quick reflexes aren’t met with a go-kart-like chassis. Instead, there’s good progressive lean and great control from suspension itself. It’s as if the chassis value more precise, more dedicated inputs rather than quick tugs from the steering wheel. Still, for most users, they’ll likely applaud the move because it gives a “sportier” feel even a low speeds. It’s also hard to beat the Focus when it comes to downright suspension tuning. When it comes to delivering the riding goods, no other car comes close. There’s no crashiness despite the low profile rubber. If there’s one complaint though, there’s audible tire noise at higher speed.
The Focus also has features such as an enhanced Active Park Assist. There’s little need to use it given the excellent visibility, but in case you’re parking challenged, this enhanced version does work in both parallel and perpendicular spaces. It also actively scans for spots constantly allowing you find a suitable parking space quicker. Oddly enough, though the Focus has front and rear proximity sensors, the 8-inch screen doesn’t offer a rear view camera—that’s a waste of display space.
Under the hood of the 2016 Focus is a now a single engine line: a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine equipped with EcoBoost. With direct injection, variable cam timing, and turbocharging, it packs a mean punch: 180 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 240 Nm of torque from as low as 1,600 rpm. Sadly, because of the APEC traffic there was little chance to experience the engine’s capabilities. However, one short full throttle squirt did result in satisfying grunt with a split-second of torque steer action (before the stability control intervened). Still, the motor is mighty smooth and refined.
Adding to the smoother nature is the adoption of a conventional 6-speed automatic. Replacing the clunky dual-clutch Power Shift, this traditional torque converter gearbox finally gives the Focus added refinement most especially when crawling in traffic. There’s a touch of jerkiness when coaxing the gearbox to downshift quickly, but for the most part, it’s a good ally to the engine’s wide power band. Though equipped with paddle shifters and a sport mode, there’s no need to use them since the gearbox responds beautifully to keep the engine singing at its sweet spot.
The gates of hell did open in Metro Manila during APEC week and that’s certainly a missed opportunity to try out the capabilities of the 2016 Ford Focus. Despite being stuck puttering around in bumper-to-bumper traffic, the revamped Focus shines with its improved interior experience. Not everyone’s a fan of beige for sure, but the ergonomics, comfort, and refinement made the daily four-hour commute much more bearable. And though it didn’t exactly return the convincing fuel economy figure you were looking for, it’s worth giving this car a second shot. Hopefully this time, traffic cooperates, because that EcoBoost is shaping up to be mighty fine.
2016 Ford Focus 1.5 EcoBoost Titanium+
|Ownership||2016 Ford Focus 1.5 EcoBoost GTDI Titanium+|
|Year Introduced||2012 (Refreshed: 2016)|
|Vehicle Classification||Compact Sedan|
|Body Type||4-door sedan|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Direct Injection, Turbo|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||180 @ 6,000|
|Nm @ rpm||240 @ 1,600 - 5,000|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 91~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,409|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Control Blade Multi-Link|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Goodyear Asymmetric 235/40R18 (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Rear|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Seating Adjustment||Electric (Driver)|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|Climate Control||Yes, Dual|
|No. of Speakers||9, Sony|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|