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July 13, 2012

First Drive: 2012 Ford Focus

Photos by Ulysses Ang and Ford Press
KRABI, THAILAND – A sweeping right-band bend appears on the horizon. You settle yourself into the bucket seat, brace your right foot against the dead pedal, and tighten your grip on the steering wheel. Do you slow down or speed up? A split-second later, you mash the throttle and take the bend. Your car remains planted. Secure. Without a tire squeal from the front Michelin tires. You crack a satisfied smile, and continue on with the rest of your journey. This is your new family car. This is the all-new Ford Focus.

More often than not, driving dynamics and family car aren’t mentioned in the same sentence. But what’s exactly what Ford did with the Focus. It introduced cutting-edge driving dynamics in a mass market car. The all-new Focus is no different. Riding on Ford’s new global C-car platform, the Focus retains the dynamism and stability of the previous model while adding better agility and comfort. This is achieved in three ways: first, the Focus has a highly rigid body, employing 55 percent high-strength steel. Second, the suspension system is retuned, with a thicker 23.5-mm front stabilizer bar, optimized damper valve tuning and bushings and a re-packaged rear Control Blade multi-link for excellent riding comfort. Lastly, is the addition of Torque Vectoring Control system which distributes the power between the driven wheels during cornering.

The difference is immediately apparent when the Focus starts rolling. Despite the sporty, almost-lowered stance, the Focus is much more comfortable over rougher surfaces, allowing it to soak potholes without transmitting too much shock into the cabin. The suspension between the 4-door and 5-door Focus is different, with the latter receiving a sportier tune at the expense of a slightly firmer ride. At lower speeds, the Focus is very “pointable”—allowing you navigate traffic with tremendous precision and accuracy. As the speeds pick up, and you lean into a corner, the Focus serves up a sharp turn-in with very little understeer. As the speeds go even higher, the Focus feels very planted, secure, and stable. Indeed, in one fell swoop, the all-new Focus has knocked out everyone (including its predecessor) off the fun-to-drive throne.

Aside from making fun-to-drive more mass market, the Focus also introduced a choice of body styles: a 4-door sedan and a 5-door hatchback. And while the previous Focus was considered a looker in its time, the new Focus is smoking hot. It brings Ford’s “kinetic design” to the next level and as a result, there’s no mistaking the Focus for anything else. Designed in parallel with each other, the 4-door and 5-door versions have a menacing fascia with a massive trapezoidal grille with blacked-out detailing. The wrapped headlights then carry your eyes around the side, where the Focus’s sloping shoulder line and subtle strake give it a sense of movement. Out back, the 4-door benefits from a remarkably short trunk deck with a nicely detailed lamp cluster; while the 5-door looks even sexier with a heavily sculpted rear fender and lamp cluster that coincidentally integrates the fuel door and an attractive roof spoiler. Finishing the look are 16-inch multi-spoke alloys on the 4-door Titanium+ and 17-inch split-spoke rims on the 5-door Sport+.

Opening the Focus requires no fumbling around for the key. Thanks to Smart Keyless Entry with Ford Power Start, it allows the driver to lock or unlock the doors and start the car without taking the key out of a bag or pocket. It can also lock or unlock the doors by the mere presence of the key.

Once inside, the Focus offers a nicely modern, easy-to-use interior that’s simply revolutionary. Although there’s no mention of added head, shoulder or knee room, the all-new Focus feels much more spacious than the model it replaces. The cabin is dominated by a large center cluster that is pushed outward and then upward, creating much more usable space in the front. The Sport+ model benefits from a charcoal black interior, creating a dynamic and young appearance while the Titanium+ model has Asian-exclusive two-tone beige and black interior for a much more mature feel. The seats both front and aft, offer excellent bolstering and support. The driver’s seat also offers lumbar support adjustment—something rarely seen, if at all, in the compact car segment.

The excellent seats serve as an appetizer to the Focus’s driver-centric interior. All the major controls, from the steering wheel to the position of the controls to the font-type of the instruments are all designed to be understood and operated at a glance. The instrument panel is deeply-set and large, supplemented by a full-color LCD screen nestled between the tachometer and speedometer. This screen can be set up to display a variety of information such as the trip meter, fuel economy reading, Ford’s very own Eco Mode, and a host of others. Handy 4-way controls on the steering wheel makes the screen easy to use and easier to set up.

Aside from flipping through the various screens in the multi-information display panel, the 4-way control on the steering wheel activates the Focus’s crowning addition: Ford SYNC. This is the next-generation in hands-free, voice-activated in-car connectivity which allows the Focus to connect to almost any mobile phone or digital media player via Bluetooth and USB. It then allows the driver (or even passenger) to make calls (including conference calling), reply to text message or play tunes via different voice commands. Ford SYNC works most of the time, with the system actually learning and adopting over time.

The Focus’s in-car connectivity is bolstered by what’s found under the hood. The previous-generation Focus set the standard in fuel-efficiency with its choice of E20-capable gasoline engines and the TDCi engine. In the new Focus, Ford blended these two engines into a brand-new 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine with twin independent camshaft timing (Ti-VCT) and gasoline direct injection (GDI). The engine purrs silently on idle, but thanks to 170 horsepower and 202 Nm of torque, the Focus can hit its stride with considerable ease. The dual-clutch PowerShift automatic is responsive, and has none of the low-speed refinement issues that plagued the previous model. Plus, the Focus has a manual shift override called Select Shift, though there are no paddle shifters. On the hilly roads around Krabi, the Focus can reach speeds approaching 220 km/h, but those wanting a more conservative drive can activate either the cruise control or even a built-in speed limiter. And despite the spirited high-speed driving, it managed to return an impressive 13.33 km/L (Ford quotes 14.90 km/L). And for those wondering, there are no current plans to re-introduce the TDCi engine due to weak sales in the Philippines.

The high-speed capabilities of the Focus notwithstanding, it’s also equally adept at handling the urban environment with a slew of smart technologies. First is Active City Stop which uses LIDAR to monitor the road ahead for traffic and then applies the brakes automatically if it detects that the car in front has stopped unexpectedly. It must be noted that this system doesn’t work on pedestrians, animals, or even bikes since it only picks out traffic with two reflectors (the brake lamps) and a number plate. Second is Active Park Assist in which the Focus can parallel park itself totally hands-free using sensors around the car to detect a suitable parking space just 20 percent larger than the car. Like Active City Stop, Active Park Assist is eerie and somewhat counter-intuitive for seasoned drivers, but it’s a helpful tool for the novice and those who consider parallel parking their Waterloo. Lastly is the Blind Spot Information System or BLIS which uses radar sensors on either side of the car that detects vehicles in the Focus’s blind spot and then issues a corresponding warning (an orange light) on the side view mirror when changing lanes or parking with limited visibility.

The bottom line with the all-new Ford Focus is that buyers should no longer be surprised with the notion of having a compact car with luxury sedan features, sports car-like handling and eye-popping fuel economy. While its competitors have squeezed every cent by offering discontented cars with cheap interiors and dull driving dynamics for the sake of profit, the all-new Ford Focus proves yet again that family cars can have a pulse. Thanks to Ford’s strategy of developing its car globally, they’ve served up the perfect car for those who want more than just basic transportation. This car certainly delivers more kilometers per liter and more giggles per apex.


  1. Thanks for the early review of the Focus.
    So no EasyFuel system on ASEAN Focus?


    1. Hi AM.

      No the ASEAN Focus doesn't have the EasyFuel system. According to Ford, it was a conscious decision given that the market usually has "full service stations". And gas attendants just get confused with the EasyFuel system.

    2. I see, that's a good move for Ford.
      I did hear that a lot of Fiesta owners here had to educate the gas attendants on how to use the EasyFuel system. :D

      - AM

    3. Well, despite being a global Focus, that's one of the changes when they mentioned. 20% of the Focus's parts are unique to each market segment/region.

  2. When will you give a full review... The preview is awesome ;)

    1. When I get to drive it here in the Philippines. Currently, Ford is using their two test drive units for a campaign series called "Start It. Share It. Win It." You can read more about that by searching it in our blog.

  3. should i buy a ford focus hatch sport or a kia sportage 2WD GAS?


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