I recently told you about the full specification and pricing details for the 2019 Ford Focus range. Now I’ve had the chance to actually get behind the wheel of the Trend and ST-Line spec hatch and wagon. The conditions through Victoria’s scenic Yarra Valley and Kinglake area were unfortunately diabolical, due to a substantial downpour. But there’s little doubt the 2019 Focus is a substantial step-up over the outgoing model.
What Is It?
The 2019 model is the fourth generation of the Focus nameplate. That very badge immediately sees me drift off into a dreamy land occupied by the epic Focus RS hot hatch. But of course, the vast majority of Focus models are simply humble, yet fun and well sorted, cars to drive. Ford say it’s a vehicle for the young and young at heart. But I’d argue it’s for anyone who simply enjoys driving.
There are four variants on offer, starting with the familiar Trend followed by an SUV inspired Active version, pumped up ST-Line models and the flagship Titanium. We won’t get a crack at the Titanium or Active until next year. The Focus range is powered by a three-cylinder 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine that really does bat above its average, but more on that shortly.
But think of the new Focus as a clean white sheet of paper, everything is brand new from the ground up. The overall look is familiar, but upon closer inspection it’s a whole new game.
Behind the Wheel
First up the Focus has come a long way when it comes to the interior. Ford cabins have always left me wanting a little more, lacking the sophistication of rivals such as Mazda. But this effort goes a long way to winning me over. The actual dash has been pushed forward by 100mm. Gone is the central console that would jut forward with its five million buttons. The gear shifter has been replaced by a rotary dial (or e-shifter) and Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system now occupies an 8.0-inch floating tablet style display. I rate the cabin alongside the likes of the new 2019 Toyota Corolla and Hyundai i30 in terms of overall presentation and quality, from the base up.
The car is said to be stronger, stiffer by 20 per cent and lighter by up to 88kg. All variants score drive modes now – ECO, Normal and Sport. The Active model that wasn’t on show but will launch next year also includes Trail and Slippery programs. Each model has its own version of an aggressive grill, with adjustable vents that open and close to improve aerodynamics at higher speeds.
The Focus is no doubt a well sorted car. Guy Mathot, who is the Focus Vehicle Dynamics Manager, performs his magic at the company’s testing facility in Belgium, while the car itself is built in Germany. As a result, it is inherently a decent steer, but this really depends on what you want from your daily drive. The ST-Line suspension tune sits 10mm lower than others in the range.
The result is better body control and generally more engaging handling traits. However, as I discovered after an extended drive through Victoria’s regional and alpine areas, it can eventually become a tad too firm on poor surfaces. Jumping into the base Trend reveals a more compliant ride, although it is occasionally ungainly at higher speeds on longer sweeping bends and undulating surfaces. To be honest I only had a short stint in the ST-Line wagon on offer, but I found it hard to detect any noticeable differences compared with the hatch version on the road.
The conditions for most of our drive were exceptionally wet, so it’s hard to totally evaluate what the car is or isn’t capable of. However, grip levels remained solid and the car never offered up any real surprises, predictability is a good thing in this area! The steering has been deliberately tuned to have less friction, or less of a resistance type feel to it. This move is my only area of concern. I think in general Aussies like a bit more feel in this department, but there is a bit of a disconnect between your hands and the front wheels at times.
Performance wise the 1.5-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost engine gets the job done, better than you might expect. It’s more than capable of safe overtaking manoeuvres without having to really nail your timing. On ST-Line models the engine note is actually quite beefy, this may be due to having a twin exhaust pipe as opposed to a single pipe sticking out the back like on the Trend. The latter sounds far more like a three-cylinder, popping away at idle missing the base note of the ST-Line edition.
The three-cylinder 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine produces 134kW/240Nm via an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters. Importantly the torque arrives early from 1600rpm. An eight-speed automatic is the only transmission on offer. Ford says that 92 per cent of customers elected to run with the automatic in the previous model, hence the lack of a manual. It did hesitate a couple of times during my drive, including a couple of clunks here and there at lower speeds. But overall it seems pretty slick.
Ford’s SYNC 3 supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. Other features that may woo tech lovers include DAB+, Wi-Fi hotspot compatibility and a 180-degee reversing camera. Safety features also abound with Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane keeping aid with lane departure warning and even post-impact braking to stop you catapulting into another obstacle after crashing. As you move up the range a wireless charging pad for compatible smartphones is added in ST-Line models and beyond.
The Ford Focus Trend hatch starts from $25,990. Moving up into ST-Line territory sees the hatch begin at $28,990 or $30,990 for the wagon. The Titanium tops out at $34,490. The entire range is backed by a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty. The first four services cost $299 up to 60,000km. Fuel economy is rated at 6.4L/100km, I averaged mid 9.0’s but that’s no surprise.
Why Would You Buy One?
It’s funny you know, Ford says that the Focus is for the “young and young at heart”. Well during our stay at the Healesville RACV Country Club in Victoria I was surrounded by a bunch of senior citizens at one point.
I was in the process of taking pictures of the Focus when a group of tourists who happened to be of Asian descent bombarded me with questions about the car. They were very well versed on the topic given they owned the previous model. Acting as almost a Ford salesman I proceeded to list off some of the new features. But a man simply noted a few things. The fact he could sit three of his mates easily in the back seat, it had a big boot and was well priced.
There was nothing young about these people, but they clearly had a genuine connection with this car, with the final remark being “I only need something small, very easy for me to get around”. So, while the 2019 Ford Focus may be funky enough to attract the odd hipster, I reckon there’s another demographic who will be open to the new design.
This is a German made and German tuned vehicle. The 2019 Ford Focus is a significant step forward with all the necessary boxes ticked. Solid technology, decent performance and a far more upmarket interior. I don’t think it betters the likes of the Hyundai i30 but it’s a notch above the Toyota Corolla, while the other obvious competitor is the Mazda 3. But it’s now long in the tooth and we’re not that far off a new model hitting our shores. The Ford Focus Hatch and Wagon gets a 7.5 out of 10 from me.