Review by Justin Pritchard. Photos by Justin Pritchard and courtesy of Ford.
The latest-generation Ford Focus was one of the first cars to address the griping Canadian masses fed up with North American grade compacts. The rest of the world got top-notch, global-grade machinery that, for numerous reasons, was more desirable. Us Canucks were instead provided a North American–spec sheet metal and grey crispy plastic gruel for our compact dollar, leaving many to complain about the disparity.
The bellyaching masses rejoiced when the new Focus arrived for model year 2012, bringing with it globally leveraged engineering, design, dynamics, and technologies. On a test drive of Ford’s first truly global compact, your writer found a compelling package that hit the important marks well, impressed further with numerous thoughtful and delightful little touches, and amounted to a machine with numerous strengths and few weaknesses.
Now, Ford has updated the Focus for model year 2015 to tidy things up and build more value, while leaving core Focus attributes intact.
What’s changed? Typical mid-cycle update stuff. Bumpers are tidied, taillamps are slimmer, and the front and rear fascias are tweaked to bring the Focus in line with Ford’s latest global design language. Up front, look for the Aston Martin replica grille a la Fusion, and in rear, for a redesigned tailgate, slimmer taillamps and other subtle tweaks. There’s improved sound deadening, improved wind sealing, redesigned mirror hinges and thickened carpets and door glass for a quieter ride.
Features and packaging are revised too – with Sync, Bluetooth, a back-up camera and a fast-charge USB port standard across the board. Many of today’s common outward-looking hazard detection features are, additionally, available for drivers who need them.
Customer input resulted in easier-to-use steering-wheel mounted controls, revised cupholder placement, and door lock controls mounted to the doors, instead of the centre console, which was a European thing that didn’t fly here.
Ditto the programming of the powershift dual-clutch transmission, which functions like an automatic but works more like a manual with the gear shifts done for you, sans clutch pedal. For 2015, to provide the more natural and automatic-like feel demanded by shoppers unfamiliar with the workings of a dual-clutch gearbox, engineers revised the transmission with new computer programming, new internal materials, and new shift execution scheduling. There are now less, if any, of the little shudders, vibrations and gaps between throttle application and forward motion that were present in the outgoing transmission.
Unlike the sometimes-clumsy feel of the pre-updated gearbox, there’s a Euro-derived touch added this year which should resonate with a small niche of shoppers: the new-to-the-Focus 1.0L EcoBoost engine. The turbocharged, three-cylinder, three-time Engine of the Year winner spins up 123 horsepower and slightly more torque. It’s only available via the SE Ecoboost package, on the Focus sedan, and only with a manual six-speed.
Incredible little engine. It’s a downgrade in output over the twice-as-big 2.0L four-cylinder powering other Focus models, but the 1.0L is markedly quieter, feels more effortless more of the time, and though it won’t light anyone’s face on fire with its performance, the wide torque band means this little three-cylinder can handle virtually any rolling highway-speed hill without a downshift. Test drivers will likely be delighted with the pleasingly low noise levels, pleasing overall refinement, and the fuel bills, which are further reduced by aerodynamic grille shutters, a quick acting and smooth auto stop/start system, and the like.