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As the all-new Ford Focus is set to arrive later this year, we get our first look at the extensive range that includes a high-riding crossover version and premium Vignale model. The 2018 Focus is built on a new platform and will feature an array of new technologies that Ford hopes will help keep it as one of the class-leaders in the C-segment.
Now into its fourth generation, the Ford Focus has undergone what is arguably the most considerable change for the nameplate. It is immediately apparent that Ford has started from a clean sheet of paper, which is backed up by the fact that this new model sits on an all-new platform, called 'C2'. Those new underpinnings will play a significant role in the future of not only the Focus, but many other new Ford models.
Among the significant changes brought by the new platform are a wheelbase that has been lengthened by 53mm and the movement of the A-pillars further back. In turn, this has affected the rear of the car, which now has a more traditional and upright C-pillar. In contrast to the sharp, angular lines of the original Focus from 20 years ago (yes, it has been that long), this new model is full of curves and surface undulations that catch and bend the light to give it a somewhat athletic appearance.
Like the new Fiesta, the rear of the Focus takes on an entirely new look, with tail lights adopting a smaller and more horizontal position, with a light signature that Ford hopes will make it quickly recognisable. The Focus name is boldly spelt out in individual letters across the centre of the tailgate.
Ford's efforts to bring mass appeal to the Focus range has resulted in a more significant distinction between the different models in the line-up, kicked off by the familiar Zetec and Titanium specifications, each offering different levels of equipment and finish. For the sportier driver, there is a more aggressively styled ST-Line model. Not to be confused with the expected Focus ST (and subsequent Focus RS), this version will be distinguishable by a unique body kit and ride height that is reduced by 10mm.
In contrast to this sporty looking model, the range gets something of a crossover in the form of the Focus Active. Styled in a similar vein to the forthcoming Fiesta Active, this version will appeal to those looking for something more rugged looking. Longer travel suspension raises the car up by 30mm, while the wheelarches and sills come clad in harder-wearing black plastic with metallic looking inserts.
While the five-door hatchback is expected to remain the most popular choice, Ford will also introduce an estate version that is equally handsome in its design. Beneath the form is some proper function, too. Load height at the rear is 43mm higher to make placing heavier items in that bit less taxing and the capacity is a cavernous 1,690 litres with the rear seats folded down.
Previously, the interior of the Focus lagged behind some of its rivals', and Ford has made notable strides in addressing that in the new Focus. It's clear that a much greater emphasis on design has been made, but also in the use and quality of materials inside. From the driver's seat, there is a new instrument cluster with a better layout while retaining a multifunction display in its centre.
A free-standing eight-inch display hosts the latest SYNC 3 infotainment system in which users can navigate through the menus using pinch and swipe gestures. Bluetooth smartphone connectivity is complemented by Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Below the screen, and neatly integrated into the dashboard facia, are the physical controls for volume, track selection and a CD slot. Redesigning the climate controls has helped to free up enough space in the centre stack to allow for a wireless charging pad to be installed, something that owners of more up-to-date smartphones will welcome.
Cars equipped with an automatic transmission will benefit further from an added sense of space. The traditional automatic gear selector makes way for a much smaller rotary gear shift dial. Similar in appearance to the system used by Jaguar Land Rover, drivers can now merely twist the dial when moving from park to drive or to reverse. All auto models and higher spec manual transmissions will also feature an electronic parking brake.
That reworking of the front benefits occupant space, but those in the rear haven't been forgotten about. Aided by the longer wheelbase and a flatter floor, rear knee clearance is improved by more than 50mm in comparison to the outgoing model. Similarly, rear shoulder-room grows by 60mm, and the new C-pillar design helps to bring a more open feeling to sitting in the back.
To bring greater distinction to the ST-Line, Active and Vignale models, each of these cars will get bespoke materials and upholstery finishes inside.
Ford will offer a variety of diesel and petrol engines in the new Focus along with a choice of automatic and manual transmissions. All engines have been designed to meet the latest emissions standards and feature stop-start to save fuel in slow traffic. The range of petrol engines will include of the three-cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost unit, available in 85-, 100- and 125hp guises, while the larger 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine is offered with 150- or 182hp.
The three-cylinder engine also has what Ford claims is an industry-first cylinder deactivation system for such an engine. Under lower power loads, when coasting or cruising at low speeds, the engine can switch off one of its cylinders to reduce fuel consumption. The third cylinder can reactivate in 14 milliseconds without affecting performance according to Ford.
Diesel engines will come in two forms starting with a 1.5-litre unit with outputs of 95- or 120hp, both delivering 300Nm of torque. A larger capacity 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine will produce 150hp and 370Nm of torque. Overall Ford claims the new Focus delivers improvements in fuel economy and CO2 emissions of 10 per cent across the range.
A new eight-speed automatic transmission will be available with the 125hp 1.0-litre EcoBoost, 150hp 1.5-litre EcoBoost, 120hp 1.5-litre EcoBlue and 150hp 2.0-litre EcoBlue engines. In addition to a higher number of ratios to help improve efficiency, the transmission is equipped with Adaptive Shift Scheduling. This not only assesses driving style, but can recognise uphill and downhill gradients or hard cornering, and adjusts its gearshifts accordingly. Additionally, the Adaptive Shift Quality Control monitors the car and its environment and adjusts the clutch pressures to provide smoother gearshifts.
Away from the oily bits, Ford will be arming the new Focus with an array of the latest driver assistance technologies. The adaptive cruise control, for example, gets a new Stop & Go feature that enables it to bring the car to a complete stop in heavy traffic before automatically pulling away again if it is stationary for less than three seconds. Improved road sign recognition and lane-centring can also help the driver on motorway journeys.
For those that aren't comfortable with parking, the new Active Park Assist 2 makes the task even more natural. By using the new automatic transmission, the system not only finds suitable spaces, but can park into them controlling steering, throttle and gear selection while the driver only has to hold down a single button.
For those keener on something a little more upmarket, Ford offers the Focus Vignale. Not only does this model also get unique exterior styling featuring what Ford describes as "jewel-like and artisanal" details, comprising of satin aluminium finishes on the roof rails, fascia and rocker inserts, but it gains a unique mesh front grille and paint options that are specific to the model.
The new Ford Focus is expected to arrive in Ireland by September of this year.