August 28, 2012

DRIVEN: 2012 Ford Focus Sport +

It's amazing to see engineers came up with a myriad of safety features and creature comforts that make our lives safer and easier. What was deemed impossible years ago has made it into the production line, and this scene always happen in the automotive world. Here I present you the 2012 Ford Focus, where the top-of-the-range comes with all sort of gadgets such as Active City Stop, Active Park Assist, Active Grille Shutter and Torque Vectoring Control. I'll come back to these later.

After attending Ford Focus's pre-launch test drive session for the general public, I got to know that the 2012 Focus comes in two forms - sedan named Ghia Titanium and hatchback named Sport, each with two variants to choose from, where the more expensive variant carries a '+' at the back of the name. The 'Focus Sport +' in black here has a low slung body that goes along well its sporty 17-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels. One thing, however, is that the taillights are slightly bulky to me, but the unique protruding edge at the side of the taillights make up to it. The way it connects and reduces the lines of the fuel lid is an art......


Here's the Focus Ghia Titanium +, similar-themed taillights but the design of the 16-inch alloy wheels can be better.
Not a fan of the small bump on the fuel lid though...


The one we (me and my father) drove was the Focus Sport +, and we started out with the test drive first. The first thing we noticed was how light the steering wheel is while manoeuvering in car park area. It is a boon for drivers because not much energy is needed to get this C-segment car out of the parking lot. The throttle response was good, and this helps to do more accurate acceleration while manoeuvering in a parking spot.

Every Focus variant is getting the same 2.0litre naturally aspirated engine which produces 170PS @ 6500rpm and 202Nm @ 4550rpm. For starter, it was almost impossible to differentiate whether the car's engine is running or otherwise. It is well insulated from the cabin, but will cry out a soft howl when pushed hard. Acceleration felt slightly better than, I would say Golf, but the 6-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission found in the Focus is still not as quick nor as smooth as VW's DSG gearbox. There is no paddle shift on the steering wheel, but the Focus comes with SelectShift that uses '+' and '-' button located at the side of the gearknob to perform gear change. 


Handling has always been one of the biggest selling points of the Focus. The test route started with some windy B-roads which were perfect to test the handling and performance of the Focus, and I'm glad to say that it didn't disappoint me. The steering is direct and natural, which provides confidence in corners eventhough it's slightly on the light side. Corners can be taken at high speed without obvious sign of understeer as the Focus felt planted with minimal body roll. Perhaps it's the Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) and also the Torque Vectoring Control (TVC) doing its job to ensure everything is safe and handles nicely.

To those who doesn't know how the TVC TeleVision Commercial functions, it reacts to the surface of the road 100 times per second and balances the amount of power and braking delivered to the two front wheels to maximize grip and improve handling. Other than TVC, the Focus also comes with Active Grille Shutter which shuts the grille with vents to improve aerodynamics when the engine doesn't need that much of air to cool it down. Drivers won't be able to feel the difference, but all these little stuff contributed to the fuel economy (14.9km/l), and the good handling of the Focus, possibly best in its class. The Focus comes with Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) too. Activated by switching on the indicator, BLIS warn the driver that there's a car in the car's blind spot if the driver wants to change lane.

At the back, legroom and headroom is sufficient for me, a 5 foot 10 guy. Comfort wise, the Focus absorbed bumps well given the suspension setup is on the stiff side. Road and wind noise were unobtrusive at speed over 100km/h. I would love to see air-cond vents for the rear passengers though, but it is forgivable considering the amount of equipment that it has at a reasonable price. Only one gripe, the rear seats are too upright, and the protruding headrests make the occupants to sit even more upright.


Active City Stop

After test driving the all-new Focus, we arrived at the station where we get to try out the Active City Stop (ACS) safety feature. ACS can perform fully at speed under 30km/h, where the system uses radar to scan reflective metal object such as cars but not wall or pedestrian. ACS is to prevent low-speed collision such as in traffic jam, where the driver might be distracted by SMS or perhaps a pretty lady driver next to him. It operated fully by applying emergency brake when the Focus is at a very close distance with the car in front. By that time the driver will be fully awaken by the commotion, and the brake will be gradually released so that the car can be moved forward again.

ACS will be override if the brake pedal is engaged, thus ACS is only available when the driver is unaware of the incoming hazard. ACS can be turned off when you need it to (ie. park closely with the car in front in your garage) but it will be turned on automatically when you restart the engine.


Active Park Assist

Normally found in expensive luxury cars, Active Park Assist, available in a C-segment car in our market for the first time, has made its way into the Ford Focus. Operated with a push of a button in the lower part of the centre console, the system will scan, by default, the left side of the Focus because our market is right-hand-drive cars. Switch the indicator the the right will make the system to scan for empty space on the right.

If the system measured an adequate space for the Focus to fit nicely into, it will instruct the driver to slightly forward, engage reverse gear, and the driver have to control the speed by controlling the brake pedal. Active Park Assist will steer for you into the parking lot (it only works for parallel parking) and you have to stop the car when the sensor at the back and front warn you of the distance via a small display on top of the centre console. Just remember to keep your hands off the steering wheel when the system is performing its magic!


Check out the video I recorded inside the Focus when it performs Active Park Assist. *OMG, the steering wheel turned by itself XD*



Ford SYNC

First of all, I wouls like to clarify that iPhone is incompatible with SYNC (Ford later stated that it is patching the firmware during the test drive, so iPhone should work with SYNC when Focus is launched). Windows phones, Android and Blackberry (not sure if it's every or certain models only) can be paired with SYNC. By looking at the same display that shows info on the Active Park Assist, SYNC is able to pair with your phone via Bluetooth so that it can receive calls and even read your incoming SMS for you! (Fun fact: LOL is read by SYNC as 'laugh out loud'!)

SYNC has ten preset SMS templates such as 'I'm on the way' and 'I love you' for you to reply your SMS via SYNC, but you have to type your own message on the phone if you want to reply something different. The reason is the templates are to encourage drivers not to reply SMS via typing on the phone. Other than that, you can also voice command the SYNC to play your favourite artists' songs or genre which are available in your USB device.


Conclusion

With the indicated price for the entry level Focus at RM115k to RM128k for the top-of-the-range variant, Ford Focus is a good buy which seriously gives its competitors from the Japanese or Korean a run for their money. At this price range, Focus is offering features like Active City Stop and Active Park Assist that even most of the D-segment sedans are omitted from. Moreover, it has pleasurable driving dynamics with decent comfort. Maintenance cost? 3 years or 60,000km of free maintenance (whichever comes first) + 3 years warranty. Ford Focus is hard to be ignored and should be considered if buyers are planning to look for a C-segment car.

*Follow me @simon_har and subscribe SiMon HaR_ ya ;)

Ad