First Impressions: Ford Focus Media Drive

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Ford_Focus (3)Launched just a few months back, the Blue Oval’s fresh Focus comes with a 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine mated to a six-speed SelecShift automatic for 178hp at 6,000rpm and 240Nm between 1,600rpm and 5,000rpm across all variants. This pairing replaces the previous normally-aspirated 2.0-litre Duratec mill with its sharp, but flawed six-speed Getrag dry-dual-clutch ‘box.

The drive from Ara Damansara to Penang was uneventful and smooth sailing for the Focus fleet; is Foci the plural of Focus? MFW asks the real questions. All there is to say here really is that anything with the word EcoBoost on its bum will constantly impress you with its fuel efficiency — we got about 6.3L/100km.

It was when we got to Penang that the real fun started, on the mountain snake which leads to the Teluk Bahang dam. There are typically two ways to get to Batu Feringghi, so choosing the route with lesser traffic and a more scenic view was an easy choice.*

Ford_Focus (7)*[Back in the 1970s, Penangites used to time themselves on this road which, for the most part, stuck to the coast in a full loop of the island. The story goes that Eddie Koay, an Asian Auto scribe at the time, set the record somewhere around the half hour mark in possibly a Fiat 500. Clearly, some details were lost to the Pearl along the way but it was nice to trace the path, even just a small segment of it. If any of you reading this know the full details of this record drive please reach out to us, for closure’s sake.]

On the uphill the Focus impressed with its pull, lunging forwards and upwards with every stab of the throttle. Thanks to the new heart, the weight reduction in the nose makes for commendable turn-in response and an altogether livelier feel, electric power steering notwithstanding. The wheel is weighted well, with perhaps slightly less feedback than you might yearn for in a Focus but not unforgivable given that there is no ST suffix on this one.

Ford_Focus (6)What you will definitely miss, of this we have no doubt, is the rapid gearchange of the old ‘box. This new slushbox is noticeably slower, and slightly stifles a gem of an engine engine found in what is essentially a daily mass-market C-segment vehicle.

 A feature Ford is keen to highlight — which was demonstrated successfully at our digs, the Hard Rock Hotel — is the Enhanced Active Park Assist automatic parking available in both Sport+ and Titanium+ variants. Both parallel and reverse perpendicular parking can be executed by the system, which involves driving past a space with it engaged for the car to detect it, followed by prompts on the SYNC 2’s 8-inch touchscreen for gear position and pedal input. Steering work is completely autonomous, the driver simply controls the accelerator and brake until the process is complete.

 Also part of the drive was a photo competition. I was paired up with another journalist to scout Penang island in search of a picturesque background for the Focus, and to think of an equally beautiful caption to match the picture.

But hoonigan runs deep in our veins, we instead went off back to the touge road for a downhill run with another car carrying an equally mischievous pair of journos. Despite the route not being the nicest mountain pass, with corners not stringing together perfectly and the driver having to put in extra effort with adjusting speeds to keep the weight pendulum going, the Focus felt right at home

Ford_Focus (12)No matter, the response from the front axle translated into a relaxed effort from behind the wheel despite the staccato nature of steering input. There was a bit more opportunity this time to enjoy ourselves because the drive up was bookended by a pair of Ranger Wildtraks, keeping us well behaved.

 \When panic started to set in as the picture deadline drew near, we took a picture of the Focus next to the original Teochew Chendol stall off Penang Road and captioned it thus: “Teochew Chendol and the Ford Focus, proof that brilliance can be inherited.” We then rewarded ourselves for our hard work with cendol (of course), char kuey teow and radish cakes. On a less important note, we lost the competition.

Ford_Focus (2)My feelings at the end of the Focus drive were a mixed bag. On the one hand, the 1.5-litre EcoBoost is an amazing little mill and whatever doubts I had about it before pushing the starter were left somewhere up in the twisty hill roads. It looks great as well, the new front end seeming to focus (pun intended) the entire car to a point somewhere in the middle of the grille, as if the car bears down on any space in front of it when you push it hard. Also, everyone loves a nice hatch profile, rendered here in the Focus’s signature elongated fashion. If you don’t, you’re not a car person.

Then of course there’s the matter of the new gearbox. The old PowerShift dual-clutch may have been slightly jerky and not the last word in reliability, but it was fantastic when it worked. Its successor is smoother and more civilized, but seems to hold back the full potential of the EcoBoost engine. The compromise however, leans to the positive side of the scale. There may be times when you’ll wish for a more eager gearbox, but for 90 percent of your needs the marriage works just fine. This is a Focus we can get behind.

As to how this car behaves the rest of the time and for closer scrutiny on its features and gadgetry, look out for our full review in the coming weeks.

Pricing for the Ford Focus EcoBoost is as follows: Trend (RM118,888) and Sport+ hatchback/Titanium+ sedan (RM139,888) OTR without insurance. It comes with a standard five-year/200,000km warranty along with three-year/60,000km Ford Extended Service Plan (ESP). Make sure to check out the latest promotions on Ford Malaysia’s website here.

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