Ford Focus 2litre GDI Sport

Those old boys in Michigan in the US got a big wake up call in 2008, and they’ve had to do some rethinking…not only because of pressures in their local market…but more recently on a global level. Ford is now spending huge amounts of time and money to firm up global alignment of products. Ford calls this their global – “one strategy”, as these vehicles like the Focus are centrally designed and engineered for multiple markets.

Agressive front end

The previous generation Focus was a very successful model, especially so in the UK, and more so in performance variants ST and RS, which offer some of the most hardcore driving experiences at the price. Unfortunately where they excelled in driving dynamics and handling, they could never quite match the quality interior of the VW Golf, and overall value of everyday driving car. However. Ford wasn’t happy with that. So this time around the Focus takes another swing, not only the Germans, but also the host of new competitors from the East.

The new Focus has various model variants available. On offer are 4-door and 5-door variants, all with different Trend, Ambiente and Sport trim levels. A few engine variants, from the 1.6 & 2litre petrol with Ti-VCT to a 2litre diesel with Powershift automatic transmission (only available in the 4door).

The model I had on test was the 2litre hatchback GDI Sport manual. which is the top of the range for the hatchback (currently). This is the model every Benoni and Pretoria mullet boy yearns after, the ST, comes to market here in 2012. Until then we’ll have to live with the 2litre naturally aspirated, which pushes out 125kW at 6600RPM (quite high) and 202Nm of torque at just over 4450RPM. I’m very used to a turbo engine, but have to say that I was SO surprised with this naturally aspirated new 4pot baby from Ford I had to double check the variant I was driving. It’s not ridiculously fast, but it sounds like the air is flowing through the guts of it, and it’s good mid range punch. You have to get the engine on the boil a bit as there isn’t a lot of shove from low down in the rev range, but once on the move it’s a very pleasant engine (in sound, and performance).

Thankfully the engine isn’t the only good bit. The Focus has been dipped in Ford’s new Kinetic design language, and … well … it’s better looking than the old Focus. It’s bigger than the previous generation model, and from the sideline, I had a few people remark it looks like a station wagon. A station wagon?! Well, either way, at least it brings about opinion, which is something no Golf does.

Very futuristic looking

Something else that definitely got opinions going was the interior. I find it rather refreshing getting into a car that looks like it’s been designed for the future. It’s not trying to copy anyone, or just be a plainly boring ergonomic design. It’s daring, different and at the same time fairly easy to get accustomed to. The Sport comes with cloth (come now Ford, you could have shed some cow blood here) black seats that are electrically adjustable for the driver, and the moment you get in, the dual screens (one on the dash, and one in the instrument binnacle) catch your eye. Ford has probably come closest of any of the competitors to the Golf 6 in terms of quality of material, fit and finish. The Focus interior is awash with simple black soft touch materials and quite a few pieces of brushed aluminium. The steering wheel sits quite far out, and is meaty and purposeful in your hands. What I didn’t like was that the steering-wheel controls were quite complicated and took some time to get used to. There are

The Borg controls

1.Buttons on the left, which control the screen on the centre console

2.Buttons on the right which control the screen inside the instrument binnacle

3. A weird Borg type control below those on the left that controlled the cruise control

4. More weird Borg type controls on the right that control the sound system

Look, you get used to it, and nice work that it’s all there, but then surely there should be less than the 1584 buttons on the piano black Sony sound system on the centre console. They haven’t done the best job of making buttons you use often, big or legible (E.g. door lock and unlock).

These are small niggles, and overall it’s a great place to be, I really enjoyed the lighting and quality feel of the controls. (Ambiance lighting in red, puddle lighting and the bright LED entry lights). Standard features on the Sport bring in a SONY 9-speaker 450watt system with Bluetooth, iPod prep, voice recognition, auto wipers & lights, heated front seats and dual zone climate control. It’s an incredible amount of standard kit. Bravo Ford. Bravo. Something they could have added, is xenon headlamps and daytime running lights, which you can’t spec or get on our local models.

For those with families, there’s space for 4adults, and a significant amount of space in the boot. At least 4 hookers if you squeeze them in properly.

Sony sound system

On the road the new Focus has lost a little bit of the spark of the old model. It’s not AS raw and engaging as the old model was, but I didn’t expect it to be, as the majority of the buyers just want a comfortable quiet car. That said, the chassis feels alive when it’s on the go, and in true Focus form, the car is incredibly planted. You need to try very hard to get the front to wash wide, and I’d say it’s now on par with the Golf’s chassis in terms how balanced it is. It’s even more impressive considering the 17inch 10spoke rubber that comes standard on the Sport. If things should get out of hand there is traction and stability control as standard, as well as Ford’s Torque Vectoring control to keep the front wheels from causing too much torque steer. Not likely on this model, but thanks anyways. I suspect that will come in handy on the ST though. The manual gearbox is angled close to the driver and has short direct throws, but strangely only 5 gears? It works well, but on long distance cruising the fuel economy suffers because of the lack of final 6th gear driving ratio, which might get some buyers opting for the diesel with Powershift.

I thoroughly enjoyed the meaty steering, giving enough feedback from the wheels and there was never a point it felt over assisted. The brakes too, are excellent, and the Focus comes with ABS, EBD and EBA standard across the range.

The Rear

Overall, It’s clear this car can handle a lovely turbocharged engine and there were times I yearned for some more power. That said the 2litre has a nice growl to it and the handling is superb, thanks to the dynamic chassis. The interior is comfortable and the whole car is superbly specced. The only drawback being the lack of 6th gear which will have a detrimental effect on fuel economy.

So far, in this model guise, the Ford has got everything going for it, and then comes the big surprise… the price.

R270 000 for the top of the range model I reviewed, which is excellent value considering the size, specification and quality of vehicle.

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Johannesburg International Motorshow ’11 highlights

It’s been quite a while since the last Johannesburg Motor Show, and it’s been well worth the wait! You’d expect the show to improve year on year but the jump in the quality of the show from the last is unbelievable. It truly felt like the “International” motor show the JIMS name holds. If you didn’t get to go, here are some of my highlights from the show

 

Audi Sex

The highlight for me from the guys in Ingolstadt was the Audi E-Tron Concept. The RS3 and A8 Long wheel base were also there but needless to say the long wheel base incarnation of the A8 didn’t exactly make the base of my penis fizz.

Take me to your leader

What did, was the Audi E-tron, which made its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2009, and attempts to take a stab at a high performance battery powered car. It’s claimed the e-tron’s electric motors produce 10 times the lb/ft torque of an Audi R8 4.2. Say what? Audi claims the car will reach 100km/h in 5.9 seconds and up to a 260km/h top speed. Doubtful that’ll all happen at once, and it’s still a concept, but my God it’s beautiful! This truly shows the future of electric vehicles, no longer do they have to shout “I’m driving a hybrid!” but rather, “Hey R8 driver! My car is better looking than yours and drops more panties than Daniel Carter. I do hope they change very little when this car makes it into production. Someone who has done very well when it comes to changing very little on a concept car is the guys from Range Rover.

 

Eeee-Vogue.

Another real show stopper, not because it’s something nobody knows about (if you don’t you’ve been living under a rock) but rather because for many people, including myself, it’s the first time seen in the metal. The Range Rover Evoque (pronounced E-Vogue…like an electric Vogue magazine) The Evogue goes on sale in a few months and 700 South African early adopters have said “I Do” to the Evoque without

RR Evoque Interior. Red. Hot.

seeing it in the flesh or let alone even taking it for a test drive. I can’t remember the last time that’s happened with a car in SA, especially one for Land Rover.  The Evoque looks amazing in the flesh, it’s a beauty, and a lot smaller than I initially thought it would be. Range Rover featured 5 models in different specifications to give a sense of how these cars can be specced out and they look haaawwwt! Underpinned by a Freelander drivetrain the Evoque is still very capable off-road (tyre selection dependant) but no doubt it’ll spend its time in the hands of the hottest car park mommies and BEE boys.

 

Ford Ranger Grille. Bling

Ranger Rear is Massive

Something that will however no doubt make its way onto the dirt roads of South Africa is the new Ranger. You might be frowning wondering why I’ve chosen to feature the Ranger, but this car is Ford’s first global “bakkie”. Ford is investing huge money into their model lines to develop vehicles for their “global” market, instead of having incarnations of model lines in every country (saving costs and so on). The Ranger however was quite a hit at the show, with many two-tone-bellies plowing over from Toyota and Nissan to have a look at this new “bakkie”. The most important changes are to the exterior, which now actually looks pretty damn cool, as well as interior, which, adds many

Ford Ranger Interior. Farmers frown at curved lines

creature comforts and brings it in line with its competitors. Ford has seen the light and states, “ Just because it’s a truck doesn’t mean it has to drive like one”. Truth. The Ranger goes on sale in SA before the end of the year (Nov) in 2.2TDCi, 2.5 Petrol and 3.2Diesel, aimed squarely at the competitor diesel engines. You can guarantee that Toyota, VW and Isuzu are shaking in their space boots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not a whale, it's a Merc

Speaking of space boots, I must commend Mercedes Benz on what I thought was the best stand of the show. It was by far the most interactive and featured their entire model range, which I must say, is now looking very well aligned, and a lot better than back in 2005. This said the A-Class Concept was the star of the Mercedes Stand (Except of course for the Viano people mover, which Trevor van der Ven nearly wet his pants over) The A-Class concept is a mirror ball view into the design style Merc will bring us in years to come, and I’m not complaining.

A-Class Amaze

Most importantly will be this A-Class model (hopefully very close to the concept in styling) which needed a lot of work to do more to compete against the likes of the 1series and A3. The car is so vastly different from the current Elk-failure that I can’t even draw similarities. It’s quite brash and the grille very “in your face” but the lowered roof line and heavy creasing in the metal goes to show this A-Class is going to be a totally new car for a totally new market. Hashtag Excited.

3 Pointed Stars

 

Toyota FT-86. Smokin'

Another concept we’ve seen floating around the various motor shows for quite some time is something from, wait for it, Toyota! Yes sir, the Toyota FT-86! The FT-86 is a joint model (engine) development with Subaru but Toyota has stolen most of the lime-light with the FT-86 releasing first. This is the first car in quite a while that’s going to deliver on the demand for performance models for the Toyota market in SA, and of course the zooped up tuning shops worldwide. Toyota confirmed that the FT-86 will be coming to South Africa around June next year and we can expect a naturally aspirated four cylinder powering the rear-wheels, which is something we haven’t seen in SA for about a decade. What’s interesting is that Toyota knows their fans will be boosting and pimping the shit out of this vehicle so modifications and maximum strength parts are being used to ensure that the vehicles handles all the mods that will be thrown at it. Truly excited about the FT-86 from Toyota.

 

Overall a fantastic show! I’ve only just mentioned very few of the numerous new models and concepts released at JIMS but if you didn’t get to see the show you’ll no doubt see the full review in your local car magazines, newspapers and TV shows.

 

FJ Cruiser brute