Road test: Ford Focus 2019 review

Moving Well | Tim Nicholson | Posted on 05 June 2019

Tim Nicholson road tests the new Ford Focus Trend.  

  • Thumbs up

    Great engine, driving position and infotainment system, engaging dynamics and decent value for money.

  • Thumbs down

    Spongy seats, transmission issues when parking, gear-shift dial instead of lever.

  • Perfect for

    Buyers in the small-car segment looking for a solidly built Euro hatch.

  • Verdict

    The Focus is a seriously solid offering against some stiff competition, but transmission quirks blight the overall package.

 

Since the first-generation Ford Focus launched in late 2002, it has enjoyed a solid reputation as a fun-to-drive, well-built small car, but Australians have consistently favoured the likes of the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and more recently, the Hyundai i30.

The latest Focus landed in late 2018, replacing the third-generation model that, aside from the disastrous PowerShift transmission in early versions that landed the company in court, was an underrated pick in the crowded small-car segment.

A royal blue Ford Focus Trend 2019 driving along a leafy, sunny road

 

Ford is offering the new Focus in hatchback and, for the first time in Australia, wagon body styles. For now, buyers can choose between the entry-level Trend, sporty-looking ST-Line hatch and wagon, and flagship Titanium. The rugged Active hatch with a 30-millimetre increase in ride height arrived in June and the ST hot hatch lands in early 2020.

The Trend, tested here, is priced from $25,990 plus on-road costs, which lines up well against equivalent automatic entry-level variants of the Toyota Corolla ($24,370), the fourth-generation Mazda3 ($24,990) and the Volkswagen Golf ($27,790). Its opening gambit, however, is pricier than the Holden Astra, Honda Civic, Hyundai i30, Kia Cerato and Subaru Impreza.

Based on Ford’s completely new ‘C2’ platform, the Focus is more spacious than the old model thanks to a 53-millimetre-longer wheelbase. It feels like a sizeable cabin, with ample head, leg and shoulder room up front, while second-row space is adequate for the segment.

Like other Ford seats we have experienced recently, the cushions are too, well, cushiony. You feel like you sink into them a touch too easily, but they do offer good levels of support. Once settled in, it is easy to find your perfect driving position. The Focus feels low to the ground, resulting in a feeling of being more connected to the road.

The dash layout and design represents a giant leap forward over the fussy and dated look of the previous-generation Focus. It’s more modern and has a higher-quality feel than the old model, but it’s not as neat as a Volkswagen Golf or new-gen Mazda3.

We have written before about Ford’s impressive and easy-to-use Sync3 infotainment system. But we think it is time Ford stops persisting with a touchscreen when many of its rivals, notably Mazda, have moved to a central dial that allows users to navigate the display menu without taking their eyes off the road for too long. It shouldn’t be too much of a stretch given Ford already uses a dial for its gear shifter instead of a regular lever. As with the Endura we recently tested, changing gears takes some getting used to.

A close up image of the gears of the ford focus trend 2019
A front on photo of a bright blue Ford Focus Trend 2019 parked in a residential driveway
close-up of inside of the 2019 Ford Focus Trend

 

Noise-suppression measures ensure that the cabin is well insulated from external noise and while it’s not as hushed as the Mazda3, it is quieter than Hyundai’s i30 and the rowdy Kia Cerato.

Thankfully, Ford has improved the turning circle of the new Focus. It is much easier to manoeuvre when parking than the previous model, which felt like a barge.

Disappointingly, the overall parking experience in the Focus Trend test car was not as smooth as expected. There was an extended lag when switching from reverse to drive, or vice versa. The car rolled as though it was in neutral and the transmission took a while to work out if it was supposed to be going forward or in reverse. At one point the car rolled for a full two metres and we had to slam on the brakes before it hit a pole. 

It is unclear how widespread the problem is, but it also occurred in the ST-Line we drove the week before the Trend. We have fed this experience back to Ford Australia and the company said a software update had fixed the issue in another car. It was a blight on our experience of an otherwise excellent small car.

When up and running, the new eight-speed automatic transmission is a sweet shifter, engaging at exactly the right moments.

The 1.5-litre 134kW/240Nm three-cylinder turbocharged ‘EcoBoost’ petrol engine is a real sweetie. There’s a hint of turbo lag when accelerating from a standing start, but it gains momentum the higher up the rev range you go.

A rear photo of a bright blue Ford Focus Trend 2019 driving  on a leafy road

While enthusiasts will be waiting for the forthcoming 206kW/420Nm ST hot hatch, the little three-pot unit powering the rest of the range offers more than enough performance, and it sounds great too.

The multi-link front and torsion-beam rear suspension that form the basis of the Focus chassis make for a fun drive experience, with the Focus feeling planted through corners, although we encountered some understeer when we tackled a sweeping bend at speed. The tyres, sitting on 16-inch alloy wheels, skip a little on looser surfaces.

On our test, we recorded fuel economy of 8.5L/100km, higher than Ford’s claim of 6.4L/100km.

The previous Focus marked a big improvement over the second-generation version, and while this latest model is excellent, it doesn’t represent the same giant leap forward. 

It does, however, do most things really well. If you’re in the market for a small hatchback, it should at least be on your shopping list.

For many more car reviews, including the Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30 and Holden Astra, go to royalauto.com.au 

Ford Focus Trend 2019

PRICE

Price as tested: $25,990 plus $4000 estimated on-road costs.

Model range: $25,990 to $34,490.

 

DRIVETRAIN

1.5-litre, three-cylinder, eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive.

Power: 134kW

Torque: 240Nm.

Tyres:  16-inch 205/60R16 92V.

FUEL

Fuel: 95 RON petrol, 52-litre tank.
Fuel consumption: 8.5L/100km (RACV test); 6.4L/100km (government test).
CO2 emissions: 148g/km CO2.

STANDARD SAFETY

Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping aid, post-impact braking, five-star ANCAP rating.

STANDARD FEATURES

8.0-inch Sync3 with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, voice-activated satellite navigation, 180-degree reversing camera, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, climate control, electric park brake, front fog lights, paddle shifters.

WARRANTY/SERVICES

Five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty; capped-price servicing for first four years/60,000 kilometres.