Ford’s new Focus has just been launched in South Africa with new exterior and interior features, as well as a new 1.8-litre Duratec model to replace the current 1.6-litre model.
By Peter Palm
Ford’s Bantam has been around since the bad old days, when the government used to hide the truth from us and get away with all sorts of things? Well, at least the Bantam has improved since its introduction in 1983. It now sports the aggressive Ford family nose treatment in the form of a shark’s snout air dam and revised head and tail-lamps.
Enhanced NVH and body sealing and a revised instrument cluster lifts the ambiance and the 1,4 TDCi, already seen in the Ikon, joins the Bantam range with 50 kW at 4 000 r/min and 160 N.m at 2 000 r/min. This unit provides good lugging power, especially for carrying loads on hilly routes. The 1,3- and 1,6-litre Rocam engines remain in the stable.
Prices start at R101 950 for the 1,3i without audio, air-con or airbags, right up to the XLE that offers the usual air-con and audio luxuries plus 14-inch alloy wheels, leather trimmed steering wheel and gear knob, front foglamps, electric windows and mirrors, dual airbags but no ABS.
The most expensive model is the 1,4 TDCi XLT at R171 750. Unfortunately, falling Rand value means that car prices in South Africa are once again on the up, so even tougher times await us all. Ride, handling, steering and gearshift action are all up to Ford’s usual high standard. Side mirrors are a bit small and space might not be as plentiful as found in the Opel Corsa, but there is plenty of head- and legroom. It’s just the space behind the driver and passenger that is limited.
A four-year/120 000 km warranty is standard and service intervals are 15 000 km for both petrol and diesel versions.
The Focus is a model that seems to keep on improving over the years. Dynamaically, the car has always been good, but now the attention has been placed on styling enhancements that really work, with muscular bonnet creases, sculptured headlamps and the shark-like front airdam adding the Ford corporate appearance. The rather slab-like rear appearance of the hatch now looks neater with a bodywork crease and clear tail-lamp lenses topped by a roof spoiler.
A new instrument cluster and many design improvements inside including a storage bin with sliding armrest lid on all but the ambiente model, and an auxiliary jack on all models plus an additional USB port for the higher spec Si models. Four airbags are fitted to the Ambiente model and six for the Si versions.
Big news under the bonnet is a new 1,8-litre engine to replace the 1,6. This produces 92 kW at 6 000 r/min with 166 N.m at 4 000 r/min. Expect a fuel index of about 8,4 litres/100 km. The 2,0-litre remains and can be specified with a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. But, on the 2,0-litre TDCi model, a new dual clutch, six-speed automatic gearbox has been introduced. This is a Getrag developed unit (called Powershift) with rapid shifts and the option of manual, sequential shifting via the gearlever. No paddle levers are fitted. These systems can sometimes be caught out if you confuse the electronics by accelerating while changing down, but try as we may, we couldn’t mess with the Getrag’s brain. Left in automatic, it regularly chose the correct gear, matching your driving style with ease. The only thing that some may find odd, is that you push the lever forwards to change down, and backwards to change up. Paddle shifts would make this package a total pleasure.
The diesel engine excellent torque to cope with hills and passengers with luggage and would make a fine long distance tourer, with a predicted fuel index of just under 7,0 litres/100 km.
It also Excellent steering feel is provided from the Electro-hydraulic system and ride and handling quality is up to Ford’s high standard with added sound deadening material reducing NVH levels. In addition to the four-year/120 000 km warranty, a five-year/90 000 km service plan is standard across the range. Prices the four and five door models are identical, starting at R185 590 for the 1,8 Ambiente and rising to R269 750 for the 2,0 TDCi Powershift Si.