‘In its styling it excites, on the road it astonishes.’
‘The best car we have driven all year.’
(Autocar, 9 September 1998)
What could the Autocar road testers be talking about? An exotic Latin sports bolide? A Teutonic limousine? Or some high-tech, megabucks road legal rally car? No. They’re talking about the Ford Focus, with prices starting at a decidedly un-mega £12,850 on the road for the Ford Focus 1.6 Zetec. The car illustrated here Is the Ford Focus 1.6 Ghia at £14,350. Good value by any standards, by the new standards set by the Ford Focus, a veritable steal. The Ford Focus is a new benchmark in affordable automotive excellence.
Ford is changing.
What we want In a car and what we get aren’t always the same thing. It’s a question of compromise. We all want great handling: but that doesn’t always Include great comfort. Performance, clearly, is highly desirable: but not if it costs you a fortune to use it. Style? That’s relatively easy. But style with space? That’s a bit trickier.
Size and safety don’t always sit well together, either. And there’s not much point in leading-edge design if it reduces functionality. You could easily believe that there really is no such thing as a free lunch.
Fortunately, there’s another cliche which says there’s an exception to every rule. And that exception is the Ford Focus.
Created around the customer, Ford Focus was designed to challenge existing notions about what cars of this size and price should provide. Building on the acclaim first established with Ford Mondeo and continued by Fiesta, Ka, Puma and Cougar, Ford Focus has set out on a unique, all-new approach to motoring, one aimed at delivering agility, stability, precision and comfort in a crisp, taut package of superb dynamics and craftsmanship.
A massive customer research programme has produced a mainstream car which brings truly specialist driving pleasures to the ordinary motorist. A spacious car which, to quote Autocar once more, ‘redefines the standards by which all family transport must now be judged.’
A car which, like no other, closes the gap between what you want and what you get.
Style and Space
Compact, athletic, machined, the Ford Focus is a paragon of contemporary style. But that’s just one half of the equation. Focus is also a world-beater in practicality and space. Never before has function been so brilliantly fused with form.
Almost miraculously, flowing curves blend with crisply contrasting edges, sharp intersections and radical front and rear light clusters, to create a stunningly Integrated expression of ‘New Edge’ automotive design.
A high roofline and the longest wheelbase in its class, endow the Focus with an astonishing big car feel. The chopped ‘Kamm’ tails of the 3 and 5-door hatchbacks combine wind-cheating aerodynamics with class-leading rear shoulder room, and boot space for two suitcases side-by-side.
The 4-door Focus provides a more traditional, luxurious tone, its six-light profile and short tail containing a wide, deep luggage compartment. The Ford Focus estate has extended rear side-windows and full-width tailgate for a vast, flexible load space — the largest load area in the class, in fact.
‘Roomy’ can sometimes be another word for ‘dull’. Not with the Ford Focus. The enigmatic appeal of Ford Focus styling goes far beyond what you can see. It extends deep beneath the car’s tightly stretched surface, deep into the drivetrain, reflecting the sharp precision of Ford Focus engineering — and fully delivering on the electrifying promise of the exterior.
Performance and Economy
Powering the new Focus is a superb range of clean, free-rewing multivalve engines, 1.4-, 1,6-, 1.8-, and 2.0-litre petrol units generating 75, 100, 115 and 130PS, with big improvements in both economy and noise. The combination of quiet engines and cleverly-engineered chassis components has resulted in very low noise levels.
The much-lauded 1.4-litre Zetec engine has been re-prioritised in Focus guise for fuel economy and ease of driving. The all-new 1.6-litre Zetec is more sporting (0-62 mph in 10.9 seconds, top speed 115 mph), but is similarly economical, delivering over 40mpg.
Improved versions of the Zetec 1,8 and 2.0-litre engines, as popularised by the Mondeo, power the Focus to 120mph-plus top speeds, again without compromising economy.
And there’s an all-new 1.8litre, direct-injection 90PS turbo diesel, combining a thumping maximum torque figure of 200Nm at just 2000rprn with excellent fuel economy.
On the European Combined Cycle, Ford Focus owners can expect returns of between 33.1mpg (2.0-litre) and 57.6mpg (diesel). Impressively, Ford Focus engines are 98 per cent cleaner than those in similar cars of just 10 years ago.
Low running costs aren’t simply a consequence of good fuel economy. Service and repair costs play a big part too. That’s why Focus has been designed for easy and rapid serviceability, with annual 10,000-mile service intervals. Modular construction methods for the galvanised, wax-injected bodyshell, allow a 12-year anti-perforation-warranty. This will not only simplify and speed up crash repairs: it’ll help to make Ford Focus ownership costs the lowest in the class.
Handling and Comfort
Do you ever get the impression that, for some manufacturers, designing and building a new car is, well, a bit of a chore? A brief to be followed, objectives to be met, hordes of accountants to dodge, directors to pacify, that sort of thing?
It wasn’t like that on the Focus project. There were objectives, sure. Tough ones. Like making it the roomiest, most comfortable, most refined and most dynamic handling car in its class.
But overriding all those targets was one overall goal: to make Focus a rare treat to drive. There were few limits placed on the design, or on the amount of encouragement and support given to the engineers. You could say it was a dream brief.
Still, even with carte blanche, the code to great handling wasn’t easy to break. Admittedly, Ford engineers did have a head start from their experiences with Ka, Puma and Mondeo. One of the (many) keys for the Ford Focus was an ingenious new ‘Control Blade’ multi-link rear suspension system locked to an ultra-stiff body structure — easily the stiffest and lightest in Its class, and a full 100 per cent stiffer than typical last-generation cars in the class.
Besides providing a rigid platform for the suspension and steering systems, that structural stiffness enabled Ford to optimise crash-worthiness and minimise noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). It also allowed precise window and door fits which, with special seals, minimise wind noise.
The next step was to cut down on friction. By eliminating excess friction, making control inputs linear and predictable and generating fluid, progressive responses in the Ford Focus powertrain and ride, Ford engineers have successfully established a new high-water mark for ride, handling, stability and comfort. Quick steering with finely-weighted power assistance and slick, positive gearshifting make the Ford Focus an intensely rewarding driving experience. An advanced four-channel anti-lock braking system provides new levels of driver reassurance. It will be available with integrated electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and an improved Traction Control System (TCS). It also acts as the platform for Ford’s soon-to-arrive Electronic Stability Program (ESP). Designed to help the driver restore stability in extreme situations, such as emergency lane changes on ice or snow, ESP is designed to electronically detect vehicle instability and apply stabilising forces through the anti-lock and traction control systems.
Size and Safety
Focus is ‘dynamically’ safe. Its chassis and suspension systems have been tuned for stability and controllability The car’s highly forgiving handling, allied to traction control working unobtrusively in the background, means that the Focus driver is always inside a comfortable ‘bubble of primary safety.
Should the worst happen, ultra-rigid safety cell and crumple zones provide interior compartment protection significantly exceeding (by 30%) current legislative requirements. Driver, passenger and new headand-chest side airbags, are designed to minimise head injuries from side impact collisions. Advanced seatbett systems, ‘bounce back’ power windows and ISOFIX child-seat attachments all go towards a secure passenger environment. Peace of mind doesn’t end there. The Focus bonnet can be opened only by a key, preventing the bonnet from being opened from inside the car, virtually eliminating any possibility of ‘hot wiring’. Fully shrouded security mechanisms and a selfarming immobiliser, render the car effectively dead unless the correct key is inserted in the ignotion.
Design and Functionality
Ford’s awesome computing power — equivalent to NASA’s — enabled three-dimensional imaging software to design the passenger compartment, so that just about every shape and size of driver or passenger can find a comfortable seating position.
The skill of the ergonomist has been put to good use. Buttons and switches are shaped to the finger. The tailgate release is high on the instrument panel, enabling operation from inside or out without bending. Environmentally, Ford Focus is well ahead of the game. Recycled consumer goods have been used extensively in the manufacturing process — including denim jeans for sounddeadening. Ford Focus Is over 85 per cent recyclable by weight.
Ford Focus is ‘the car the class has been waiting for.’
Ford Focus. Expect more.