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Ford NZ beats Australia! The cool hybrid SUVs, sports 4WD and hot hatch weapon Aussies are denied

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Models like the Everest Wildtrak and Focus Active MHEV boost Ford's line-up in New Zealand but are absent in Oz.
Models like the Everest Wildtrak and Focus Active MHEV boost Ford's line-up in New Zealand but are absent in Oz.

Australians used to have one of the broadest selection of Fords in the world.

Over the past decade, however, we've lost beloved local models like Falcon and Territory, the respected Fiesta, Focus and Mondeo engineered in Germany, as well as the EcoSport and Endura; most spiced up a range that was widely regarded as a cut above.

Of course, the world has changed and tastes move on, but why must we endure such a tiny selection of Fords in Australia nowadays? Right now, you can count the nameplates on one hand – Puma, Escape, Ranger, Everest and Transit.

This is especially annoying given that – just across the Tasman – our fortunate New Zealand neighbours get to enjoy a much, much wider selection of Blue Oval beauties.

Here, then, are the Kiwi Fords denied to us Aussies.

Ford Focus Active MHEV

In NZ, they get a new 1.0-litre mild hybrid MHEV-engined version, with a 48-volt system.
In NZ, they get a new 1.0-litre mild hybrid MHEV-engined version, with a 48-volt system.

The story of the fourth-generation Focus is a sad one. Designed by an Aussie, built in Germany and showcasing a real depth of advanced small-car engineering, it fell flat in Australia, ending a continuous 90-year run of small, affordable Ford passenger cars when the plug was pulled in 2021.

Why the slightly-raised Focus Active never sold better is a mystery, since it has some of the visual appeal that makes the conceptually similar Subaru XV (soon to be called Crosstrek) a very popular choice, including extra ride height and mandatory body cladding promising an adventurous lifestyle.

Australia only saw a handful of the MY22 Mk4 facelifts with last year's limited-run ST – more on that later – but it is the revised Focus Active that deserves a second chance at success in Australia, with its new nose, updated multimedia system and improved efficiency.

Speaking of which, over in NZ, they get a new 1.0-litre mild hybrid MHEV-engined version, with a 48-volt system, bringing exceptional fuel economy (just 5.1L/100km) as well as spirited performance.

Ford Puma MHEV

The Kiwis get a cleaner, Euro 6-rated engine with mild hybrid electric vehicle (MHEV) tech (ours is still pegged at Euro 5).
The Kiwis get a cleaner, Euro 6-rated engine with mild hybrid electric vehicle (MHEV) tech (ours is still pegged at Euro 5).

With Fiesta and Focus gone, we're grateful Ford Australia is persisting with the regular Puma, which is wildly underrated, despite glowing reviews highlighting the European light SUV as an energetic, athletic and engaging drive. It looks great too.

But the Kiwis get a cleaner, Euro 6-rated engine with mild hybrid electric vehicle (MHEV) tech (ours is still pegged at Euro 5), which would give the Puma in Australia a small advantage appealing to consumers who want, well, a taste of electrification.

Since Mazda sells nearly 10-times more of the conceptually similar CX-3, the Ford needs all the help it can get.

Ford Everest Wildtrak

Positioned as a sports/luxury version of the range-topping Platinum, the Everest Wildtrak gains the only really good-looking wheels available in the range.
Positioned as a sports/luxury version of the range-topping Platinum, the Everest Wildtrak gains the only really good-looking wheels available in the range.

Quick question: What's the best-looking new-gen Everest you can buy?

Look over the ditch to find out, since NZ buyers get to choose a Wildtrak version, just like with the latest Ranger.

Positioned as a sports/luxury version of the range-topping Platinum, the Everest Wildtrak gains the only really good-looking wheels available in the range, along with series-specific grille, paint and trim, the larger of the available multimedia screens and the full-fat electronic off-road capabilities.

Interested? Either move to the Land of the Long White Cloud, or call your friendly Ford dealer in Australia to remind them that the best version of the Everest isn't available Down Under.

Ford Focus ST

We reckon the last Focus ST was the best in a long, long line of small fast Fords.
We reckon the last Focus ST was the best in a long, long line of small fast Fords.

Righto. We know the Mk4 Focus (SA Series II) ST did actually make it to Australia earlier last year. But after selling only 40 examples, one of the most exciting C-segment hot-hatch choices was dropped for Australia, and we're all the poorer for it.

Not in NZ though, as the 206kW/415Nm 2.3-litre four-pot turbo screamer continues to put smiles on the faces of hardcore driving enthusiasts across the country, as they revel in the ST's precise steering, exquisite handling and prodigious road holding.

We reckon the last Focus ST was the best in a long, long line of small fast Fords that included greats like the Escort Twin Cam, Laser TX3 Turbo 4WD and Focus XR5 Turbo.

Enjoy it while you can, Kiwis!

Byron Mathioudakis
Contributing Journalist
Byron started his motoring journalism career when he joined John Mellor in 1997 before becoming a freelance motoring writer two years later. He wrote for several motoring publications and was ABC Youth radio Triple J's "all things automotive" correspondent from 2001 to 2003. He rejoined John Mellor in early 2003 and has been with GoAutoMedia as a senior product and industry journalist ever since. With an eye for detail and a vast knowledge base of both new and used cars Byron lives and breathes motoring. His encyclopedic knowledge of cars was acquired from childhood by reading just about every issue of every car magazine ever to hit a newsstand in Australia. The child Byron was the consummate car spotter, devoured and collected anything written about cars that he could lay his hands on and by nine had driven more imaginary miles at the wheel of the family Ford Falcon in the driveway at home than many people drive in a lifetime. The teenage Byron filled in the agonising years leading up to getting his driver's license by reading the words of the leading motoring editors of the country and learning what they look for in a car and how to write it. In short, Byron loves cars and knows pretty much all there is to know about every vehicle released during his lifetime as well as most of the ones that were around before then.
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