Mazda 3 2019 review
Move over Hyundai i30, Toyota Corolla and Kia Cerato, the new Mazda3 has arrived.
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Ford's fourth-generation Focus is a step-change for the Blue Oval's hatchback. A fresh set of (Australian-designed) threads, a new transmission and a vastly improved interior should mean a reinvigoration.
But life is different now. SUVs rule. Hyundai and Mazda are fighting hard for top spot with the Corolla, which is still gamely hanging on to a shrinking market. The battle is hard, the rewards dwindling. It's almost like commercial television breakfast shows, but without the racism.
I drove the ST-Line on the car's launch and liked it a lot, so the opportunity to drive the Trend was welcome indeed. So, can the dynamism of the ST-Line trickle down to the lesser-equipped Trend and help put the Focus back in the game?
|Ford Focus 2019: Trend (5 YR)|
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The Trend's first problem when it comes to grabbing market share is the starting price. At $25,990, it's a few grand more than the entry-level Hyundai i30 Go and even a few bucks more than a starter Mazda3. Thing is, it's not a bare-bones starter like the Go in particular.
The Trend opens the range with 16-inch alloys, a six-speaker stereo with 8.0-inch touchscreen, sat nav, climate control, cloth trim, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, a good safety package, electric mirrors and windows, auto wipers and a space-saver spare.
Ford's SYNC3 system handles the media duties and adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You also get DAB into the bargain and the stereo is actually all right. Some of them at this level are a bit on the tinny side, but things are good here. While SYNC3 isn't quite as clever as Mazda's MZD, it outguns the basic software on the rest of them, which in turn all destroy the terrible head unit in the Corolla.
The new Focus comes from Ford's Cologne studio and if you detected an Australian flavour, I don't know how you did it, but the lead designer was our own Jordan Demkiw. He did a great job with the last Falcon on a budget of about $12.50, and had a bit more to spend on the new Focus.
I liked it when I first saw it and still do. While there are bits that appear familiar from other cars (the C-pillar treatment on the doors strongly reminds me of the E87 1 Series), it still looks like a Focus, but I reckon it looks lower, longer and a bit more serious than the car it replaces.
Much of its maturity comes from its simpler side glasshouse design and being a bit less fishy around the front. The 16s on the Trend look a little small in the big arches and the chubby tyres do the rest.
Inside is a world away from the tragedy of the button explosion in the design studio. So many buttons have been replaced with so few, making the interior feel far less frantic than before. To be fair, apart from the tiny buttons everywhere, the old interior was quite charming. The touchscreen is mounted in easy reach from both seats and it looks okay perched on the dash. The interior plastics are pretty reasonable, too, and the new seats aren't made of the dodgy material of the old car.
The Focus rides on a new platform which brings with it a longer wheelbase. That means more interior space, so that reasonably lanky folks can fit behind me when I'm driving. I'm an average 180cm, so that's pretty handy. The dashboard is also further away from you, so it feels quite airy.
Front-seat passengers score a pair of cupholders, a tray under the climate controls tailor made for phones (it's where the wireless charge pad goes, when it's equipped) and each door has a bottle holder. Rear-seat dwellers miss out on cupholders, though, which is a bit stiff.
The boot starts at an okay 273 litres, rising to 1320 litres with the split-fold seats down.
Motive power is supplied by Ford's 1.5-litre turbo three-cylinder, with an impressive 134kW and 240Nm. The front wheels twist with the assistance of an eight-speed automatic, operated by a Jaguar-style rotary dial.
The eight-speed automatic is Ford's own and drives the front wheels only. With stop-start and cylinder deactivation, it's an engine keen on saving the juice in both city and highway conditions.
Ford says the combined cycle figure should be a 6.4L/100km and it's not the usual optimistic prediction. I got 7.2L/100km without trying, so that's an unusually close result if ever I saw one.
It does, however, require 95 RON in that very European way.
The Focus comes with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, reversing camera, forward AEB with pedestrian detection, post-collision braking, speed-sign recognition, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist.
Three top-tethers and two ISOFIX points look after the kiddies' car-seat needs.
You can add the $1250 Safety Pack which brings active cruise, lane centring, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert with braking.
The Focus scored a maximum five ANCAP stars when it was assessed in December 2018.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
Ford stepped up to the five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty club a while ago now and has been joined by most obvious competitors. Ford also throws in a capped-price servicing regime, with the first four services weighing in at $299. Ford wants to see you every 12 months or 15,000km.
Focuses have always been good. The great Richard Parry Jones infused the hatch with sparkling handling two decades ago and it's part of the Focus DNA. It stuck. While I only got a go in the ST-Line it kind of made sense that the rest of the range would be good, because it clearly has a good underlying platform.
The Trend's smaller wheels and higher-profile tyres mean a very smooth ride in all conditions and only the torsion-beam rear lets the side down on the rough stuff. The steering feels good, too, so it's all present and correct.
The engine really sparkles, too. The turbo triple pumps out a fair whack of power for its size but does it without fuss or histrionics. I really like European turbo triples - they have lots of power but don't use much fuel and sound really good. Once you've got a few revs on, it pulls strongly and keeping it on the boil means rapid progress in traffic.
The rotary dial for the auto can be a bit of a pain, as it can be in a Jag - stressful three-point turns take a bit longer than I'd like. And while the steering is largely excellent, the Normal mode set-up can feel a little vague in the first degree or two of turning, which could just as well be the tyres.
The Focus Trend is possibly better than I thought it would be. While it doesn't have the ultimate finesse of the ST-Line, it's good fun to drive without being too firm or in any way threatening for the average punter. I have a theory that putting people in cars better than they need to be raises standards. The last decade has proven me right.
And the Focus started it all back in the 90s. Thing is, it's much harder now that everyone else is better, so Ford had to pull a blinder. I think it has. It's just a pity there isn't a manual for those after a bit of fun, or wanting to pay a bit less.
|Active||1.5L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO||$22,546 – 34,490||2019 Ford Focus 2019 Active Pricing and Specs|
|Ambiente||1.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$18,686 – 26,000||2019 Ford Focus 2019 Ambiente Pricing and Specs|
|RS (5 YR)||2.3L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$34,400 – 44,550||2019 Ford Focus 2019 RS (5 YR) Pricing and Specs|
|Sport (5 YR)||1.5L, ULP, 6 SP MAN||$16,600 – 23,100||2019 Ford Focus 2019 Sport (5 YR) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||8|