January 13, 2011
Ford was so focused on getting the BA Falcon to market it pushed the first Focus into the background.
With minimal marketing it failed to excite the market, so there was plenty riding on the new model that arrived in 2005.
The lack of backing for the first Focus was a sign Ford was throwing everything at the locally produced Falcon at the expense of all else at a time the market was beginning to tune in to smaller cars. Those who failed to see the Focus missed out on a good car, one that deserved more attention than it was given.
Cars like the Focus provided evidence that you didn't have to give up too much if you chose to downsize. In fact size was just about all you surrendered in the move. Shifting to a smaller car no longer signaled that you'd hit hard times; by 2005 it was beginning to be seen as a smart move.
Sure, they were a little more squeezy if you tried to shoehorn your kids into the back seat, but, hey, they probably had their own cars and weren't interested in traveling with mom and dad anyway.
On the upside this new generation of compact cars came with all of the features once reserved for full-sized models, they were refined, safe, and didn't break the bank when you pulled up at the pump.
The arrival of European-sourced models like the Focus not only added some attractive new cars to the mix; they put the pressure on the Japanese, and Koreans, to lift their game as well. No longer could they get away with building conservative, boring cars, buyers in the segment now wanted more.
One of their demands was that the cars had to be stylish, they shouldn't look downtrodden, and the Europeans were the style leaders. The Focus looked sharp from any angle, its crisp lines refreshing, and its shape athletic.
It came in two body styles, a four-door sedan and a five-door hatch, so it covered the needs of buyers young and old.
The range kicked off with the CL, which came with standard air and dual front airbags, but not antilock brakes.
Next in line was the LX, which did have antilock brakes as well as alloy wheels, side airbags and a host more gear. Finally the range was topped with the sporty Zetec hatch and the prestige Ghia sedan.
Other sportier models came later, but we'll stick to the mainstream models this time round. The new Focus was stiffer and larger than the older model; it was 40 mm wider and 25 mm longer in the wheelbase.
All models had a 2-.0-litre four-cylinder engine, one they shared with the Mazda3. It peaked at 107 kW at 6000 revs and 185 Nm at 4500 revs, which was quite competitive for the class.
All models but the Ghia came standard with a five-speed manual, and had an option of a four-speed auto. The Ghia came standard with the auto. The suspension was independent all round, with Macpherson Struts at the front and Ford's 'Control Blade' system at the rear.
The handling was always a positive with the Focus and the new model didn't disappoint, although it appeared to be more tuned to the needs of a family than before. On the road it was a pleasant driver, with a responsive engine and composed chassis.
IN THE SHOP
The Focus is generally appearing to be standing up quite well and owners are reporting few problems. Those problems that are reported are of an individual nature rather than widespread.
Being a European car you can expect to be servicing the brakes more often than you're used to with cars from other parts of the world. That means pads and discs are replaced more regularly.
Check for a service record, particularly on earlier cars to make they haven't been neglected. Regular oil changes are key to longevity on modern engines with their tiny oil galleries.
Also check the operation of the auto, making sure it selects gears cleanly and without hesitation. Make the usual checks for evidence of crash repairs, particularly any that have been poorly done.
IN A CRASH
The CL and LX had dual front airbags, but the Ghia and Zetec had the added protection of side airbags as well. All models except the CL had the vital safety feature of ABS brakes, you had to sign up for an option to have them on the CL until 2008 when they became standard.
ANCAP gave the Focus four stars up to 2007, after which it was rewarded with five.
UNDER THE PUMP
Ford claimed the Focus manual would achieve 7.1 L/100 km average, the auto 8.0 L/100 km. When tested by Cars Guide the Focus hatch auto gave 8.9 L/100 km on average.
Our readers generally agree that the Focus is economical. One, Ian Smith, reports he averages 6.8 L/100 km in his manual model and 7.L/100 km in his auto.
Ron Bunn downsized from a Falcon to a Focus LX sedan five years ago and says it has excellent and satisfied his every need. It is comfortable, pleasant to drive, handles well and has good performance, it is easy to get into for older owners, has a good-sized boot, and there have been no problems in the 100,000 km it has done to date. On the downside Ron says the road noise is high and twice he's had to call in help to get it re-started.
Ian Smith has two Focuses, and auto hatch and a manual sedan. The manual is the better car with a great gearbox and ratios; the auto needs a couple more gears to help it pull. The manual has 120,000 km on the clock; the auto 95,000 km and both have been trouble free and are still rattle-free. Ian says the seats are firm but comfortable, great for long trips, the headlights are fine on low beam, but hopeless of high beam. Overall, he says the Focus is a well-built, solid, economical and great handling car.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Good all round small to medium family car that's nice to drive. 80/100
Have you owned a Focus? Tell us what you think in the comments below.