Ford Fiesta VS Ford Focus
- Zesty performance
- Great handling
- Sounds terrific
- Manual only
- Can't hide cheap finishes
- Some shortfalls in practicality
- Refined styling
- Roomy interior
- Advanced safety equipment
- Blind spot warning standard only on Titanium
- Auto transmission can seem indecisive
- No manual gearbox
For the new-generation Ford Fiesta 2019 range, only one version will be offered - the all-new Ford Fiesta ST.
It has big shoes to fill, following on from what was widely acclaimed as the benchmark when it came to budget pocket rocket performance and outright driver enjoyment.
And, like the previous model, the new 2019 Ford Fiesta ST follows the fun-for-your-money formula to a tee: front-drive, manual, turbocharged... but this time around, things are very different - inside, outside, and under the skin.
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Ford has just released its new-generation Ford Focus. Do you know what that means? It means we're at a monumental point in history that, while nobody will ever really remember it, could impact you greatly.
Because like the automotive equivalent of planetary alignment, we are reaching a moment when Toyota, Mazda, Hyundai and Ford will have all brought their latest-gen small cars to market at about the same time.
Okay, you may not find that exciting. But it means you've now got the most current technology, styling and safety features to choose from right across the board, with Ford the latest to throw everything it's got at its new small-car contender.
All that and more as we take you through the launch of the 2019 Ford Focus, where we tested the hatch in the Trend and ST-Line grades, and the new wagon, too.
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The new-generation Ford Fiesta ST is instantly more appealing than its predecessor - it is smarter inside, more efficient and more powerful, more enjoyable and better to look at. There is no denying it will appeal to more people, even if it does miss out on the crucial automatic transmission that so many buyers want.
I just really hope Ford helps it along by making the five-door model available to local buyers, because it would be the best move - for the brand, and its potential customers.
Do you think the Fiesta ST should be offered in three-door, five-door, or both? Let us know in the comments section below.
Different but more refined looks, a smaller but powerful-for-its-size engine, plenty of advanced safety equipment and more room than ever before, the new Ford Focus is much better than the model before it. And it has to be – the competition is fierce.
The sweet spot in the range is the ST-Line hatch with its long list of standard features, comfortable ride and impressive handling.
Is the new Focus a car to take on the might of Hyundai and Toyota? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
It's less nosey than before - there's no doubt about that. The new Fiesta looks much better proportioned than its precursor, with an upright grille, sweeping lines through the body, and a "perfect" proportion between the metal and glass… according to the chief designer of the car. For what it's worth, I tend to agree - both in three- and five-door guise, this thing is a looker.
At the rear the tail-lights are now horizontal, rather than vertical, and that helps broaden the car visually, hunkering it down to the road. And in actual fact, the new-generation Fiesta ST is bigger in all the important directions than its predecessor: it is now 4068mm long (+93mm), 1735mm wide (+26mm) and the wheelbase is longer, too, now at 2493mm (+4mm). It's lower to the ground, as well: now 1469mm (-26mm).
Those dimensions are identical between three- and five-door models, and you can make your own mind up about which you prefer. But to me, there's a clear distinction between them: the three-door could be considered a bit of a selfish option - a car that's designed for the driver primarily, and that's undoubtedly a worthy attribute for a pint-size hot hatch; the five-door version is a more sensible option - it doesn't suffer enormous doors, and the packaging and practicality is pretty good for a little hatchback.
No matter the number of doors, the Fiesta ST gets clever door-ding protecting flip out barriers, the same as you see on a Skoda Kodiaq. It's a very nice piece of thoughtful design, especially for the three-door, because the doors themselves are massive for the size of the car.
The ST rolls on either 17- or 18-inch wheels, and it's unclear what we'll get (our money is on 18s). And it's still unclear if we'll get the three-door, the five-door, or maybe both. One would think that if Ford Australia was clever, it would try and maximise the options for buyers, because it's already excluding 90 per cent of the market by not offering an automatic transmission.
This new-generation Focus is completely new, and that goes for its design, the structure of the vehicle and the platform that underpins it all.
That grille, though poutier than before, still makes this new car recognisable as a Focus, but the rest of the car’s styling is a fairly big step away from the look of the previous model. The nose looks more elongated and turned down, and the headlights have an irregular shape (which somehow works) and they're helped to look more defined by the LED running lights that sit above each headlight like an eyebrow.
That front-end may take some getting used to, but I think most will like the rear exterior styling straight away. The hoisted-up style to the rear of the previous car is gone and the illusion is now a car which sits lower and level. I particularly like the Focus badging across the tailgate, too, which is reminiscent of Fords of the 1960s.
The car’s profile has changed, too, with the window structure simplified. Previous versions of the car had rear quarter glass; a small porthole which looked into the boot. That's now been incorporated into the door glass, which means the rear passenger aperture is larger.
Inside, the cabin has been decluttered of its galaxy of buttons, and that busy interior has given way to a more minimalist design with many of the functions moved to the large dash-top screen. That said, the steering wheel still has way too many buttons for my liking or need.
Telling the grades apart may not be obvious at first, but the ST-Line car is recognisable thanks to the blacked-out grille, more aggressive bumper treatment with its air-blade style design around the fog lights, and its twin exhaust. The car itself sits 10mm lower on sport suspension.
You can pick a Titanium from the inside by its leather-accented seats, multi-colour ambient lighting and the B&O sound system speakers.
The ST-Line’s seats are upholstered in a mesh-fibre material with leather accents and red-stitching, and there’s a flat-bottomed steering wheel and metallic brake and accelerator pedals. The wagon version of the Focus only comes in the ST-Line grade, and it comes with roof rails and a cargo cover.
The Active grade is the most recognisable of the Focus family due its higher-riding stance and its plastic wheel-arch cladding. The Active suspension has it sitting 35mm higher than a Trend grade, and while that doesn’t seem like much, the overall affect is quite dramatic, giving the Active a true SUV-like appearance.
There are nine colours to choose from, including Ruby Red, Orange Glow, Desert Island Blue, Blue Metallic, Shadow Black, Magnetic, Moondust Silver, Metropolis White and Frozen White.
At 4378mm end to end, the Focus hatch is 18mm longer than the previous model, while at 1454mm tall it's 13mm shorter, and it's 1979mm wide including the wing mirrors.
If there was a criticism that could be levelled at the old ST, it was that the interior felt like it hadn't moved on from its 2013 roots. The new one? Well, it's definitely up to date, even if it is also clearly based on an affordable hatchback and therefore has a few of less than luscious plastics.
There's the now typical tablet style media screen front and centre on the dashboard, an 8.0-inch touch-capacitive unit with the latest Ford Sync 3 interface, in-built sat nav, a crisp reversing camera display with active steering guidelines, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology. It works well, and looks a helluva lot better than the existing car's 4.2-inch TFT with Sync 1.1.
The seats in the test vehicles were Recaro buckets, which may be a little tight at the base for broader-hipped individuals (yours truly included), but they offer terrific support and bracing in corners thanks to the huge body-hugging bolsters.
The seats also feature plenty of adjustment, including manual height adjust for the base, and tilt adjust as well.
Of course there are the usual storage bits and bobs up front - a pair of cupholders between the front seats (with illumination), a smallish centre console bin, and a pair of slim door pockets.
The back seat of the three-door and five-door models is suitable for getting you and your friends or children from one place to another, but it wouldn't be an enjoyable long-distance road trip car. And if you happen to go through some corners, you'll struggle to find anything to hang on to in the back (in a three-door, in particular) as there are no roof grab handles at all (three- or five-door).
The back seat does have ISOFIX and child-seat anchor points, but it misses out on some basic inclusions: there is no fold-down centre armrest, no rear cupholders, and only a couple of small storage areas - whether the model you're in has five doors or three. There are no rear air vents, either, but it's a pretty small car.
The boot is a good size for this class, too, with 311 litres of cargo capacity - easily enough for a couple of weekend bags. There's a space-saver spare wheel under the floor - unless you get a car with the Bang & Olufsen stereo system, which uses that area for a subwoofer and instead includes a "tyre management kit".
The new Focus is longer by about 18mm, but it’s the wheelbase which has increased the most dramatically (by 52mm) and that means more space inside.
I’m 191cm tall and I can just sit behind my driving position without my knees touching the seatback – I wasn’t able to do that in the previous Focus. Headroom is also great for me in the backseat.
The entire cabin feels roomy, actually. For this new model the dashboard was moved 100mm further forward, opening up more space in the cockpit. Even the gear shifter being a rotary dial has freed up room.
Storage throughout is pretty good, with a deep centre console bin covered by the armrest and a hidey-hole in front of the shifter, plus two cup holders and big bottle holders in the doors up front. The door pockets in the back are big, too, but there are no cupholders in the second row.
Boot space is for the hatch is 341 litres packed to the cargo cover with a space saver spare, while the wagon’s cargo capacity is 575 litres. With the back row down, the hatch can fit 1320 litres and the wagon can do 1620 litres.
Price and features
We don't know what it will cost just yet, but strong indications from Ford Australia suggest a price tag of less than $30,000. It'll need to be there, given it is manual only.
Ford Australia has indicated it knows where the competitors sit - the new-generation Volkswagen Polo GTI is the main one, and that car will be automatic only (dual-clutch), and come in five-door guise, priced at $30,990.
Like its German rival, the Ford hot hatch will come comprehensively equipped for the money. There's an array of safety gear (see below) fitted as standard, plus a bunch of nice interior and exterior highlights.
Things like push-button start, keyless entry, leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear knob, Recaro sports seats with sporty cloth trim, auto headlights and wipers, cruise control, single-zone climate control and possibly heating seats and a heated steering wheel.
It's expected there will be 18-inch wheels fitted as standard (take that, 17-inch clad Polo GTI!), but it appears unlikely Aussie buyers will get the option of a dual-pane glass roof that is being offered in some markets.
The real determinant for a lot of buyers could be whether the company decides to offer three- and five-door models, though. As a one-time fancier of the existing Fiesta ST who ruled it out as a potential purchase out because it was a three-door, I know I speak for a lot of would-be Ford customers in saying that a five-door would be very, very enticing.
Ford has priced its new Focus competitively compared to rivals like the Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30 and Mazda 3, but its most affordable grade does kick off at a slightly higher level than the entry-level cars for those other brands.
That start point for the Focus hatch range is the Trend grade, with a list price of $25,990. Above it is the ST-Line, which is a sporty spec, for $28,990. And at the top of the hatch range is the $34,490 Titanium. There’s also a wagon version of the Focus in the ST-Line grade for $30,990.
But wait, there’s more. Ford is offering an SUV-style version of the Focus for the first time. It's called the Focus Active, and it'll cost $29,990. We’ll cover the physical differences between it and the rest of range in the Design section below.
Coming standard on the Trend is an eight-inch display screen with sat nav, Ford’s Sync3 voice activated media system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio, a six-speaker stereo, a Wi-Fi hot spot, single-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, a rotary-style gear shifter, LED running lights, paddle shifters, halogen headlights and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The mid-spec ST-Line takes the Trend’s features and adds dual-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, floor mats, puddle lamps, privacy glass and 17-inch alloys wheels. There’s also the sports suspension, which we’ll cover in the Driving and Engine sections.
The top-of-the-range Titanium brings a B&O 10-speaker sound system, heated front seats, leather accented upholstery, roof rails and LED headlights.
Engine & trans
The 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine matches the power output of the existing model (well, the old model on overboost, anyway), with 147kW at 6000rpm. That's pretty amazing horsepower from a triple.
The torque figure needn't be sneezed at, either with 290Nm from 1600-4000rpm. That's 50Nm more than the old car (or 20Nm more if you're talking the overboost numbers), across a slightly narrower rev range. But the tractability of the engine is superb. Read the driving section below for more on that.
Oh, and you might want to know the 0-100km/h time, too? It's 6.5 seconds, which is 0.4sec quicker than the claimed 0-100 time of the existing car, and that's despite the fact it's quite a bit heavier than the existing model: three-door for three-door, the weight is up 90kg (now 1262kg), and the five-door is 21kg. Top speed is claimed at 232km/h.
The new Focus has been given a new engine! It’s a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol, but don’t let that put you off - it makes as much grunt as the four cylinder in the old Focus. Actually, at 134kW, it makes 2kW more power and the same amount of torque (240Nm). Cylinder-deactivation allows the engine to run on two when not under much load, which is even more frugal.
The old six-speed auto has been replaced with an eight-speed automatic – it’s not a dual-clutch, it’s a traditional torque-converter auto. The Focus doesn’t offer a manual gearbox, and is front-wheel drive.
The new Fiesta ST is claimed to use 6.0 litres per 100 kilometres, which is high for a three-cylinder engine… well, if it were an economy-tuned three-cylinder. But it's still pretty good for a hot hatch.
And the 1.5-litre is the first three-cylinder from Ford to offer a cylinder deactivation system, which can make the engine run on two cylinders only under low loads. You can hear it and feel it when that happens, but it's apparently good to help you save about 6 per cent on fuel consumption when it does.
Over a very - shall we say - spirited drive in the mountains behind Nice in France, I saw just over 10 litres per hundred indicated on the dashboard.
According to Ford, the three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine in the Focus will use 6.4L/100km of fuel after a combination of urban and open-road driving. My mileage in the Trend grade, according to the car’s trip computer, was 9.4L/100km after 487.9km of country roads.
Not all of those kilometres were mine, mind, but that was the average after four different drivers had been behind the wheel.
I love the character and sound of three-cylinder cars - I own two of them, a Mini Cooper and a Volkswagen up! - and anyone who may have thought that the charm of the Fiesta ST could be damaged by the swap from four to three cylinders, you needn't fear. It's more loveable than ever.
The way the engine sears with power and punches its torque out is phenomenal, a true testament to Ford's engineers that have made something thoroughly entertaining with the 2019 Fiesta ST.
Of course it still has a six-speed manual - it's a Euro hot hatch, after all - but still no automatic, dual-clutch or otherwise. It's a good little gearbox, with decent shift feel and a light but usable clutch. The throw is a little long, and first gear is pretty short, but it's easy enough to pedal through the gears.
There is a launch control system that'll hold revs for you, allowing you to dump the clutch and take off very speedily. And if you're worried about just how quick you're going, there's a digital speedometer in the middle of the manual gauge cluster. It's a shame the new Fiesta doesn't get the same 12.0-inch digital driver display that the Mustang has - it would have lifted the interior ambience even more.
It also lacks a rev matching system - aaaaaand you get that sporty tech in the a new-generation base model manual Corolla.
The traction on offer is immense - as you may expect, the vehicle we tested with the Quaife limited-slip differential clambered out of tight corners tremendously, where the car with the open diff was more of a handful in the twisty stuff.
There's also a torque vectoring (by braking) system, which will grab the brake of the inside front wheel to enhance the turn response, and if you want to, you can provoke the back end to step around on itself to a degree - if you opt for the Sport ESC setting and Sport drive mode and find a series of hairpins, the Fiesta ST will cock its back leg more than an eager dog on a morning walk.
We didn't sample Race Mode, because we weren't at a race track. Safety first… and as it was, we had to dodge public holiday cyclists by the hundred, and speeding Renault Kangoo drivers that seemed to have forgotten what side of the road they were supposed to be on.
There is no Individual or Custom mode, so you can't pick and choose settings you might want to.
There is some torque-steer to contend with, but rather than being annoying, it's actually pretty endearing - and the ultra-quick steering (a 12:1 ratio electric steering set-up, the quickest ever from Ford) makes you feel more dialled-in to the drive experience.
While some of my fellow Aussie journos had questions over a slight fuzziness to the steering on-centre, I had no such complaints with the way this car tipped into a tight bend or changed direction part way through.
Another dialled-in element is the suspension - the front end is a MacPherson strut set-up with twin-tube dampers and a thick (22.5mm) anti-roll bar, the rear a torsion beam arrangement that is stiffer than anything else to have come from Ford Performance.
The most surprising bit is how nicely the Fiesta ST rides. It is undeniably more comfortable than the existing model (I got a lift in one just two days before the launch drive), and while our test loop wasn't the typical rat-run through the back streets of Sydney or Melbourne, it promises to be well sorted when it comes to bump and body control.
The Active and Titanium grades weren’t available to drive at the Australian launch of the Focus, but I did get to drive the ST-Line in hatch and wagon form, as well as the Trend hatch.
The ST-Line hatch is the sporty one in the Focus range, even though it has the same 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine as the Trend (and the Titanium). What makes it sporty is its sports suspension. Does it work? Absolutely, although I didn’t realise just how well until I drove the Trend hatch after steering its ST-Line brother for a few hours first.
Three-cylinder engines tend to have a satisfying little burble to their exhaust notes, but the ST-Line hatch I started in had a particularly deep growl to it at idle. While the ST-Line does have a dual exhaust, the engine output is the same as any other Focus, and so the gravelly voice is more theatrics than suggesting the car is any more potent than a Trend.
What the ST-Line does do without any drama is handle well, because even though it has a torsion bar set-up in the rear (like the Trend), it also has a lowered ride height and a sports suspension tune. It’s not Focus ST-level of agility by any means, but the ST-Line hatch felt nicely pinned down in the bends, with excellent steering feel and accuracy ensuring it is a genuinely fun car to drive.
What I didn’t know until I drove the Trend hatch is that the firmer sports suspension actually gives a more comfortable ride in the ST-Line than the base-grade car. The Trend, like the Titanium, has softer suspension, which you’d think would offer the best ride, but I found that over the bumps and bruises of country roads, the Trend’s ride was comfortable but bit bouncy, while the ST-Line was more composed and meant the occupants weren’t jiggled around as much.
The award for the most comfortable ride and best handling of the three cars I drove goes to the ST-Line wagon with its sports-tuned multi-link rear suspension. Yup, the cargo hauler of the range was also the best to drive from a comfort and fun perspective, with its compliant suspension keeping life civilised inside the cabin over bumps, while also feeling planted in the switchback and hairpins that cut through country Victoria.
Shifting gears is an eight-speed automatic (you can’t get a manual), but it’s super keen to shift to a higher gear as early as possible, and when sitting at about 100km/h on a motorway, it was indecisive about which gear it wanted to be in; go 104km/h and it shifted up, drop to 97km/h and it shifted down. Up, down, up, down, up... well, you get the idea.
When it came time to drive roads which went all bendy, the transmission still tried to take the fun out by shifting up and bogging the car down in lower revs. The solution was to leave the car in Sport mode, which instructs the gearbox to cling to lower gears for longer. I kept the Trend and ST-Lines in Sport mode most of the time I drove them – it didn’t affect the ride (the cars suspension isn’t adaptive), but the throttle response and shifting was perfect for all driving, whether I was flinging through the winding country roads or trundling through town centres.
All three – the Trend hatch, ST-Line Hatch and ST-Line wagon - performed well, with the ST-Line duo feeling like they were approaching or even matching Volkswagen Golf levels of agility and composure.
At no point did I feel that the three-cylinder was under powered - it’s a surprisingly responsive and grunty engine.
The new Ford Fiesta ST hasn't been crash-tested anywhere in the world, but the regular model has, and it scored the maximum five-star rating under the Euro NCAP regime. It isn't clear if the ST will cop the same score or not just yet.
The standard safety kit list in the Fiesta ST is extensive.
Along with six airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain - no driver's knee like the existing Fiesta) there is a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, auto emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, auto high-beam lights, traffic sign recognition, hill-hold assist and driver fatigue alert.
The Focus scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2018. Standard across the range are seven airbags, AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, and lane keeping assistance and traffic sign recognition - the latter of which can read speed limits for you.
The Titanium comes standard with a lane-centre system, which I tested and found it works seriously well – drift out of your lane and the system rapidly yanks you back in again. Only the Titanium comes with blind spot warning, which is odd considering the impressive advanced safety tech that’s already standard across the range
Auto parking is optional only on the Titanium, and can be used for parallel or perpendicular parking. Also standard on all is a 180-degree split-view camera, but front parking sensors are only available to option on the Titanium – again, that’s a bit odd.
A space-saver spare is found under the boot floor for all grades. For child seats, you’ll find two ISOFIX points and three top tether mounts in the second row.
The new-generation Focus was developed in Europe and built in Germany.
It's a much more promising ownership program than it once was, with Ford having recently introduced a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty across all of its models (purchased from May 1, 2018). Previously the brand backed its cars with a three-year/100,000km plan.
There will be capped-price servicing under Ford's 'Service Price Promise' plan, which will span the life of the car, as it does with all Ford models. The previous plan required servicing every 12 months/15,000km and it is expected that will be the same for the new model.
Ford will also update the Sync 3 sat nav maps for seven years from the date of purchase if you maintain your car with them throughout.