Ford Focus VS Honda Accord
- Refined styling
- Roomy interior
- Advanced safety equipment
- Blind spot warning standard only on Titanium
- Auto transmission can seem indecisive
- No manual gearbox
- Slick design
- Brilliant packaging
- Single well-specified variant
- Ride hardly luxurious
- Engines are so-so
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|
It’s honestly a wonder we’re seeing Honda’s new Accord at all, given it enters the least favourable market conditions for sedans that Australia has ever seen.
Honda even knows it, which is why the company is bringing this new 10th-generation Accord to our market in conservatively low numbers to begin with.
In fact, the only reason we’re getting this Accord is because the Japanese brand acknowledges the sedan is part of Honda’s DNA, and that there’s a dedicated fanbase of Accord owners who won’t buy anything else.
If you’re one of those fans – pat yourself on the back – this car is just for you. So, what’s it like? We went to its Australian launch to find out.
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Regular Unleaded|
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.
Honda’s new Accord is a miracle in that it was brought here seemingly simply for fan service.
I think those fans will mostly be pleased. The 10th-generation car is high-tech, sensibly specified, safe, and certainly Honda-like behind the wheel. Just don’t expect it to be as luxurious as Japanese flagship sedans of days past.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
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.
The Accord looks swish! It carries so much of Honda’s up-to-date design language through its entire body.
This majorly includes the chrome strip across the front, up-to-date LED headlights, and swoopy coupe roofline.
These are offset by a curvy line running down the rear half of the car’s profile, accented by a chrome strip. As mentioned, those wheels look bigger than they are, and add to the Accords presence by sticking way out to the edges of the chassis.
It’s referential to other vehicles in Honda’s range, like the Civic and even S660 kei-sized sports car. Fans will be happy to know the overall package is more restrained than something like the zany Civic hatch.
The cabin is almost exactly what you’d expect from a luxury Japanese sedan. This means throne-style plush leather trimmed seats (that are genuinely nice to sit in) a wide symmetrical dash look and familiar Honda touchpoints throughout.
It’s all well built and ergonomic, so there’s no complains on that front, but there are some areas where the Accord is showing its age in the design department already.
There’s a shift knob that sits too far out of the centre console (hardly a ‘high-end’ look), an odd retracting panel in the dash like its 2004, and the ‘wood trim’ that runs across the dash appears to be a plastic fill – it has no texture!
The rear seats are just as - if not more - comfortable than the fronts, and there are no complaints when it comes to packaging – the Accord's cabin is mostly a great place to be.
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.
Speaking of packaging – it’s consistently a Honda strong point, and that’s no different in the new Accord. As already mentioned, front and rear passengers get heaps of room for their arms and legs, and there’s decent storage areas throughout.
That means two smallish cupholders and trenches in the doors, a large caddy in front of the shift-lever with that odd retracting door, and large cupholders in the centre console.
Like almost every Honda, the centre console box is colossal and hosts a single extra USB 2.0 port.
The back seat has leagues of legroom – almost limo-sized for rear passengers, although headroom is compromised a bit by the descending coupe-like roofline. The thick and low C-pillars also make getting in and out a little harder than it perhaps should be – but this is a common trait shared with other coupe-styled sedans in the class like the Peugeot 508.
Touchpoints everywhere are nice and plush, and there are only a few nasty plastics which are well hidden.
Rear seat occupants can make use of adjustable air vents, dual USB ports and a plush trimmed drop-down arm rest with two cupholders.
The arm-rest also reveals a ski port – an increasingly rare feature in today’s cars – which leads us to the boot. It’s massive at 570 litres (VDA) – that’s significantly larger than both the Camry and Liberty and the best part – it doesn’t matter whether you pick the petrol or hybrid, the boot space is the same.
Honda tells us that this is because it has managed to reduce the hybrid battery pack significantly in size – so that it can be placed under the passenger seats instead. Brilliant.
Every Accord has a space-saver spare under the boot floor.
Price and features
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.
Honda has chosen to bring the Accord in surprisingly limited numbers – just 150 units a year to begin with – and so there is just one specification level.
It’s the highest it goes though, a VTi-LX. Honda tells us there’s no chance of lesser variants, even if consumers are asking for it, so don’t hold out for an entry-spec car.
The single variant is split into two engine options. A familiar 1.5-litre petrol turbo, and a new-generation 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine with hybrid drive.
Naturally, as a high-grade car, the price is quite high. Honda is asking $47,990 for the turbo and $50,490 for the hybrid.
This is more expensive than highly specified traditional opponents, like the segment-dominating Toyota Camry SL hybrid ($41,090) and Subaru Liberty 2.5i Premium ($37,940). You could also consider cross shopping it against something like Peugeot’s new 508 GT ($53,990) – but if you’re an Accord fan there’s a good chance none of those alternatives matter.
Standard spec is great. The Accord sports the best of Honda’s catalogue and then some. Standard are flashy 18-inch alloys that look big in the Accord’s wheel arches, an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as marginally better software suite than the rest of Honda’s range (typically a sore point for Honda). Unlike pretty much every other Honda though, the Accord scores a 6.0-inch head-up display and one of its dual dials in the dash is digital, and configurable to several layouts including navigation.
You’ll also be getting a wireless phone charging bay, but no USB-C. At least it gets Apple CarPlay and Android auto from the get-go, unlike the current Camry which will need to have it retrofitted if you bought one prior to it being rolled out.
The Accord has an electronic parking brake, auto parking function and active cruise control to sweeten the deal, too. More on safety features later in this review.
Engine & trans
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 Accord will only get two engine options – the first is a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine which will be familiar from other Hondas where the same engine lives. Honda says it’s put a new head on for the Accord and tightened up the engine’s response. The result is the same 140kW power output, but an increase in torque to 260Nm. This engine is mated exclusively to a stepped-ratio continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The other option is a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol four-cylinder with hybrid drive. Combined system output is 158kW/315Nm, so it is the more powerful of the two choices.
It also has a different transmission which Honda refers to as the e-CVT – but it proved to behave quite differently as explained in the driving section of this review.
All Accords are front-wheel drive.
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.
The Accord has brave claimed/combined fuel usage figures of 6.5L/100km for the petrol-turbo and 4.3L/100km for the hybrid. If real-world tests can even come within a litre or two it will prove to be fantastic for the segment – but you’ll have to wait until we get one for a week-long road test for a fair real-world figure.
Honda says its engines are tuned to run on 91RON unleaded petrol, and the Accord has a 56-litre fuel tank in the turbo or 48.5L in the hybrid.
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 Accord doesn’t quite drive like you might expect. It betrays its luxurious look and plush interior with a firm ride.
Honda says this is because it has imbued the “spirit of Accord Euro” into the development process for this new Accord – suggesting that it can appeal as much to fans of the sporty Accords of days past as much as it does for its Japanese luxury car fans.
I think they’ve gone overboard, though. The chassis and dampers are stiff. Too stiff. This car feels abrupt and crashy over larger bumps, and unsettled over smaller ones.
The flip side of that, of course, is that it is a blast to throw into corners. With the wheels way out to the edges of the chassis (the Accord is wider than ever) it simply refused to understeer, giving it handling prowess that eludes most front-drive sedans this size.
In some ways its like driving a giant Civic, and for those who enjoy driving, that will be a very good thing.
Both engine options don’t quite keep up with the abilities of the chassis. While the 1.5-litre petrol punches above its weight when it comes to power, it’s just not an athletic performer, especially when you’re demanding straight-line acceleration.
Its weak link is largely the transmission which tries to emulate a torque converter by stepping its way through 'ratios'. It has some typically negative characteristics of limiting the feedback, and changing the ratio at seemingly random times.
The hybrid is better, both on power and in terms of its transmission, which locks up when needed. It’s still no true performer though.
Neither option seems to be capable of spinning the front wheels, either through lack of power or design, so if nothing else, it’s predictable and feels safe.
Handling proved to be good, with Honda’s direct and fast steering being on-point, and the signature chunky leather-bound wheel offering a satisfying way to interact with the car. The steering does have a slight artificial tinge to it, especially with the seemingly computer-weighted ‘Sport’ mode, but Honda has also reduced the turns lock-to-lock, making it fast to park in city scenarios.
I was surprised to find that road noise in both variants wasn’t great. It’s better than in the Civic, but Honda claims it has gone to lengths to deaden it, so I had hoped it would be quieter inside. The engine noise is better – relegated to a distant hum unless you’re really wringing it.
Overall, it’s a good – if a little firm – driving experience. It just doesn’t quite live up to the luxury promise set out.
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.
The Accord impresses with a fairly comprehensive standard safety suite, helped along by the fact that the brand only needs to bring one variant to market.
On the active safety front, it gets auto emergency braking (AEB – with pedestrian detection), lane departure warning with lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, driver attention alert, and Honda’s strange Lane Watch camera suite in place of blind-spot monitoring.
It also gets an expanded suite of cameras with a wide angle top-view to assist with parking.
On the expected front, the Accord gets the standard suite of stability, brake, and traction controls as well as front and side curtain airbags which have ‘safety vents’ to prevent airbag injury and ‘roll-over sensors’ which can keep the airbags deployed for longer in the case of a prolonged rollover scenario.
The Accord has not yet been rated by ANCAP.
Honda covers the new Accord with its five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty promise – which is competitive against both the Camry and the Liberty as well as other mainstream brands.
The Accord requires servicing once every 12 months or 10,000km whichever occurs first or when the engine computer tells you.
While you might be at the mercy of the computer, services are capped all the way out to 10 years/100,000km at just $312 a visit. That’s mega cheap.
There are a few things not covered under the “base service price” but they shouldn’t throw up too many red flags. The most expensive is the ‘HCF – 2 fluid’ every three years at a cost of $172, or the spark plugs every 100,000km at a cost of $289.