Ford Focus VS Hyundai i40
- Great chassis
- Surprising engine
- Optional advanced safety
- Better tyres would be nice
- Too many optional colours
- Impressive ride and handling
- Diesel engine provides plenty of oomph
- Tiny display screen
- No AEB
- Tyre noise
Ford's small hatch, the Focus, is criminally under-bought in Australia. The latest model is one of the best hatchbacks on the road and when you chuck in the decent price, impressive equipment and absurdly powerful engine for its size, it's a winner.
But you lot? You don't buy it in nearly the kinds of numbers it deserves. Partly because there isn't a bait-and-upsell boggo model to lure you in, partly because it's got a badge that is not exciting Australians any more and partly because it's not a compact SUV.
Or is(n't) it? Because alongside the ST-Line warm hatch is the identically priced and therefore technically a co-entry level model; the Focus Active. Slightly higher, with plastic cladding, drive modes and a conspicuous L on the transmission shifter, it's a little bit SUV, right?
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
A wagon and not an SUV, eh? Respect. You see, when most people now think of a new car they think of an SUV, especially when they want something with a bit of cargo space. But not you.
So, what are the strengths and weaknesses of this Korean wagon, and should you wait or buy it now? Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||1.7L turbo|
Ten years ago, the idea that the higher-riding version of a hatchback would be a good city car would have been laughable. The Focus Active is pitched as a kind of SUV with its different low-grip driving modes, which you'll never touch if you stick to the city.
The Ford Focus is genuinely a brilliant car, no matter where you take it. The Active takes a terrific chassis, tweaks it for comfort but, ironically, doesn't lose much of the speed.
The i40 Tourer in the Active grade is great to drive, it’s practical, and should be low-cost to run. But you can bet the new version, due to arrive soon, will be, too. If you can wait, it's a safe bet the new i40 Tourer will have an updated look, improved safety equipment and retain all the good points of the previous model.
Would you buy the current i40, or would you be mad not to wait for the new one, coming soon? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
For a fairly conservative hatchback, the Focus came under fire for what some termed its derivative styling. I quite like it, and not just because the styling work was led by an Australian. The front end is very much family Ford, as long as it's the European arm of the family, fitting in with its smaller sibling, the Fiesta. The Active scores the usual black cladding, higher ride height and smaller diameter wheels, in exchange for more compliant, higher-profile tyres. All of that takes nothing away from a design that I think looks pretty good.
The cabin is well put together, with just that oddly angled touchscreen causing me a bit of a twitch. The design is a fairly steady Ford interior with a lot of switchgear shared with the Fiesta, but it's all quite nice. The materials feel mostly pleasant and the hardwearing fabric on the seats feels right for this kind of car.
The i40 wagon looks good, I even caught myself doing that admiring 'look back' thing you do when you walk away from your car. Thing is, the current i40 has the ‘old’ Hyundai styling that dates it compared to the new i30, Sonata and Kona, which reflect the brand’s latest look.
This brings me to something you should really know – the newer, updated i40 will arrive in Australia soon, and it will be more in line with Hyundai’s current design approach.
The i40 is also up against some hot-looking rivals. The Mondeo is gorgeous, the Passat is stately, and the Commodore also looks stunning. To be honest the i40 is the least attractive of that lot form where I’m looking. It’s also about the same size as that trio at 4775mm long, 1815mm wide and 1470mm in height.
My mum would call the interior of the i40 Active smart looking, but she doesn’t mean tech-smart, more school dance smart, and if she ever said that before you went to a school dance you’d get changed immediately.
Yes, it looks smart in a tidy, stylish way, but that tiny screen, cloth seats and ordinary plastics lower the tone compared to the Premium's more 'premium' interior.
The Focus is quite roomy compared to other cars in its class. The rear seat has good leg and headroom, with the feeling of space accentuated by large windows. Annoyingly, though, all that work put into making the rear a nice place to be is ruined by a lack of amenities like cupholders, USB ports or an armrest.
Front-seat passengers fare better with two cupholders, a roomy space at the base of the console for a phone and a wireless-charging pad. The front seats are very comfortable, too.
The boot starts at a fairly average 375 litres - clearly sacrificed for rear-seat space - and maxes out at 1320 litres with the seats down. While you have to lift things over the loading lip and down into the boot, it's one of the more sensibly shaped load areas, with straight up and down sides. Ironically, the smaller Puma has a noticeably larger boot.
The i40 wagon nails the practicality category. Storage space is excellent with a deep, wide console bin under the centre armrest, and there’s another big well in front of the gear shifter.
There are large pockets in all the doors with bottle holders, two cupholders up front and another two in the fold-down rear armrest, plus another storage area in there, too.
Rear legroom borders on limo territory and even at 191cm I can sit behind my driving position with about 50mm of space between my knees and the seat back. Headroom back there is also extremely generous.
The rear doors open wide, making for an easy exit or entry, too.
Price and features
The Focus Active wears a $30,990 sticker but the several people I know who bought one haven't paid that much, so Ford dealers are obviously keen to do deals. Even at that price, it's got a fair bit of stuff. The Active has 17-inch wheels, a six-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, auto LED headlights, LED fog lights, sat nav, auto wipers, wireless hotspot, powered and heated folding door mirrors, wireless phone charging, a big safety package and a space-saver spare.
Ford's SYNC3 comes up on the 8.0-inch screen perched on the dashboard, which weirdly feels like it's facing away from you slightly. It has wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, DAB+ and also looks after various functions in the car.
The panoramic sunroof is a stiff $2000 and includes an annoying perforated cover rather than a solid one.
There are only two grades in the i40 range - 'Active' and 'Premium'. And when it comes to engines you again have two choices - petrol or diesel. The latter adding $2600 to the price.
If you’re looking for the most affordable way into an i40 wagon go for the Active. Listing at a base price of $35,690, 'our' i40 Active Tourer diesel had one option – 'Ocean View' metallic paint, adding an extra $595.
The Active grade costs $9160 less than Premium, and as much as I’d like to say that top-spec car is pretty much the same, with some shiny bits of door trim added, I’d be lying.
The Active really does miss out on some decent stuff – the screen is the smallest I’ve seen since I wore a digital watch, at 4.3-inch (the Premium has a 7.0-inch), there’s air-con but not climate control, there’s keyless entry but not a proximity key or push button start.
The Active doesn’t get a power tailgate with a handsfree function like the Premium, or tinted rear glass, or a digital speedo, or a panoramic sunroof, or a power adjustable driver’s seat, or heated seats, all of which are standard on the Premium grade.
Yup, the Active may be as base grade as you can get but it still comes with paddles shifters, LED daytime running lights, an electric handbrake with auto hold function, front and rear parking sensors, cloth seats and 16-inch alloy wheels.
A list price nudging $36K may seem high, but don’t’ forget you’re paying more for the diesel engine. There’s good reason to spend the extra on the diesel, too – which I’ll explain below.
The i40 Active Tourer diesel undercuts the $39,040 Ford Mondeo Ambiente diesel wagon, while the Volkswagen Passat 140TDI wagon only comes in the mid-spec Highline grade for $49,990 (and is a bit ‘next level’ by comparison), while the Mazda6 wagon in Touring spec with diesel engine is $41,440.
Other rivals? Yes, the new Holden Commodore Sportwagon diesel is $38,890. So, compared to its rivals the i40 Active Tourer is a bit of a bargain.
Engine & trans
Ford does an excellent range of small turbo engines. The "normal" Focus range (such as it is, now the wagon has disappeared from the market) comes with a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine. Bucking the SUV-this-size trend (yes, I know it's not really an SUV), this punchy little unit delivers an impressive 134kW and 240Nm. They're both very decent numbers for such a small engine.
The big numbers continue with the transmission boasting eight gears, a number you don't often find in a hatchback. It's a traditional torque-converter auto, too, so those of you who have bad memories of Ford's old PowerShift twin clutches should worry no more.
Power goes to the front wheels only and you'll get from 0 to 100km/h in 8.7 seconds.
At 104kW, it may be less powerful than the petrol (121kW) but its 340Nm of torque gave it the shove to accelerate impressively from 1750rpm (idle is 800rpm).
The engine and dual-clutch combination performs beautifully; smooth even at low speed in traffic, and shifting down intuitively to make best use of engine braking.
Ford's official testing for the big window sticker delivered a 6.4L/100km result on the combined cycle. In my time with the Focus, I got 7.2L/100km indicated on the dashboard, which is a pretty solid result given the Focus spent a good deal of the time on suburban or urban roads.
With its 52-litre tank, you'll cover around 800km if you manage the official figure, or just over 700km on my figures.
Despite the very mild off-road pretensions, if it's a comfortable city ride you're after, the Active is the Focus to have. While the ST-Line isn't uncomfortable - not by a long way - the Active's more compliant tyres and higher ride height (30mm at the front and 34mm at the rear) iron out the bigger bumps without sacrificing much of the sportier car's impressive dynamic prowess, even with the low-rolling-resistance tyres.
The cracking 1.5-litre turbo is responsive and well-matched to the eight-speed auto. The big torque number pushes you along the road and makes overtaking much less dramatic than a 1.5-litre three-cylinder has any right to.
Ford's trademark Euro-tuned quick steering is also along for the ride, making darting in and out of gaps a quick roll of the wrist, which has the added benefit of meaning you rarely have to take your hands off the wheel for twirling. That darting is aided and abetted by the engine and gearbox, with the turbo seemingly keeping the boost flowing with little lag. It's almost like they planned it that way.
You have good vision in all directions, which almost renders the fact that the blind-spot monitoring is optional acceptable. Almost. It's very easy to get around in, easy to park and, just as importantly, easy to get in and out of. Compared to, say, a Toyota Corolla, the rear doors are very accommodating.
A comfortable ride, impressive handling for the class, and a great engine and transmission mean the i40 Active Tourer diesel is engaging and enjoyable to drive.
The driving position is excellent, the seats are large but supportive, and the pedal feel is spot on. The i40 Tourer is way better to drive than it needs to be and would embarrass some cars from more prestigious brands.
It’s not all perfect: the cabin could be better insulated with wind noise obvious at 90km/h and tyre rumble intruding on course chip roads; visibility is hampered by those slanted A-pillars and the reversing camera image is next to useless thanks to the business card-sized screen in the Active.
The Active has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward AEB (low speed with pedestrian avoidance and highway speeds), forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, speed-sign recognition and active lane-keep assist.
Annoyingly - and I can't for the life of me work out why this is a thing - despite some advanced safety features in the base package, you have to pay $1250 extra for blind-spot monitoring, reverse cross traffic alert and reverse AEB, which are part of the Driver Assistance Pack. No, Ford is not the only company to do this.
The back seat has two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors.
The Focus scored five ANCAP stars in August 2019.
Hyundai’s website says the i40 Tourer scores the maximum five-star ANCAP rating. That’s true, but a bit sneaky because that ranking was given to the car back in 2013, and a lot has changed in terms of safety equipment in five years.
AEB, for example, is becoming common. So is rear cross traffic alert and blind spot warning, along with adaptive cruise control. You can’t get any of this advanced safety equipment on the current i40, not even the top-spec Premium.
Don’t get me wrong, the i40 is extremely safe with its suite of airbags, plus traction and stability controls - it’s just that the bar for safety has been raised higher.
The new i40 is expected to come armed with more up-to-date safety equipment.
If you’re fitting child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether anchor points across the rear row. It’s great to see a full-sized spare wheel under the boot floor, too.
The first five services cost $299 each and also include a free loan car and a 12-month extension to your roadside assist membership for up to seven years.
The i40 Tourer is covered by Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km/12months at a capped price of $339. A servicing plan is also available for three years ($777), four years ($1136), and five years ($1395).