Ford Focus VS Hyundai Sonata
- Refined styling
- Roomy interior
- Advanced safety equipment
- Blind spot warning standard only on Titanium
- Auto transmission can seem indecisive
- No manual gearbox
- Much improved looks
- Cutting edge interior tech
- Full-size alloy spare
- No AEB available, at all
- Big price jump to Premium
- Still not a match for Mazda6 or new Camry
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|
Australia’s love for SUVs is a lot like our embrace of Netflix. EVERYONE seems to be getting on board and people love to boast that they never watch traditional free-to-air TV anymore, while fewer and fewer people are buying once-dominant sedans in favour of their boxier alternatives.
But, there's still a good chunk of the population that prefer good old telly, and the shape of car most of us grew up with. Yes, many regular TV voters and sedan fans will be in the same camp, but that's okay.
So if you're considering a sedan like the Hyundai Sonata, you're not alone. And like most mainstream brands, Hyundai is committed to building a range of cars to suit everyone. This commitment is so strong that you can choose between two mid-size sedans in the Hyundai stable, with the Sonata vying for your attention alongside the i40.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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.
The new Hyundai Sonata gets big marks for the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the Premium’s sweet turbo engine and the fact that both variants have full size spare tyres and run on regular fuel. Oh, and Hyundai’s five year warranty.
It’s a pretty good car overall, but it’s a shame to see AEB missing from the spec sheet in 2018. The Premium is the clear pick between the two in terms of an overall package, but the Active’s $14,500 cheaper price tag makes it the sweet spot in our eyes. The new Camry and the Mazda6 do seem to right the Sonata's wrongs though.
Would you look past the lack of AEB to buy a Sonata? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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.
For 2018, the Sonata has been completely restyled ahead of the A-pillar to bring it in line with more recent models like the i30 and Kona. This means the new cascading corporate grille, sleeker headlights which are mounted lower due to a reshaped bonnet, bumper and front guards.
The rear end has been similarly sharpened, with new rear quarter panels and tail-lights, while the number plate has been moved from between the lights to within the bumper. The bootlid has also been reprofiled to accentuate the Sonata’s fastback roof profile.
On the inside there's an updated dash with metallic buttons under the multimedia unit, and both versions get bespoke steering and alloy wheel designs.
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.
The Sonata was already one of the more spacious mid-size sedans around, with heaps of legroom for rear seat passengers, enough cabin width to manage three adults across on short journeys, and a surprising amount of rear headroom for its sloping roofline. The Premium does lose 40mm of headroom because of its sunroof, but rear passengers only lose 15mm.
This ample rear legroom also means more cabin length than most mid-size SUVs, which makes fitting a rearward-facing baby seat without compromising front passenger legroom a lot more likely.
There are two ISOFIX child seat mounts back there for optimum fitment as well, and the Premium’s retractable door blinds are a far more elegant solution than the window socks that have become a fundamental of modern parenting.
Front passengers get a cupholder each in the centre console, while rear occupants get the same in the fold-down armrest and there’s a bottle holder in each door.
The back seat folds 60/40 to expand beyond the generous 462 litres/510 litres VDA (even though conventional wisdom suggests the VDA figure should be smaller). The split-fold can be actioned via the cabin or boot pulls, and you’ll be able to impress your friends with the hidden boot release button within the top of the H in the Hyundai badge.
One definite highlight is that both Sonatas get a full-size alloy spare wheel instead of the more common spacesaver under the boot floor.
A maximum braked tow rating of 1300kg for both versions is rather modest, however.
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.
Nobody likes higher prices, but Hyundai claims to have met the $400 rise for the base Sonata Active (now $30,990 MSRP) with an extra $2000 of value.
Extra features for 2018 include an 8.0-inch multimedia screen with in-built sat nav and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also gains dual-zone climate control, push-button start, a hidden boot release button, and chrome door handles.
Other equipment highlights include a leather steering wheel and gear selector, auto headlights, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors, plus 17-inch alloys.
The previous mid-spec Elite has been dropped from the range, which creates a sizeable $14,500 gap between the Active and the $45,490 MSRP Premium (which carries the same price tag as before).
Hyundai claims the new Premium brings $1000 more value though, with the addition of LED headlights and a wireless Qi mobile phone charger on top of the updates applied to the Active.
Beyond the Active’s spec list, the Premium also adds features like leather trim, a panoramic sunroof, proximity boot opening, heated and ventilated front seats with power adjustment, plus memory settings for the driver’s seat and side mirrors. There’s also active cruise control, front parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, auto wipers and 18-inch alloys.
While the Premium’s extra features (and drivetrain advantages detailed below) are numerous, we’d find it tough to make the $14,500 jump over the Active. Hyundai sales expectations also reflect this, with the Active tipped to make up around 70 per cent of Sonatas on the road.
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 biggest news under the new Sonata’s bonnet is the eight-speed torque converter auto fitted to the Premium. Stepping up from the six-speeder used before, Hyundai claims it improves fuel consumption (more detail below) from the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder unit that still makes a very healthy 180kW of power and 353Nm of torque.
The Active’s drivetrain is unchanged though, with the same 138kW/241Nm 2.4-litre petrol four-cylinder engine, paired with a six-speed torque converter auto.
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 Sonata Premium’s new automatic knocks 0.7L/100km off its official combined figure, which now stands at 8.5L/100km.
The Active’s simpler but less peppy drivetrain is still the better of the two, with an unchanged 8.3L/100km combined.
Neither figure may appear particularly frugal, but this would be offset to a large degree by the fact that both engines still deliver their best sipping regular old 91RON unleaded fuel.
Considering 91 is a full 13.2c/L cheaper than premium 95RON on average across Sydney this week, the Sonata goes some way toward balancing key rivals’ lower windscreen sticker numbers at the hip pocket.
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.
Given the unchanged engines and suspensions, the Sonata drive experience is largely the same as before.
Which is no bad thing. It steers and handles better than you’d expect from a car developed primarily for the Korean and US markets, cabin noise is well contained and generally just does a good job.
It lacks the sporting edge of the Mazda6, but it’s not hard to imagine most buyers in this segment would probably prefer it that way. The Australian-tuned suspension also does a better job of maintaining comfort over rough roads.
The Premium’s new eight-speed auto does a good job, too, and really helps the engine come alive when you put it in Sport mode.
It’d be really nice to have the Premium’s turbo urge in the Active, but its drivetrain is par for the course in its price bracket and more than enough to keep up with traffic and handle the open road.
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 previous version of the Sonata was awarded a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2015, but we’re surprised to see that AEB still doesn’t appear on either version of the updated model, even as an option.
Most of the Sonata’s main rivals have this key crash avoidance tech fitted standard these days, and it’s even available on US-market versions of the Hyundai.
Hyundai Australia explains that the Korean plant that builds our Sonatas doesn’t equip them with AEB for their home market, and the numbers just don’t add up for Down Under.
Aside from this omission, both versions come fitted with all other current status quo features, including front and side airbags, with curtain airbags covering both rows, ABS, as well as traction and stability control.
The Sonata is covered by Hyundai’s generous 'iCare' ownership program that includes a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, including free roadside assistance for the first 12 months.
Service intervals differ between the trim levels, with the Premium’s turbocharged engine requiring a visit to the mechanic every 12 months or 10,000km, while the Active’s simpler drivetrain stretches out to every 12 months or 15,000km.
The Sonata comes with a lifetime capped price servicing program, with the Active’s pricing during the warranty capped at $265 (each) for the first three services, a $365 major service, with the final reverting to $265.
The Premium is not dissimilar, with its first three services capped at $275, then a major service for $355, before dropping back to $275.