Ford Focus VS Hyundai Veloster
- Refined styling
- Roomy interior
- Advanced safety equipment
- Blind spot warning standard only on Titanium
- Auto transmission can seem indecisive
- No manual gearbox
- Unique looks
- Grunty 1.6-turbo engine
- Great dynamics
- Small boot
- Only three doors
- 2.0-litre engine lacks grunt
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|
Promise me something. Don’t judge a Hyundai Veloster just by its looks, especially this new generation which has just arrived.
So, what is it, then? If anything it could be the perfect compromise car: a coupe with easier access to the back seats than a two-door, a choice of engines, an affordable entry-point, plus good dynamics and a comfortable ride.
I went to the Australian launch of the new Veloster and here’s what I found out about this much improved second-generation model.
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
|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 Veloster might not be the perfect family car with its small boot and three doors, but if you are looking for something different and sporty then the Veloster with its great driving dynamics could be the funnest reason not to buy an SUV like everybody else.
The Turbo is the sweet spot in the Veloster range for value - the most bang for you buck, plus plenty of great features.
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.
Nobody had seen anything quite like the Veloster before the first one arrived in 2012. This ugly-pretty hatch with cranky frog looks made Australia rubber neck.
It arrived just after Hyundai had finished winning over Aussies with small affordable cars with outstanding five-star ANCAP safety scores and it was a case of 'now for something completely different.'
I’m going to put it out there and say the styling was about half-a-decade ahead of the trend because by the time 2017 rolled around brands like Toyota were coming up with pretty similar designs in the form of its C-HR and even more recently Lamborghini’s Urus bears more than a passing resemblance to the Hyundai. Where have you ever seen that written before?
This second-generation Veloster has arrived looking a bit more grown up and serious than the pioneering first-gen, with its longer nose and sleeker head and tail-lights, the latter of which now extend through into the tailgate.
And while it’s not quite as toy-like in its design as the original it’s still fun looking and different with the pumped up wheelarches, central exhaust, a roofline which slopes dramatically down to the oversized rear spoiler and the three-door design – one for the driver, the front passenger and a single entrance to the second row.
Yep, if you didn’t realise it then you should know that from the right-hand side the Veloster looks like a two-door coupe, but from the left it appears to be a four-door. Not even Hyundai can give me a reason why, other than it offers the practicality that a two-door coupe can’t.
All Velosters come with 18-inch alloy wheels but each grade’s rims come in a different design, while the Turbo and Turbo Premium have blacked-out side skirts and a sporty grille with a red-painted lower air-intake.
Each grade of Veloster comes with a different interior package with a black and blue colour scheme with cloth material in the entry-level car; while the Turbo’s cabin is black with red highlights using cloth and leather; and the Turbo premium is similar but with leather upholstery.
That said, there’s way too much hard plastic used on all grades, from the dash to the door sills and that brings the feeling of quality down even if the fit and finish of the cabin is excellent.
At 4240mm long, 1800mm across, and 1399mm tall the Veloster is about 100mm shorter in length than an i30, a little bit wider and not quite as tall, giving it a low and planted stance.
Colours include 'Red Ignite', 'Yellow Thunder Bolt', 'Chalk White', 'Dark Knight', 'Tangerine Comet', 'Phantom Black' and 'Lake Silver'. Frankly a frog-looking car should come in green, but that isn’t offered, neither is blue, grey or purple.
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.
It’s not. Well not very practical anyway, not in the same way a Hyundai i30 is or even a Kona SUV is.
Let’s go straight to the obvious one – the three doors. A door for the driver, one for the front passenger and another on the kerb-side of the car for entry into the two seats in the second row.
Yes, it’s quirky and different, but it’s frustrating for the those who need to climb in from the left-hand side and scoot across a hard plastic tray and cupholders in the centre to sit behind the driver.
To be fair, the aperture of the entry has been widened by 58mm, improving entry and egress and headroom in the second row has been increased, too.
At 191cm tall I can just sit behind my driving position while my hair is brushing the ceiling. Not a place I’d like to be a on a long trip, that’s for sure.
Hyundai argues that the third door provides practicality that a two door doesn’t have, which is true, but that’s like making a T-shirt with one long sleeve and a short one just in case it’s colder than you thought outside. No, it isn’t… but I can’t think of a better analogy right now.
Did you notice that the front doors are different lengths? The driver’s door is long because the B-Pillar on that side is positioned further rearwards than the other side while the passenger door is short. This causes a few issues – the driver’s door is heavy and if you park next to somebody you might have trouble opening it far enough for you to clamber out.
But if you don’t have kids and will only occasionally ferry people around in the back, then the Veloster is far more suitable.
Cabin storage is good with two cupholders in the back, and two up front, along with slim door pockets up front, a large centre console storage bin under the centre armrest and a big hidey hole in front of the shifter.
As for power outlets you’ll find a 12-volt along with two USB ports up front – a media connection and charging-only one.
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.
There are three grades in the Veloster range with the entry-point simply called Veloster, which lists for $29,490 with a manual gearbox and $31,790 for the automatic transmission.
Above this is the Turbo, which lists for $35,490 for the manual (add $3K for a dual-clutch auto) and at the top of the range is the Turbo Premium for $38,990 in manual guise and, that’s right, three grand extra for the dual-clutch.
The standard equipment list is impressive. Well, it is for the Turbo and Premium, but the entry-grade Veloster still comes with a good safety suite (read about that below) and features such as LED daytime running lights, a 7.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, single-zone climate control, sports front seats, leather-clad steering wheel, 18-inch alloy wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tyres and switchable drive modes if you go for the auto transmission.
The Turbo is the sweet spot in the Veloster range for value coming standard with an 8.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, eight-speaker Infinity sound system, proximity unlocking, LED headlights, sat nav, digital performance gauges, digital radio and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres.
The Turbo Premium has all of the Turbo’s features but adds leather upholstery, heated and ventilated seats, power adjustable driver’s seat, head-up display, heated steering wheel, sunroof, and wireless charging for your smartphone. Plus, this grade gives you the option of the two-tone effect with the black roof for $1000. Premium paint on all grades costs $595.
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.
There are two engines in the Veloster range: a 110kW/180Nm 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol four cylinder in the entry-grade car; and the 150kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four in the Turbo and Turbo Premium.
Both engines can be had with a six-speed manual, while the 2.0-litre is also available with a six-speed automatic and the 1.6-litre is offered with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto.
For me, the best combination is the turbo engine with the manual gearbox. For more on what the Veloster is like to drive, skip on down to that section below.
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.
Hyundai says that after a combination of open and urban road driving the 2.0-litre petrol engine with the six-speed manual will use 7.0L/100km, while the six-speed auto will need 7.1L/100km.
In my test drive of the automatic the trip computer was telling me it was using an average of 7.1L/100km but that was mainly country roads.
As for the turbo engine Hyundai says consumption will be 7.3L/100km with the manual gearbox and 6.9L/100km with the dual-clutch. My testing of the DCT car saw the trip computer report 6.8L/100km after motorways and then getting lost in Brisbane’s CBD during peak hour. Not bad at all.
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.
I kicked things off in the base grade Veloster with its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic, then upgraded to the Turbo Premium with the 1.6-turbo and dual-clutch auto, before piloting the mid-range Turbo with the six-speed manual gearbox. It was enough for me to see straight away which I’d want in my driveway.
And ‘yeah-nah’, it wasn’t the base grade Veloster. Not for me, anyway. The frankly superb (for the money) suspension is let down by an engine which can’t offer the performance a car this well set-up deserves.
Still, you get the look, great handling, outstanding steering and a comfortable and composed ride for less money than the rest. So, if ‘extra sporty’ driving doesn’t matter to you, then you will still love the way the entry Veloster feels to pilot.
If you have a little more to spend my recommendation is the middle-of-the-range Turbo with the six-speed manual. This is the bang for your buck winner with that 1.6-litre turbo making 150kW/265Nm at a pretty darn good price.
You’ll find the same engine in the Hyundai i30 N-Line, but the Veloster Turbo with a manual gearbox is 1270kg - 45kg lighter than the i30, giving it a better power-to-weight ratio.
The lightness and all that torque rushing in from 1500rpm, combined with quick and natural steering makes the Veloster Turbo feel so pointable, changing direction almost as quickly as you can think it.
The manual gearbox just ups the engagement factor, with a light clutch pedal and easy ‘flick of the wrist’ shifts.
If you’re going to be commuting in traffic daily then you’d probably be happier with the dual-clutch auto, which reduces the driver-car connection but has its own benefits over the manual.
First, the DCT can shift faster than any human, and second when it moves to a higher gear the burbling exhaust note lets out satisfying deep burps.
The official 0-100km/h acceleration time for the Turbo cars is 7.1sec for the DCT auto, and 7.7sec for the manual.
All Velosters have the same suspension tune and it’s much improved over the previous model. MacPherson struts underpin the front while suspension in the back has been swapped from a torsion beam to multi-link set-up which has improved high-speed and cornering stability, while giving the Veloster a comfortable and composed ride.
Hyundai has done a top job in designing the driving position, too, with a low hip point, supportive seats and plenty of elbow room.
You might be wondering what visibility is like in a car with a mini-tank turret and it’s nowhere near as bad as you might think.
Hyundai has moved the A-pillars back to improve the view, but they are still a bit in the way while looking rearward, your sight obstructed by the chunky C-Pillar and small windows. But use your mirrors and the reversing camera when parking and you’ll be fine.
That brings us to looking at how practical something like the Veloster is…
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.
This new-gen Hyundai Veloster hasn’t been given an ANCAP assessment yet, but it’s likely the rating could be split between a four-star score for the entry grade and a five-star for the Turbo and Turbo premium.
This is because the entry car has AEB but it’s not the pedestrian detecting type which is found on the top two grades and is necessary for a five-star score.
All Velosters have rear parking sensors, but none have front ones.
The LED headlights on the Turbo and Turbo premium are excellent. Keep this in mind if you’re thinking of the base grade and you live in a country area – its full beam headlights are nowhere near as good.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX mounts and two top tether anchor points in the second row.
The new Veloster is covered by Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km or 12 months for the base grade Veloster and costs $279 for the first two visits followed by $365 for the next then $459 and $279 for the fifth.
The Turbo and Turbo Premium need servicing every 10,000km or 12 months and you’ll pay $299 for the first three visits then $375 and then $299 for the fifth.