Ford Focus VS Kia Optima
- Refined styling
- Roomy interior
- Advanced safety equipment
- Blind spot warning standard only on Titanium
- Auto transmission can seem indecisive
- No manual gearbox
- Very roomy
- Great ownership plan
- Decent price
- Removed some good stuff to lower price
- Not as good looking as pre-facelift model
- A bit basic inside
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|
There are plenty of reasons why you should still consider a mid-sized sedan like the Kia Optima. I’m sure there are… just let me think about this for a sec…
Okay, so this part of the market is dying. A decade ago, sedans like this were really popular, but now there are heaps of alternative options. Yep, people are going for mid-sized SUVs rather than mid-sized sedans like this.
But that doesn’t mean models like the just-updated 2018 Kia Optima are without their reasons for being. I’m just not sure the facelift has made it more appealing to look at…
|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.
Kia Optima 7.6/10
If you travel long distances, want a good amount of space and don’t want to pay big bucks for a new car, then yeah, maybe there is a reason sedans like this will hang around for a while longer.
Sure, the appeal of sedans mightn’t be as strong as it once was, but models like the Kia Optima prove they still have a reason to exist.
Is a sedan on your shopping list? Let us know in the comments section 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.
Kia Optima 7/10
Cosmetic changes for the facelifted 2018 Kia Optima include new headlights and tail-lights with revised LED signatures (but still halogen lamps in the base model), and there are newly sculpted bumpers and new wheel designs across the two-model range.
We had the base model Si, which doesn’t look as good as the GT model, because it has smaller wheels, the sporty body kit and misses out on the LED headlights, but the LED daytime running lights are still present.
The GT has a more aggressive look, and the side skirts, front spoiler and rear diffuser fit it better - there are dual exhausts, but not sporty quad exhaust tips.
In fact, this model is a bit like the old-man version of the Optima. No offence intended to old men, of course. The GT is just heaps sportier, and I reckon it’s considerably more attractive as a result.
Still, the inherent sleek styling of the Optima remains - the chrome highlighting along the window line is a bit too sheeny for me, but the angles and stance of this model are quite gracious. I really dig the fact the top of the windscreen mirrors the ‘Tiger Nose’ grille shape.
I'm no exterior designer, but I liked the existing Optima more - it just looked a bit neater, even though it had a decent amount of bling with its Mercedes-like diamond-pattern grille, as opposed to the cheese grater look seen here.
There’s not quite as much bling inside the cabin of the Si, either, but it is still a well-designed space - just not as special as the premium package offering of the GT (which gets leather trim - not nappa leather, but still a quality cowhide finish, and more). Check out our interior photos to see if you agree - but size and interior dimensions of the Optima are hard to argue against.
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.
Kia Optima 8/10
I really like the way Kia designs its cabins. Sure, there’s a lot of black in here, but there’s also a lot of thought put into the usability of the space.
The high-mounted 7.0-inch infotainment and multimedia touch screen in the Si is simple to use, and for 2018 the Optima range gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - you couldn’t get that in the Optima up to this point.
Also included are a reversing camera, USB input, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and six speakers. The Si model misses out on sat nav - you’ll have to use the maps app on your phone. No DVD player either.
Storage is well thought out in here, with big bottle holders in the doors, a good sized pair of cup holders up front, and a nice little storage bin for your phone, wallet, keys and so on.
There’s a driver info screen with a digital speedo, and even on this base model you get a dual-zone climate control air conditioner. The updated Optima gets a new steering wheel, too.
Now, what about the back seat?
It may be considered a ‘mid-sized’ sedan, but there’s limo-like space. With the driver’s seat in my position (I’m about six feet tall) there was still heaps of rear legroom in the rear seat, with ample knee room, good foot room and decent shoulder space, too - three of me could slot across the back bench comfortably, which means kids will fit easily, too. There are three top-tether points and two ISOFIX points as well.
Kids and adults alike will be happy with the rear air vents back here, and there’s a flip down armrest with cupholders, too. Again, big bottle holders appear in the doors, and there are map pockets in the back seats.
What about boot space? With so many people choosing SUVs over sedans because they’re theoretically more practical, the Optima offers good food for thought - it has enough luggage capacity for a bunch of suitcases (510 litres VDA in size) and there’s a full-size alloy spare under the boot floor. If you need more, you could always invest in a roof rack setup?
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.
Kia Optima 7/10
Kia dropped prices for this updated and facelifted model range - and not by a small amount, either. So, what's the price? How much does it cost?
The Si model is the entry-grade of two models, and it comes in at the bottom of the price list at $33,290 plus on-road costs (rrp) - an $1100 drop over the previous version. The Si, then, is a value-focused sedan that you might consider if you’ve looked at a Toyota Camry Ascent, Hyundai Sonata Active, Mazda6 Sport or Subaru Liberty 2.5i.
The standard equipment list is pretty good - although there have been some deletions, because the price is down $1100. The rather good HID headlamps with washers have been dumped in favour of halogen projector lights (yeah, not even xenons), and the satellite navigation system (GPS) is gone.
But now the 7.0-inch media screen is capable of doing the Apple CarPlay iPhone connectivity and Android Auto phone mirroring thing, and that’ll serve most people’s purposes pretty well, but there is no digital DAB radio, and no CD player for the sound system. Other standard kit includes a digital driver info display with digital speedo, dual-zone climate control, cloth seat trim, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, auto headlights and rain sensing wipers, and 17-inch alloy wheels (with a full-size spare).
New equipment for the Si includes driver-fatigue monitoring and an active lane-keeping assistance system (in place of the old lane-departure-warning buzzer).
If you want all the fruit you really need to fork out the extra cash for the GT, which lists at $43,290 plus on-roads (vs $33,290 for the Si). That is getting perilously close to Kia Stinger territory… but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves - this isn't a model comparison!
You get a fair bit more for your dough, but even the GT has seen a few deletions to help justify its $1200 price drop compared to the pre-facelift model, such as the front passenger seat being manually operated (previously electric), the cooling/ventilation of the front seats has been deleted, and the panoramic sunroof of the previous model is gone, too. And while it rides on 18-inch rims with a new design, the tyre-pressure-monitoring system has been removed.
It uses a new 8.0-inch media screen with extended smartphone connectivity and in-built sat nav (with 10 years of maps included and SUNA live traffic updates), and it also gains redesigned LED headlights but they lose the smart auto high-beam assistance of the old model. The tech doesn't go as far as to include Homelink garage door opening here in Australia, either.
Other standard kit in the GT includes leather seats, electric driver’s seat adjustment with memory settings, smart key (keyless entry) and push button start, a sports body kit, a harman/kardon audio system with 10 speakers and a subwoofer, wireless phone charging (Qi) but no Wi-Fi hotspot, rear sunshades (but no tinted windows), different interior trim finishes, a heated steering wheel, and a colour driver-information screen.
The GT also gets the new lane assist system and driver-fatigue monitor, and the entire safety approach has been improved across the range. See the safety section below for more detail.
There is no launch edition, nor is there a sports edition, but there is a decent array of colours (or colors, depending on where you're reading this) available - black, white, blue, red, grey and silver can be chosen, but not brown, purple or gold... if you wanted those.
Accessories available across both trim levels include tailored floor mats, a dash mat and weathershields, among other items.
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.
Kia Optima 7/10
The Si model is powered by a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which has seen no changes to its specifications for this mid-life update.
Engine specs remain at 138kW of power at 6000rpm, while torque is rated at 241Nm at 4000rpm. It makes use of a six-speed automatic transmission only - there’s no manual transmission here, but you do get paddle shifters - and it's front wheel drive (the Optima isn't available with AWD, or as a 4x4, or in rear wheel drive - the latter is left to its bigger brother, the Stinger).
The GT gets a zestier drivetrain with more horsepower - it has a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engine with 180kW/350Nm, which is much more desirable, but also louder than the Si’s 2.4. It also has a six-speed auto transmission, and is FWD. If you're into ratings and statistics, that 2.0-litre with a turbocharger is one of the perkier offerings for its engine size in the class.
There is no hybrid model available, despite a plug in hybrid petrol version (allowing you to run in EV mode) being sold in European markets. No diesel here, either, while other markets get a 1.7-litre turbo diesel. No LPG model here, or anywhere else, for that matter.
If you're concerned about engine problems, suspension problems, clutch and transmission issues, be sure to check out our Kia Optima problems page.
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.
Kia Optima 8/10
Kia claims a very realistic fuel economy rating of 8.3 litres per 100 kilometres for the Si model, and we saw damn close to that consumption during our week of testing. On the highway it will sit at around 6.5L/100km, ensuring good mileage, while city driving will push usage above 12.0L/100km. Our overall average was 8.5L/100km, which is good. Use the eco mode, and you'll get a little better use.
The turbocharged GT model uses a little more, according to Kia’s 8.5L/100km combined average claim, but we guarantee you’ll actually use more than that because it’s more eager to please.
Fuel tank capacity is 70 litres - plenty of size for long distance drives.
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.
Kia Optima 7/10
The Optima has some really good elements to the way it drives, but sadly some less impressive bits as well.
Let’s start with the not-so-great stuff - the 2.4-litre engine in this Si model just isn’t as enjoyable as the turbo unit, and the fact that Kia still doesn’t offer a hybrid version here, despite doing so elsewhere, is a bit of a downer.
The drivetrain isn’t terrible - the six-speed auto is smart enough, and there’s usable power if you boot it. The two more sedate drive modes, 'Eco' and 'Comfort', mean the transmission will aim to save fuel and limit throttle response, with a bit more of a lazy feel to the drive experience. But in 'Sport' mode it is definitely more rewarding in terms of acceleration and performance, offering a bit more pep and urgency (we didn't do a 0-100 km/h speed test, but take our word for it); it undoubtedly at the cost of fuel consumption.
It’s just a bit of a shame Kia doesn’t offer the turbo in this spec, too. Fuel use for the Si model is better than the turbo, however, so it could be ideal for buyers who are more worried about the bottom line than design and a sportier drive.
The thing I like most about the Optima is its road manners - the steering and suspension have been tuned for local conditions, just like all Kia products, and it shows.
The electric power steering is really well sorted, making for easy parking moves and good assuredness at higher speeds. And the turning circle is decent, too - 10.9m (so, the turning radius is 5.45m).
Plus the ride comfort is really good. On the highway it coasts along with very little fuss, and around town it deals with lumps and bumps impressively. Sharp edges can upset things a tad, and mid-corner bumps can make it jitterbug a little bit, but not to a degree that would rule it out of contention if you want a mid-sized sedan.
It’s pretty quiet on the open road, too, and the adaptive cruise control makes long-distance driving a simple task. The GT does suffer a little bit more road noise, though.
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.
Kia Optima 8/10
The safety rating of the Optima remains at five stars, as it was when the car was tested in this generation in 2015.
The updated Optima carries over the safety features of the previous model including autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, while the lane-departure warning system is now supplemented with lane-keeping assistance, and there’s driver-fatigue monitoring added, too. There is no park assist / self parking system.
Airbag coverage for Optima models is six: dual front, front side and full-length curtain. And parents will be happy to learn there are three top-tether attachment points, and two ISOFIX anchors, too.
If you've been wondering to yourself, "where is the Kia Optima built?"The answer is South Korea.
Kia Optima 9/10
Kia remains a shining light in terms of its new-car-ownership promise, with a very strong seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. It makes a lot of sense if you plan to hang onto the car for a while. There's no extended warranty available, which is understandable.
That plan also includes a roadside-assist plan for the same seven-year period, provided you maintain your car with Kia Australia. So, given you get one year to start with, then you get an extra year of cover every time you go back to Kia to get your car serviced, you could end up with eight years of coverage. Nice!
Servicing is due every 12 months or 15,000km, with the first seven years covered by a capped-price-service cost / maintenance cost plan. The costs are: service one - $289; two - $466; three - $360; four - $559; five - $325; six - $599; seven - $345. That makes a total cost of $2943, which is competitive for its class. Keep your owners manual or logbook up to date, and your resale value should hold up better.
If you have concerns about common problems, issues, reliability ratings and durability, you should check out our Kia Optima problems page.