Ford Focus VS Suzuki Swift
- Refined styling
- Roomy interior
- Advanced safety equipment
- Blind spot warning standard only on Titanium
- Auto transmission can seem indecisive
- No manual gearbox
- Great looks
- Good safety package
- Nice to drive
- GLX is on the pricey side
- Halogen headlights on lower-spec cars
- Slow steering
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|
For almost thirty years, Australians could stroll into a number of dealerships and have their pick of cars - obviously small ones - for under twenty grand. And I mean twenty grand in the modern sense, not the early '80s Mitsubishi Sigma GL with no power steering or...you know, seats that didn't give you a third-degree burn in summer.
Suzuki is hanging in there, along with Kia and, oddly, MG. But I'm not here to tell you about the Swift Navigator because, frankly, I don't think you should buy it. It's not the best-value Swift and for the same money you can get a better-loaded Kia, the top-of-the range Picanto GT. Not far over the $20,000 mark, though, is the Navigator Plus which makes a lot more sense. As part of the Series II Swift updated which arrived in September, The Plus in Navigator Plus has taken on a whole new meaning.
Read More:How does the 2019 Suzuki Swift stack up?
|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.
It was a tough call, but I did settle on the Navigator Plus as the pick of the range. For an extra $1500 over an automatic GL Navigator, you get all that extra equipment and a subtle lift in spec that would be well-served with the inclusion of the GLX's LED headlights.
All Swifts are good to drive, with a supple chassis tune, acceptable performance through to quite good from the 1.0-litre turbo and a good after-sales package. I do think, however, that Swifts are a tad over-priced, especially considering the big jump to the GLX. But if you want a Japanese-built hatch with a bit of character, fantastic looks and a good mechanical package, the Swift hits all three.
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.
Ah, this is where things get interesting. The Swift is such a cracking-looking car, even though it hasn't changed a great deal over the past three generations. But that's how good the Swift's rebirth was sixteen years ago. The details have, obviously, been refined but it really does look brilliant.
The Navigator Plus, when you get close, does look a bit cheap here and there, but plenty of far more expensive cars have weird cheap details, like the odd textured plastic chrome on the tail-lights of the Lexus LC.
Inside is a but more in keeping with its price point than the Swift Sport. There's nothing especially eye-catching in the cabin apart from the fetching new patterned inserts on the seats and the nice leather steering wheel which is, oddly, flat-bottomed.
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.
If you're in the front seats, you're golden. Apart from being slightly too high for my liking, they're very comfortable and the previously-mentioned upholstery is very pleasant. You get two shallow cupholders and a tray not quite big enough for a larger-sized phone but fine for standard-sized ones.
As with the front, rear-seat dwellers get a pair of small bottle holders in the doors and not much else apart from a seat pocket in the left-hand seat. Common with the front seat, there's no armrest which is a shame because the back seat is so flat that there is nothing but your seatbelt to stop you clattering into your neighbour in the corners. There is a squared-off cupholder between the front seats which would be hard to reach for smaller folk.
Three across the back is obviously a distant dream for adults, but two back there are in reasonably good shape with plenty of headroom and surprisingly good knee and legroom if you're roughly my height (180cm) behind someone else of similar height.
The boot is predictably tiny at 242 litres, which is a little below the standard for the segment, with a seats-down capacity of 918 litres. The Swift Sport's boot is slightly larger at 265 litres because it doesn't carry a spare, but weirdly, has the same seats-down capacity as the other versions.
With three top-tether anchors and two ISOFIX points, you're covered for baby or child seats.
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.
Down at $18,990 is where Swift range starts with the GL Navigator manual, adding $1000 for the CVT automatic. For Series II, the base model picks up rear speakers over the old spec, 16-inch alloys, air-conditioning, reversing camera, cruise control, cloth interior, remote central locking, auto-down power windows and a space-saver spare.
For $21,490 the Navigator Plus has a lot more to offer than the GL Navigator. Which makes sense, given the Plus, but I'm no marketing genius.
For your money you get power folding and heated mirrors, reversing camera, active cruise control, sat nav and leather steering wheel as well as a bunch of extra safety features over the GL Navigator.
The GLX Turbo builds further on the lower specs with a six-speaker stereo, gear-shift paddles, LED headlights and the 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder. That car lands at a fairly sturdy $25,290 but is not without its own unique charms.
All Swifts share the 7.0-inch screen that's in almost everything with a Suzuki badge and has the same basic software that isn't all that flash but more than makes up for it with a built-in sat nav in the Navigator Plus and GLX Turbo (I'm assuming a certain demographic buys this car and insists on it) as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Annoyingly there's only one "free" colour and it's white. The rest of the colours (Super Black Pearl, Speedy Blue, Mineral Grey, Burning Red and Premium Silver) whack you another $595. By contrast (see what I did there?), you can choose from five free colours on a Mazda2 and the three premium colours are $100 cheaper.
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 non-turbo Swift's very modest 66kW and 120Nm comes from its 1.2-litres and four-cylinders. It is not a lot of power, even with variable valve timing. To make the most of these figures, Suzuki fits a continuously variable automatic transmission, or CVT, to send power to the front wheels. The manual is $1000 cheaper, a five-speed unit that you'll only find in the $18,990 GL Navigator.
Step up to the Turbo GLX and you get a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo with healthy power outputs of 82kW and 160Nm, with a six-speed torque converter auto, unlike the lesser versions' CVT.
Thankfully, the Swift weighs next to nothing in modern car terms, so even the 1.2 offers reasonable pace without having to thrash it.
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 official combined cycle figure on the sticker is listed at 4.8L/100km. The dash display indicated I was getting 6.5L/100km and to be fair to the Swift, it had almost no highway running during my time with it, so it's not too far off the 5.8L/100km urban figure.
With its small 37-litre fuel tank that means a real-world range of around 500km and probably another 100km if you're cruising the motorways.
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.
Luckily I drove two cars for this review. The first was the one I think most people will end up buying, the 1.2-litre Navigator Plus. One of my favourite things about Suzukis - including my Vitara Turbo long-term test car - is the decent tyres fitted to all but the cheapest of their cars.
What that means is when combined with a very impressive suspension tune which delivers an excellent ride and handling balance (especially for such a small car) it's also fun to drive, if that's your thing. If it isn't your thing, it's comfortable and feels good on the road.
The steering is perhaps a little slow for my liking which I found a little odd. The spec sheet says it has variable rack steering which means you get more steering angle at a faster rate the more you turn the wheel, but it seems to only accelerate usefully when you're parking or moving around at low speed. It always felt like it need another quarter-turn or so for the same effect compared to most other small cars I've driven. Most owners probably won't mind, I just think it would be even better if the steering was a bit quicker.
The dreaded CVT makes the most of the 1.2-litre's limited power and torque, which is what CVTs are good at. I dread CVTs - and this is purely personal - because I don't think they're very good in most of the cars fitted with them. This one can whine a bit as you're driving along, but I'll take that because it has a good strong take-up from standstill that feels almost like a good dual-clutch transmission. Some CVTs are far too soft off the lights and you end up getting swamped by delivery riders on pushbikes.
Moving up to the turbo GLX, the main difference is the extra power and torque. When I first drove it I thought, "Why wouldn't you buy this one?" While the extra oomph is welcome, it's really not a deal breaker and really not worth an extra (almost) four thousand dollars unless you're really wedded to the idea of a turbo or LED headlights. Both of which are good things.
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 Navigator Plus' Series II safety upgrades add blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert and you get forward AEB with both low and high speed operation, forward collision warning, lane keep assist, lane departure warning as well as six airbags and the usual ABS and stability controls.
These features are also on the more expensive, turbo-powered GLX but not on the down-spec Navigator, which is one of the main reasons for me telling you in the intro that this is the better car.
The Swift features three top-tether points and two ISOFIX anchors for fitting child seats.
In 2017 the base GL scored four ANCAP stars while the other grades, offering things like forward AEB scored five stars.
Suzuki offers a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is competitive.
Worth noting is the fact that the 1.2-litre's service intervals (12 months/15,000km) are a little more generous than the turbo's (12 months/10,000km). The 1.2 will cost $239 for the first service and then $329 for the next three. The fifth service is $239 or, if it's travelled over 90,000km, climbs to $499. If you stick to "average" mileage, that means a five-year service bill of $1465, or just under $300 per service. Not bad, although a Yaris is cheaper than that by quite some margin while a Rio is about double that (however it has a longer warranty).
If you go up to the GLX turbo, along with shorter intervals by distance, you'll pay $1475 or $295 per service, which again, is quite good and cheaper than the Rio and Picanto GT's servicing by quite a margin. The turbo triple obviously has more complex servicing needs and if you go over the expected milage, the final service will cost anywhere from $299 to $569, which is still reasonable.