Ford Focus VS Toyota Prius C
- Refined styling
- Roomy interior
- Advanced safety equipment
- Blind spot warning standard only on Titanium
- Auto transmission can seem indecisive
- No manual gearbox
Toyota Prius C
- Miserly fuel use
- Eye-catching exterior design
- Surprisingly quick away from lights
- Feels record-player old in places
- Some cabin materials feel cheap
- Standard safety is underdone
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|
Toyota Prius C
See if you can guess the name of the world's first ride-sharing app. You're thinking Uber, right? Nope. It was a company called Sidecar. It's broke now, shuttered for good in 2015. What about the first video-on-demand service? Netflix? Nope. Amazon beat them to it, for starters, but so did many other, now-defunct companies who tried it even earlier.
The point is, being first on the scene is no guarantee you'll be the best, or the most successful. I mean, just look at electric cars; plenty of manufacturers were doing all-battery models before (and arguably better than) Tesla, and every one of them is now parked in Elon Musk's gargantuan shadow.
Before full-electric there were hybrids, and first to arrive on that particular scene in any meaningful way was Toyota and its awkwardly shaped Prius, back in 2001. And they had that field to themselves for a while, but soon enough the other manufacturers trotted out hybrid and plug-in hybrid models of their own.
And so Toyota shook up the Prius offering, launching the seven-seat Prius V, and the bite-sized (and Yaris-based) Prius c we've tested here, in 2012, hoping to broaden the appeal of its hybrid offerings. Problem is, 2012 was an awfully long time ago, and so Toyota has waved its wand over the ageing Prius c for 2018, changing its design, tech offering and interior in an effort to keep it fresh.
So, is the Japanese giant still head of the hybrid class? Or has it been beaten at its own game?
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Regular Unleaded|
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.
Toyota Prius C6.6/10
It's as if the the future is firmly rooted in the past at Toyota. The Prius is still undoubtedly clever, frugal and easy to drive, but it is feeling so old in places that the bad had begun to weigh on the good. If you're a tech-head or have a right foot crafted from lead, then there's nothing to see here. But if the thought of saving money at the bowser sets your heart aflutter, then step right this way.
Does a Prius c make you feel green, or just queasy? Let us know 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.
Toyota Prius C7/10
The good news is that it doesn't look quite so quirky as the full-size Prius. The not-as-good news is that it's still no beauty-contest winner. Not helping matters was the fact our test vehicle was painted in a retina-burning yellow (they call it Hornet Yellow, and it's new for 2018) that looked almost nuclear.
Viewed front on, the blacked-out section of grille and bumper gives the littlest Prius a vaguely manta ray-shaped front-end, while the headlights climb both upwards and back into the body, lending a sense of sportiness to this very unsporty hybrid. From the back, the chunky bumper, vertical taillights and rear windscreen spoiler all add a little attitude to the design.
Inside, you'll find a small but premium-in-places space, with a gloss-black stereo surround that angles the main controls toward the driver, while the digital driver's binnacle is pushed toward the centre of the car, displaying speed, fuel and other key info above the stereo, rather than in front of the steering wheel.
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.
Toyota Prius C6/10
Not very. This is a Yaris-based city car, let's not forget.
That said, it never feels cramped up front, with enough shoulder and headroom to ensure you feel separated from your fellow passengers, where you'll also find two cupholders, and an infuriating USB connection housed in the touchscreen - so your cord dangles from the dash when connected.
Climb into the back, and you'll find yourself in a pretty snug space. Sitting behind my own (5ft-8inch) driving position, it's only the scalloped back of the driver's seat that affords me any clear air between my knees and the seat in front, and the space behind my head and the roof lining is minuscule, too. But again, we're talking city car space here, so you can't expect to lounge about back there.
The ambience in the backseat leaves a little to be desired, though. The door trim pushes into the passenger space, and the plastics used in the rear are rock hard. There's a single cupholder to share, and a seat-back pocket on the rear of the passenger seat, but that's it; there's no vents, USB or power sources. There's no bottle-room in the rear doors, either.
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.
Toyota Prius C6/10
We've just spent a week behind the wheel of the Prius c i-Tech; the top model in the two-variant range, sitting above a cheaper model known simply as the Prius c.
At $26,540, it ain't cheap for a city car (and it's $4k more than the most-expensive Yaris on which it is based; more worryingly, it's only $1500 cheaper than an Audi A1), and the standard features list is more a novella than War and Peace.
Outside, you'll find 15-inch alloy wheels, remote unlocking, LED headlights and front fog lamps, while inside you'll leather-look seats (they're actually vinyl), sat-nav and climate-control.
Tech is covered by an (old-school feeling) 6.1-inch touchscreen that pairs with a six-speaker stereo, but there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
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.
Toyota Prius C7/10
Under that little hood lives a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine good for 54kW, which pairs with a 45kW electric motor. Toyota lists combined outputs at 74kW at 4800rpm and 111Nm at 4000rpm.
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.
Toyota Prius C8/10
If that last section didn't impress, this one surely will. The little Prius c will sip a claimed 3.9L/100km on the combined cycle.
That's very low, and the fact it accepts cheaper 91RON fuel makes it a very affordable car to run. Except... the onboard computers revealed a slightly less-impressive 5.1L/100km after my time with the car.
Emissions are a claimed 90g/km of CO2, which is very good.
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.
Toyota Prius C6/10
In much the same way that you don't buy an exotic performance car for its ability to run to the shops, you're unlikely to be buying the Prius for its ability to set your pulse racing.
But happily, it doesn't feel wobbly or disconnected, either. It's aided by being such a small package, and when you're not wafting silently about in electric mode, and you've coaxed that little petrol engine into life, it serves up more than enough poke to navigate the city, and even to leave the slow-reactors in your rear-view mirror at traffic lights.
The ride is good, too, feeling connected to the road below without feeling uncomfortable, although the little Prius does tend to track with the corrugations in the road, leaving you to wrestle it back into line. That's a job made easier by light and surprisingly direct steering, which feels tailor-made for the city.
Finally, the leather-look seats are comfortable, even over long distances, the razor-thin A-pillars make forward vision easy and it's a very simple thing to drive and manoeuvre into parking spaces. And all of those are good things.
Not so good? Well, the entire drive experiences feels a little beige and emotionless, it can get noisy and there are parts of the cabin that feel downright cheap. Worst of all, though, is that for a car that once heralded the future, it's feeling very, very dated.
But there are some amazing quirks attached to driving an (almost) electric car, including the delivery of eco awards for using the least amount of fuel (they were awarded for 2.6, 3.2 and 3.6L/100km over as much as 25km - none of which occurred during my tenure). The hardest thing to get used to was the absolute silence served up in electric mode. I counted four seperate occasions when I walked away from the car with it still turned on.
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.
Toyota Prius C6/10
Every Prius c arrives with seven airbags, along with a reversing camera and... wait, that can't be it, can it? Oh... Forget AEB, lane-departure warning and the like, this future-focused Prius has a safety package firmly rooted in the past.
It was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, but was tested back in 2014.
Toyota Prius C7/10
Toyota offers a three-year/100,000km warranty, while the batteries are covered for eight years or 160,000km. The car's six-month service intervals might sting a little, though, but with each service capped at $140 for the first three years, even taking two trips to the dealership a year isn't too expensive. Just annoying.