Ford Goes Global With New Focus; What Does It Mean for America?
We appear to be entering into a minor renaissance for modestly sized cars, thanks largely to global influence and technological advancement. The timing couldn’t be better, either — with crossovers usurping more of the market every day, these little scamps need all the help they can get. That’s especially true of small cars with declining sales. Like, say, the Ford Focus.
While the third generation of the model enjoyed a massive sales surge in its rookie season, it’s been losing volume ever since. That’s to be expected of any maturing model, but the Focus went from 245,992 U.S. deliveries in 2012 to just 158,385 in 2017. So Ford is setting up the fourth generation on its new C2 platform, regardless of what country it’s sold in, as well as some big changes in terms of equipment and styling.
However, we’re left wondering how these updates will translate when the model makes it way to North America. The new Focus hits the streets of Europe and China later this year, but won’t arrive in the United States until the second half of 2019, presumably as a 2020 model. That gives Ford time to adapt the vehicle but, with the exception of some powertrain changes, we’re not entirely sure what to expect.
Euro and Chinese-spec Focuses (Foci?) come with 1.0 and 1.5-liter gasoline motors or 1.5 and 2.0-liter diesel motors. Ford lists a manual transmission and eight-speed automatic. The C2 platform also allows for electrification, though Ford hasn’t said anything on BEVs or hybrids yet. Trim options include Vignale, ST, Active, and the upscale Titanium for Europe, while China seems to only get ST and Titanium in addition to a base model.
Active is probably the most curious trim. By adding ground clearance and body cladding, Ford essentially converts the Focus into a crossover (like it did with the Fiesta Active). With so many SUVs already on offer, we’re not sure the company would bring something like this to the States, but we can’t rule it out.
Aesthetically, the model takes on a more curvaceous design. Haunches are more pronounced and folds have been smoothed, but the overall shape remains familiar. There’s also an LED swoosh that runs through the headlamps, making it easily to distinguish from the old model at night. We’re sure most will think it’s a subtle improvement, while those who oppose it will still find it tolerable.
On the inside, Ford promises more comfort and space than the outgoing model. An electric parking brake (yuck) and rotary shift dial (gross) frees up front-seat space and provides easier access to storage containers and cup holders. Meanwhile, Ford moved a bunch of switches to the touchscreen, making for a narrower center console that has soft points for knee comfort. Available as a SYNC3-equipped 8-inch unit, Ford made no mention of the standard screen’s size. Regardless, we’re hoping the Focus retains some of the more important knobs and buttons. Touch controls are great, but not everyone likes them and a poor execution can make a vehicle extremely difficult to enjoy.
Ford says that, despite the longer wheelbase, the new Focus’ overall dimensions remain unchanged. Thanks to that altered wheelbase and a flatter floor, rear passengers will be treated to an additional 2.4 inches of shoulder space, 2 inches of knee clearance, and 2.8 inches of legroom compared the old model. Storage is also up on the hatchback; with the seats folded, the wagon is capable of housing 58 cubic feet of junk. While impressive, there were no specs provided on the standard 5-door, so we’re not ready to assume a gargantuan improvement across the board.
Technical updates abound on the 2019 Focus. However, unlike Toyota, Ford hasn’t said it will offer them as standard equipment — availability will vary by region. That’s fine by us, especially if you’re not into occasionally intrusive driving aids. This could also be part of the brand’s cost-cutting strategy. Ford said it’s reducing the number of configurations by as much as 92 percent versus the previous Focus as a way to minimize cost and complexity. Meanwhile, Toyota is busy cramming Safety Sense into a lot of its new models. Ford could still do this with its own electronic aids for the U.S. market, but has yet to say anything definitive.
Whether or not any of it becomes standard, America should at least have the option to purchase a Focus equipped with adaptive cruise control and stop and go functionality, sign recognition, automatic lane-centering, advanced parking assist, and evasive steering assist. The best item has to be Ford’s adapting lighting system, which uses a front-mounted camera to “steer” headlights to where you need it. It’s also supposed to account for road signs, which we hope means it won’t try to shut down the high beams whenever you come within 10 miles of a reflective one.
Lastly, FordPass will allow drivers to monitor their vehicle via phone. It’ll help them start it when it’s cold, find it when it gets lost, and remotely lock the doors. There are other niceties, like a hands-free tailgate and a panoramic sunroof on the wagon, but we’ve no idea what will arrive in America. Ford will let us know more closer to the model’s U.S. launch date, which is still over a year away.
[Images: Ford Motor Co.]
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