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Riding the wind of change

The new Ford Focus brings sophisticated technology to the compact car segment. The Diplomat – Bucharest finds if the new model lives up to its heritage as a driver’s car. By Adrian Ion

July 2011 - From the Print Edition

One of the toughest classes in the cars’ category competition is the compact C segment or small family as Brits call it. This fierce battle has some serious contenders such as the Volkswagen Golf, Opel Astra, Toyota Auris and Ford Focus. This is one of the segments that bring the most revenues to car manufacturers so no effort is spared in trying to transform a new model into a cash cow.
The latest manufacturer to have launched its compact star is Ford with the new Focus. I test drove the latest creation and the US manufacturer’s first global model on the highways and twisting roads of Austria and Slovakia. The new Focus is a completely new car and exceeds its car class standards in many ways, thanks in part to an array of gadgets and facilities that you will not see in any competitor’s vehicle.

Outside looks

“What sells cars today is the design,” says the Italian exterior designer of the Focus, “so we invested a lot of time and effort to make this car look like energy in motion.” The European design arm of Ford was in charge of developing the model and drew on the same theme of kinetic design, which I must say looks extremely good and suits the sporty character of the car. The sleek design has some drawbacks, one of which is poor visibility, especially at the back. An inexperienced driver will find parking very difficult without the aid of parking sensors or a rear view camera.

Inside the cabin

Ford aims to link the interior of the Focus to the spirit of its exterior so the curves of the outside continue along the dashboard and central console, creating a cocoon like feeling for the driver and front passenger. The massive dashboard could be inconvenient for some larger drivers as it invades the space both from the front and the sides.
The technology that Ford has incorporated into the new Focus is impressive. The most complex computerization system is called MyFord Touch, essentially an extension and update of the MyFord features for interior settings customization. MyFord Touch extends the customization of ambient lighting colors and brightness, to display functions and colors, the gauge cluster and infotainment system and offers the driver a pretty touch sensitive LCD screen interface from which to control, well, almost everything. It also provides wireless internet to anyone in your Focus if you plug a 3G wireless transceiver into one of the two USB ports. MyFord Touch replaces the dashboard display with an eight-inch touch-screen. The ultimate goal of the system is to make driving safer by keeping the attention and eyes of the driver on the road.
The voice recognition system is still subject to criticism as it will go wrong from time to time but I am sure that updates will make it more reliable and user friendly.

How it drives

The handling and pleasure of driving was always the strong point of the Focus. Since its first generation, it has constantly raised expectations of how a car in this category should drive. The new Focus platform is an improvement on the one that underpins the older model and extends the driving capabilities. At the rear, there’s an independent multilink suspension, while at the front, the ABS also serves as a limited-slip differential which makes the car very agile and invites the motorist to explore the limits of a sportier drive. My favorite is the petrol engine, in the 1.6 and 180 HP version fitted with the dual clutch six-speed automatic gear box called Power-Shift. This combination offers a spicy recipe of power and a sporty feel combined with a smooth ride ensured by the automatic transmission.
Overall this car should be a winner and definitely brings a new flavor of excitement and novelty to the rather conservative compact car segment.

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