When the Ford Focus model line was introduced in the late 1990s, it was intended as a global product – a ‘World Car’, as they used to call it – for sale all over the world in pretty much the same form. It was the successor to the Escort that had been popular in its time and also the Laser (adapted from the Mazda 323) in Asian and Australian markets. However, it was not as global as imagined (from the engineering and manufacturing perspective); the American version, in particular, was different from the European one and was partly due to the product and engineering team in North America having different views about the product (which had been developed primarily in Europe).
It was only when Alan Mulally took over as President & CEO of Ford in 2006 that the Focus was developed as a truly global product. Mulally introduced his ‘Global OneFord’ approach which dictated that there should be unity in product development. This would take advantage of synergies and cooperation between all company resources and avoid duplicating projects which would waste time and money. Ultimately, the money saved could be used to put in more new technology without having to make the vehicles more expensive.
He forced engineering teams to work together and the third generation of the Focus, launched in 2011, was one of the early results. The model was essentially the same all over the world and differences were only made where there was a need to meet specific regulations or market conditions.
After a 7-year run in its third generation, the Focus begins its fourth generation and as before, the all-new car is for customers all over the world and will have regional variants. “We’re evolving our successful One Ford strategy to find new ways to create a sporty-looking small car our customers will love,” said Jim Farley, President of Global Markets. “We’ll tailor which cars in the Focus line-up we offer in markets around the world to ensure we best meet customers’ different needs and preferences.”
The new Focus is one of the first models using Ford’s revamped product development process, which uses human-centered design to better deliver the models, features and technologies customers around the world truly value”, he added.
The line-up will have 3 bodystyles, as before – 4-door sedan, 5-door stationwagon and 5-door hatchback. Each market will have their own variants and for Europe, Ford will offer the Vignale, sporty ST-Line, adventure-oriented Active and upscale Titanium, while China will get ST-Line and Titanium variants.
For the new generation, the Focus gets a longer bonnet with cab-rearward interior and has a strong on-road presence. While it looks bigger than the previous Focus, its overall dimensions are actually unchanged. Yet there is more interior space for all passengers along with more cargo area (in certain variants).
In addition, human-centered design allows each market to tailor their Focus line-up, creating new models targeted to specific customer groups, such as the sporty ST-Line or adventure-focused Active variants. Through the use of globally common but flexible architectures and modules, Ford is able to deliver visually differentiated Focus variants to appeal to diverse customer needs while maintaining a high level of commonality and low complexity. The number of orderable configurations has been reduced by as much as 92% compared to the previous Focus, reducing from up to 360 configurations to as few as 26, depending on the market. This complexity reduction helps Ford lower and control costs and apart from making shareholders happy, savings can also be used to enhance the product’s specifications. Quality can also be improved when there are less variations and minimising variations is one of the principles that Henry Ford obsessively adhered to.
While it starts with Focus, this approach will further strengthen with future Ford vehicles as the company moves from individual vehicle platforms to all-new flexible vehicle architectures paired with modular ‘families’, streamlining common components such as powertrains, electrical systems and high-end features like sunroofs.
The highlight of the new Focus is its advanced and innovative technology that keeps customers connected and safe on the road. With this model comes the first installation of Ford Co-Pilot360, a suite of advanced driver assist technologies to help drivers move more safely, confidently and freely. These include Adaptive Cruise Control enhanced with Stop & Go, Speed Sign Recognition and Lane-Centering, and an Adaptive Front Lighting System. The latter has new camera-based predictive curve light and sign-based light that pre-adjust headlamp patterns for improved visibility by monitoring bends in the road and – for the first time in the industry – road signs.
There’s also Evasive Steering Assist, a segment-first technology that helps drivers steer around stopped or slower vehicles to help avoid collisions. This would be an evolution of the Active City Stop system (introduced with the outgoing generation) which activates the brakes automatically if a collision is predicted and the driver does not seem to be doing anything to prevent it.
With the third generation, Ford gave the car self-parking capabilities, a feature which was a nice selling point in advertisements but which might not be practical on congested streets. The new generation gets an improved version of the system called Active Park Assist. It now also operates gear selection, acceleration and braking to enable fully automated maneuvers at the push of a button.
As part of Ford’s vision to deliver smart vehicles for a smart world, 90% of its new global vehicles will be equipped with internet connectivity by 2020. This includes the new Focus, which will come with FordPass Connect embedded modem technology. This allows Ford customers to turn the vehicle into a mobile wifi hotspot with connectivity for up to 10 devices.
In addition to helping drivers plan faster, less stressful journeys with Live Traffic updates for the navigation system and enabling occupants to stream entertainment on the move, FordPass Connect allows a range of convenient features via the FordPass mobile app. However, availability of these features would also be market-dependent.
A new wireless charging pad beneath the instrument panel enables passengers to easily charge compatible smartphones and mobile devices. Devices can remain connected via Bluetooth to Ford’s SYNC 3 communications and entertainment system while using wireless charging. SYNC 3 is now available with a 203 mm colour touchscreen that can be operated using pinch and swipe gestures and is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
New features inside the car include an electric parking brake and rotary gear shift dial as well as a more efficient air-conditioning system. Special attention was paid even to the shape of the sideview door mirrors which were designed to help reduce that air throbbing effect that can occur when one window is lowered at speed.
The Focus team also thought about pet friendliness and in the stationwagon variant, rear cargo space is designed to comfortably accommodate large pet carriers. There’s also an ‘Easy Fold Seat’ feature to quickly lower the seats with the pull of a lever. The Hands-free liftgate technology which was first offered with the Kuga allows access to the cargo space with a simple kicking motion under the rear bumper. This is an extremely useful feature if you go to the supermarket often!
Driving dynamics are claimed to be better with improved refinement, thanks to an all-new chassis and suspension with a 20% increase in torsional rigidity for better body control. The Electric Power Assisted Steering system, first used in the second generation, is said to be more responsive, intuitive and engaging in feel.
For the first time in this model line, there is standard Drive Mode Technology with Normal, Sport and Eco modes. This allows the driver to customise the engine and transmission response, steering feel and Adaptive Cruise Control to match the driving situation from sporty to efficiency-minded.
There are at least 4 engines available for the new Focus, three of them EcoBoost petrol engines and an advanced 2-litre EcoBlue diesel (pictured above). It will also be available with Ford’s new 8-speed automatic transmission engineered to further optimize fuel-efficiency and deliver responsive performance. This advanced new transmission has Adaptive Shift Scheduling which assesses individual driving styles to optimize gearshift timings for a more stable, engaging and refined driving experience. It also has Adaptive Shift Quality Control to help adjust clutch pressures for consistently smooth gearshifts based on real-time assessments of vehicle and environmental information.
The first regions to get the new Focus will be Europe and China, with sales in North America starting in the second half of 2019. As for ASEAN, it’s hard to say when we will see it as Ford has lost interest in this region since sales numbers are not strong enough. If the situation was the same as 10 years ago, we might see it in Malaysia earlier than the rest of ASEAN but that is very unlikely. The ASEAN model would come from Ford’s factory in Thailand and when production can start may depend on the potential volume which, in turn, would be a factor in the cost. If it is not good enough, Ford may stretch the current model a bit longer.
Prefer the current Focus? Sime Darby Auto ConneXion will be selling it for some time more and if you want to buy one, the showrooms to go to are listed at www.sdacford.com.my. There’s currently a promotion on with rebates of up to RM23,000, 3 years of free scheduled maintenance and a 5-year warranty.