Next Focus a looker, and thankfully bringing back hatchback, but still a year away
By Michael Bettencourt
The next generation Ford Focus will finally bring back the practical and stylish hatchback body, said Ford of Canada officials at its Canadian premiere at the Canadian International AutoShow.
The Focus is set to roll off Ford’s Michigan assembly plant in Dearborn by the end of the year, reaching Canada early in 2011 as a 2012 model, and judging from the reaction of the media crowd in Toronto at its unveiling, they’ve at least nailed the looks part of the equation. Pricing hasn’t been set yet, but it should be right in the mix with its main Civic, Corolla and Mazda3 rivals.
Both five-door hatchback and four-door sedans will be available at launch. The sedan looks like a shrunken and hotter version of the full-size Taurus, while the hatchback has whispers of the Opel (and Saturn) Astra shape, with heavy Volvo tones in the rear. Both follow the latest “kinetic” Ford school of design, said European design director Martin Smith, who was in charge of the new shapes, at the car’s global debut in Detroit in January.
“People around the world respond very well to this kinetic design on a global scale,” said Smith. “Reviews of the Fiesta were equally positive in Shanghai, Bangkok, and the LA auto show.”
The Focus will offer a surprising amount of refinement and technology usually only found in high-end cars to help entice buyers, especially American ones. The Focus’ handling was tuned near Cologne, Germany with a particular focus on steering feel, while a torque vectoring system will shift power from one drive wheel to the other to improve handling in tight corners.
Engines in all markets will be direct injection four-cylinder units, with the North American 2.0-litre engine offering upwards of 160 hp. Along with more power comes a decrease in fuel consumption of more than 10 per cent, Ford vows, a figure helped along by new electric power steering and an available six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
Inside, the MyFord system will be available with navigation, hands-free Bluetooth phone and Sync functions that can be controlled either from steering buttons or with voice controls. Keyless entry, a push button starter, a rear backup camera and maybe even a semi-automatic parallel parking system will all be part of the package.
Factories in Spain, Germany, Russia and China will also build the Focus and its 10 variants, or “top hats,” as execs call them. This includes the Focus C-MAX and Grand C-MAX shown in Frankfurt last fall, the latter of which will offer three rows of seats and a sliding rear door when it arrives in North America, and a battery electric version of the Focus done in association with Canadian parts giant Magna.
By creating a wide variety of vehicles on this global compact platform, and then minimizing the differences between them, Ford can negotiate better prices on components due to much higher global volumes. Ford says all Focus models will share 80 per cent of all equipment around all of the 122 markets where it will be sold. This is also a way to make the all-important cost numbers work to build such small and traditionally low profit cars in historically higher cost countries such as the U.S. and Germany.
So the 2012 Focus may not only provide compact-loving Canadians a stylish and modern car choice, but the economic model behind it may give battered Canadian autoworkers some reason for optimism for their future as well.