The most popular passenger car in Ford’s range costs more to get into, drops dual-clutch transmissions but offers better value where it matters.
THE 2015 Ford Focus has had its range shrunken, with fewer variants, just one all-new turbo-petrol engine, and no more diesels and dual-clutch transmissions.
On sale from October brandishing sharper front and rear styling, a much smarter dashboard design, improved dynamics, standard-fitment touchscreen with sat-nav and rear camera, as well as additional safety tech, the mainstream LZ-series model from Thailand joins its recently released, German-built Ford Focus ST hot-hatch sibling in becoming a more targeted proposition against bestsellers like the Mazda 3 and Volkswagen Golf.
This means the disappearance of the base-level Ambiente (starting from $20,290 in the outgoing LW Series II range), for the $23,390 LZ Trend, making entry into Focus $3100 more expensive than before.
However, what Ford should be shouting from the rooftops (but isn’t, strangely) is the fact that the Trend automatic that is expected to snare more than one-in-two 2016 Focus buyers now costs just $100 more than before despite the big equipment hike, thanks to a switch from the old Getrag-designed Powershift six-speed dual-clutch transmission to a more conventional six-speed torque-converter unit. Going auto now adds only $1000 rather than $2200 to the bottom line.
This is on top of extra performance and economy gained by the move to a new 132kW/240Nm 1.5-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine (similar to the one seen in the latest Ford Kuga SUV), which replaces two older naturally aspirated units – the Ambiente’s sweet old 92kW/159Nm 1.6 and 125kW/202Nm 2.0, as well as the ageing 120kW/340Nm 2.0 TDCI turbo-diesel.
In the Trend, the average combined fuel-consumption figure drops from 7.2L/100km to 5.8L/100km (auto: from 6.6L/100km to 6.2L/100km). As before, 95 RON premium unleaded is the minimum brew.
Additionally, all manual gearboxes are now of the six-speed variety – a Focus-first – building on a raft of improvements to the LZ range that sees a stiffer McPherson-type strut front-end, revised shock absorbers, retuned electric rack and pinion steering and a recalibrated stability/traction control system. All aim to enhance the small Ford’s dynamic capabilities.
Still on engineering advances, Ford’s speed/audio volume-restricting MyKey tech has been adopted for Focus, while the flagship Titanium (which actually now costs $300 less than before) also scores Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Blind Spot Detection tech, as well as upgrades for the Active City Stop collision avoidance and Active Park Assist.
However, Ford still has not democratised these safety systems to all Focus buyers, since they’re only fitted to the Titanium.
“We’re rebuilding the brand from the bottom up,” brand communications manager, Neil McDonald, told Wheels. “This is about pitching the car where we think the customers are, and the Trend is the volume model. Year-to-date, the Ambiente has only represented about 10 per cent while the Trend is up to 60 per cent of Focus volume. So adding more features to Trend, Sport and Titanium is the way to go. Clearly that customer is seeking more features. That’s the feedback we’re hearing.
“Also, with a $3500 premium, diesel take-up is less than three percent… and with the EcoBoost, we’re seeing far more efficient engines coming through, with significantly greater torque coming at a lower rev point.”
First seen in the LZ Focus ST facelift in April, the modifications run deeper than just new lights, grilles and bumpers, incorporating sheetmetal changes to the bonnet and front mudguards, as well as redesigns to the tail-light shapes, tailgate, and valance areas.
The dashboard’s centre console has also been completely overhauled, with fewer buttons, the inclusion of a much larger touchscreen display, and the incorporation of SYNC2 voice-control multimedia functionality. A restyled steering wheel, better centre armrest, improved storage, and increase in noise-suppression sound-deadening material complete the main changes from LW II to LZ.
McDonald confirmed that no Focus wagon or smaller 1.0L EcoBoost are available to Ford Australia due to their European rather than Thai factory sourcing, meaning the LZ will remain a five-door hatch or four-door sedan proposition.
2016 Ford LZ Focus prices
Trend 6MT $23,390 (+$1100)
Trend 6AT $24,390 (+$100)
Sport 6MT $26,490 (+$600)
Sport 6AT $27,490 (–$700)
Titanium 6AT $32,690 (–$300)
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