Ford makes a good thing even better

By Richard Bosselman on Sat, 3 Nov 2012 | Ford | Latest News
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The raft of enhancements to the Ford Focus family for 2013 makes a good thing even better. Photo: supplied

Finding flaws in the current-generation Ford Focus has never been easy - it is the New Zealand Car of the Year, after all.

If anything, the raft of enhancements to the family for 2013 makes a good thing even better.

It is not quite nirvana; the Powershift automated manual still lacks paddles (blame miserly Ford beancounters who refused the measly $US660 cost) and the new ST performance flagship is manual only.

Ford New Zealand still cannot find a place for a diesel Titanium hatch - a shame, because the torque-rich oiler does not disappoint in a luxury setting - and it has now made clear that the magnificent 1-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol EcoBoost I drove in a Focus in Germany several months ago will not be in the car here, though it will be found in the Fiesta.

But otherwise all else seems sweet as. The 184kW/360Nm ST is as stunning here as it seemed at the world launch in France a couple of months ago; the luxury versions add accident-avoidance smarts and the whole family adopts an impressive infotainment system with features not even automatically found at motoring's elite end.

Price-wise, they're also looking for a fight.

The eight "feature-enhanced" editions of existing mainstream models remain in the $32,990 to $46,990 band, while the performance leader comes in for a Golf GTi-gazumping $52,490.

Also worth bearing in mind is that the Focus is still Euro in look and feel despite a recent production shift (of all but the ST and wagon) from Germany to Thailand.

Understandably, Ford NZ boss Neale Hill is anticipating sales to step up another gear, although he knows that even if the 2000 units-plus target for 2013 is achieved, the Focus will still run distant second in its category behind the Corolla, a giant due its massive fleet presence.

Even with No1 out of reach, the Focus is a premier choice. An ace card is content. Notable new high-end additions are satellite navigation and the radar-guided Active City Stop, a first for a sub-$50,000 car and a farewell gift from former partner Volvo, which auto-brakes if an impending collision is detected. Focus also continues with semi-automated self-parking and active cruise control.

All models adopt the Sync infotainment system, a next step from the voice-activated functionality on the Mondeo, Fiesta and Ranger, with ability to understand 150 commands. Developed in America, it has been reprogrammed by Ford Australia to decipher vernacular and "thuck" antipodean accents.

Sync is a little misnamed. It does not wholly like the taste of Apple products, to the degree that it refuses to entertain the text-talk feature with latest iPhones. The song search capability is also compromised. Ford says the solution lies with Apple; given that Sync's development was by Microsoft, I would say it is a two-way street.