Ford's entry-level Focus 1.6 offers quite a decent drive, despite some small issues
When we drove the all-new Ford Focus in range-topping 2.0-litre form in July this year, we came away impressed with its stylish package, impressive handling and ride balance, good fuel economy and in-class novel features.
Now it's time to get behind the wheel of the core-selling 1.6-litre variant costing between 809,000-839,000 baht in hatchback form _ some 150k less than the 2.0. Beware: the 1.6 doesn't get the 2.0's driving aid gimmicks like automatic braking at low speeds, blind-spot detection or parking assist.
The four-door Focus also gets the 125hp 1.6-litre petrol engine and, like the 170hp 2.0-litre version, is cheaper than the five-door model by 10,000 baht.
The key question we shall pose this week is whether the Focus 1.6 can prove to be a better car than the Mazda 3 _ the only other C-segment contender in Thailand to offer the same body and engine mix as the Ford.
C-segment cars with 1.6-litre engines usually don't offer splendid performance, but this entry-level Focus isn't that bad on the move.
Sure, it could do with a little more power. But against the Mazda, the Focus feels more eager thanks to a pokier engine (the 3's 1.6 has a lower 109hp) and a more responsive six-speed dual-clutch automatic (like in the Focus 2.0).
The good bits of the Focus 2.0 have filtered down to the 1.6, including that fine chassis set-up, external noise suppression and interior trim (most things are both nice to look at and to touch).
Amid a crowd of bland players in the Thai C-segment, the Focus has stylish looks in both saloon and hatch forms. Of course, the Mazda 3 is equally good-looking, just in a different manner. So you now have two good choices to choose from.
Rear space is only so-so.
You might be quick to point out that the Focus 1.6 should be more economical than the 2.0, given its lesser power and identical gearbox.
No performance or economy figures were provided by Ford. But according to our real-world tests, both Focuses achieved practically the same 14kpl average.
A superior point that must be noted in the 2.0 is the use of direct fuel injection, which the 1.6 doesn't get.
Just because the Focus uses a modern-day dual-clutch gearbox doesn't mean it's free from criticism. At low speeds around town traffic, the operation isn't that smooth.
Lower tech it may be, the four-speed torque-convertor automatic of the Mazda 3 is easier to live with.
BUY OR BYE?
The Focus hatch is particularly impressive because it is 30,000-60,000 baht cheaper than the 3, which comes in only one trim, priced at 869,000.
A saving grace for Mazda, though, is that its saloon has a more attractive starting price of 755,000 baht (44,000 less than the Focus) yet peaking out at 825,000 (4,000 less).
Prices aside, the Focus is a better car on the move than the Mazda 3 by having a more eager, if not great, performance, fuel economy, more balanced chassis and quieter cabin.
If you can live with its small transmission foibles, the Focus 1.6 is quite an interesting buy.
Cabin is well-made.
Small yet cool
To some, it might not be right to compare a B- and C-segment car together because they are differently sized and priced.
However, there's an interesting hatchback version in the Fiesta line-up. The Sport Ultimate is packed with safety features such as cabin-filled airbags and the relevant brakes and chassis electronics.
The Focus 1.6 only gets dual airbags and ABS to its safety merits.
Moreover, the Fiesta Sport Ultimate shares the same 1.6-litre petrol and six-speed dual-clutch automatic as the Focus 1.6, just that the power is lesser at 122hp.
And for those who don't mind B-segment dimensions, the Fiesta is arguably still the sexier-looking hatch than the Focus.
What's more, the Fiesta Sport Ultimate is priced at 759,000 baht _ or 50,000 baht less than the Focus 1.6.
About the author
- Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor