Ford Rama 4 | Bangkok Post: Auto


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Ford Rama 4

554,000-1,079,000 baht/unit

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Address:4330, Rama 4 Rd., Phra Khanong, Klong Toey, Bangkok 10110 Thailand


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Editorial Reviews

Top trumps

The revised Ford Focus now comes with a great engine and features. Can it beat out Honda's turbocharged Civic in the real world?

Short Drive by Richard Leu. RICHARD LEU

What's new?

This is the much-anticipated update of the Ford Focus, which includes exterior and interior styling tweaks, more sound-deadening materials, new infotainment and upgraded driver-assist technologies.

The headline, however, is the new 1.5-litre petrol-turbo engine that has been designed to replace the 2.0-litre non-turbo unit found in the pre-facelift model. As well, a six-speed torque-converter automatic supersedes the twin-clutch gearbox.

As in the current trend of engine-downsizing, the 180hp 1.5 is not only more powerful than the 170hp 2.0, but also more economical on fuel, with a new rating of 14.3kpl.

In fact, this strategy is also being used by Honda whereby today's 10th-generation Civic sees a turbocharged 1.5 sitting on top of the range in place of the naturally aspirated 2.0 used in the ninth-gen model.

Initially, the revised Focus only comes in one trim, costing 1.099 million. That's the same as the Civic 1.5 but 100,000 cheaper than the range-topping RS.

There are two reasons for the late arrival of this particular Focus in local showrooms. Firstly, the Thai Ford office wanted the latest in infotainment, hence the Sync 3 version (they claim that Thailand is the second market after the US to get it).

Second, Ford had to make some modifications to the so-called Ecoboost engine so that it can take E85 gasohol.

That's why the Focus has the pricing and specification edge over the Civic 1.5, which takes only E20 at the most and can't attract the 5% excise tax discount for engines with E85 compatibility.

What's cool?

This is only a facelift or minor change -- that's how many Thais like to refer to it. But the tweaks help for a classier feel thanks to a number of new exterior panels and bits on both the front and rear ends. The same goes for the interior, which now feels tidier and possesses a higher level of perceptive quality.

The driver-assist technologies also put the Focus on a higher plane than the Civic. Parking assist, for one, now has two extra functions. Aside from the ability to park parallel to the sidewalk and exit from it, the car can enter perpendicular slots.

The automatic braking at low speeds can now be done from up to 50kph -- 20kph higher than before.

But it's the driving experience that beckons in the Focus. With as much as 240Nm of torque available from just above idle speeds, the car accelerates away effortlessly at all times.

You don't have to necessarily provoke the automatic transmission into kickdown to get a good kick out of things. Just tap on the throttle with slight to moderate effort and away the car goes from wherever you are. And even if you get aggressive with the gearbox, it's a much smoother operation than in the flawed twin-clutcher of yore.

There's a new electric power-assisted steering that makes the car's handling even more intuitive than ever. The Civic has a similar rack, but the Focus goes one step ahead by having a chassis setup that makes overall handling at high speeds and in corners more natural and predictable. In terms of handling and ride balance, the Focus remains at the top of its class.

Practically all testers at the Focus' driving trials in the outskirts of Pattaya recently noted the improved levels of quietness in the cabin.

Smooth torque converter auto replaces flawed twin-clutcher. RICHARD LEU

What's not?

The most immediate low point of the Focus, especially against the Civic, is the packaging itself. Which isn't surprising, because the Honda has an all-new body that's not only more spacious and comfy inside but also more stylish, with a saloon outfit looking like a rakish hatchback (or fastback, as some like to say).

And despite the superior overall driving experience the Focus has to offer, the brakes occasionally feel they could do with more retardation from high speeds, something the turbo engine easily takes the car to.

Buy or bye?

There are many things to like about this revitalised Focus, ranging from how well it's equipped for the money to the way it steers and performs.

If you're merely looking for a complete C-segment family car for the purpose of driving, the Focus is spot-on.

But that doesn't mean the Civic is outdone by the Focus. The Honda is still a great and easy car to drive with such a similarly configured engine (it's 173hp for number-crunchers), just that the Focus' talents lie deeper in the chassis department.

What we have here in the upper sector of Thai C-segment family cars are two capable players that easily jade others, like those from Chevrolet, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota.

At the moment, the Ford Focus with Ecoboost technology is only available in five-door hatchback form with just one trim to choose from at 1.099 million baht.

Since C-segment cars pitched in the 1 million baht range only sell in small numbers and are mostly used to boost image and draw people into showrooms, a cheaper Focus is on the cards.

The Honda Civic uses a different and less sophisticated engine to chase sales in the 850,000-950,000-baht price range. It's reported that 80% of Civic sales come from the naturally aspirated 1.8 and the remaining 20% from the more advanced turbocharged 1.5, the direct competitor to the Focus Ecoboost.

However, Ford is unlikely to employ such an approach with the Focus. Instead, they're looking at offering lower-spec versions of the 1.5 Ecoboost, probably with a four-door saloon body with fewer airbags (down from six) and driver-assist technology. That's how Mazda corners both ends of the C-segment with just one engine variant, albeit several spec levels.

The 180hp output would remain throughout the Focus' model range because Ford sources stress the need to keep the car with a lofty performance image amid the growing popularity of small SUVs priced below 900,000 baht (like its own Ecosport).

One source pointed out that most C-segment cars priced below 850,000 baht are sold as taxis which is something Ford isn't keen to capitalise on because the Toyota Corolla is a leader in this field, with its solid reputation for brand, resale and parts-availability.

As well, Ford is hoping to join Ecocar Phase II with its next-generation Fiesta next year. The Fiesta would help cover lost ground in the sub-800,000 baht sector of compact family saloons and hatchbacks.

Cabin now has a tidier appearance and better-feeling materials. RICHARD LEU

Turbocharged 1.5 is potent and responsive from low speeds. RICHARD LEU

Focus Ecoboost goes for 1.099 million baht. RICHARD LEU

Infotainment has been upgraded to Sync 3. RICHARD LEU

Midlife styling tweaks give Focus a classier appearance. RICHARD LEU


4330, Rama 4 Rd., Phra Khanong, Klong Toey, Bangkok 10110 Thailand

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