Despite being a huge success in Europe the Ford Focus hasn’t enjoyed the sales success it deserved in Australia. Ford Focus finally first reached Australia in September 2002, several years after its European launch and continues to this day.
It comes as no surprise that Ford Focus is truly European in the way it rides and handles and keen Australian drivers just love them. Many buyers downsizing from a Falcon chose Focus ahead of an Asian car for this very reason.
Ride comfort is pretty good for a small-medium car with sporting handling. Focus can be a little harsh on really rough roads but is generally very good on motorways and fine around town.
Less sound deadening is fitted to the lower cost models so they can suffer from a fair bit of tyre/road noise on Australian coarse-chip roads. Try for yourself if you’re doing a lot of country driving, or simply go for a topline Focus if your budget can handle it.
Ford Focus is sold with three or five-door hatchback bodies and as a four-door sedan. From September 2007 until mid 2010 the Focus also arrived in a coupe-cabriolet body with a folding hardtop. The latter was expensive and didn’t sell well, it’s still worth a look, though as prices have come down considerably.
This small-medium Ford comes in several luxury levels: Focus CL, LX and Ghia. From the launch of the new LW series Focus in November 2011 these were renamed Focus Ambiente, Trend and Titanium.
On the sporty front there’s the Focus Zetec, SR, Sport and ST170. Note we used the term ‘sporty’ rather than ‘sports’ in describing them; that’s because there’s another pair that genuinely deserve the ‘sports’ tag. They are the Focus 166 kW XR5, sold from 2006 till 2011 – and the full-house Focus RS imported from 2010.
The Focus RS is powered by a turbocharged Duratec RS 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine putting out 300 horsepower (224 kW), and torque of 440 Nm. The latter starts at just 2300 rpm and provides a huge amount of grunt. Ford Focus is guaranteed to make enthusiastic drivers smile every time they get a chance to get the throttle well open.
Engines in the standard Focus range are four-cylinder petrol or, from July 2007, four-cylinder turbo-diesel. Petrol units until the all-new Focus of 2011 come with capacities of 1.8 or 2.0 litres. The smaller unit is aimed at the fuel economy end of the scale and some may find it on the gutless side. If considering this powerplant may we suggest loading it with a few passengers and trying it on hilly roads. Some drivers will be satisfied, others may prefer to find a few dollars more and go for the larger engine.
Turbo-diesel engines have 2.0-litre capacity and like all of their type come with plenty of grunt and low fuel use. They have proven reasonably popular, but not to the extent of the diesels offered by many other Euro marques.
Most Focus models prior to 2011 come with a five-speed manual gearbox. The five-speed’s gearchange is on the soft side. Six-speed manual gearboxes are fitted to the Focus ST 170, the RS and diesel engines. From November 2011 the new Focus received a six-speed manual. The six-speed has a much nicer change action than the five.
Automatic transmissions have four forward ratios and aren’t offered in all models. That’s because many European drivers prefer manuals to automatic. The new model from May 2005 had manual overrides on the automatic, and in any case the auto seems to mate better with the engine from this time onwards.
Ford is represented strongly in country areas. Dealers in remoter areas may not have spare parts for the Focus in stock, but can generally get them shipped in within a couple of working days.
Most routine service work can be done by a good amateur mechanic. Buying a workshop manual is a smart investment. Don’t tackle any safety related items yourself.
With the exception of the ultra-hot Ford Focus RS insurance charges are usually moderate. While premiums aren’t to the low level of the locally built Falcon, they are often cheaper than other imported European cars in the same class.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Build quality of the Ford Focus is generally good (most older models come from Europe – from 2005 the majority were built in South Africa), though not up to Japanese quality standards.
Make sure the electrical systems are okay by turning everything off and on. Having the owner’s manual on hand is useful for this.
Shuddering under braking could signal that new brake discs are required.
The Focus ST170 and XR5 are often bought by boy racers, then lowered and modified in many areas.
Check the alloy wheels for signs of kerb damage, the one on the left front is usually the first to cop it.
Look over the luggage area for signs of wear and tear.
Scratches on the rear bumper will often indicate that lazy owners used the bumper as support when loading and unloading.
A safety recall of pre 2010 turbo-diesel cars was instigated to check the fitment of the exhaust heat shield. Check with a Ford dealer or contact Ford Australia on 1800 503 672.
CAR BUYING TIP
Take along a friend any time your checking out a car – having one of you looking over the car while the other is listening to a sales person, can provide real benefits.