The fourth-generation Focus made its debut earlier in 2018 and Peter Anderson got to drive the new Focus ST-Line version on the Côte d’Azur. You could say that. The Focus ST instantly feel reminds us of the Fiesta ST and that’s a very good thing. This larger model is also extremely energetic, almost hyperactive when pushed. But it also shows character. The front axle is incredibly hungry for bends, and the rear is pleasantly light. Like its little brother, the Focus also likes to lift the inside rear tire, and it’s willing to move to make mid-corner corrections. The traction is absolutely outstanding thanks to the front axle lock and the incredibly sticky Michelin rubbers.
That includes standard cruise control and speed limiter, keyless start, privacy glass and navigation via an eight-inch touchscreen. Active X adds keyless entry, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, upgraded 18-inch wheels and a panoramic roof. It’s actually the only car in the Focus range with the panoramic roof as standard. We’ve also got the optional 5202 led headlight bulb for low beam, wireless phone charging pad and a color head-up display.
The Focus RS has 19-inch wheels and adaptive shocks. The problem with this is that the adaptive shocks Ford uses don’t offer the dynamic range you get from, say, one of GM’s magnetic shocks. The springs are very stiff. The car is over sprung and under damped in normal mode and unusably stiff in track mode, leading to a punishing, bouncy ride, which, when combined with that poor seating position, means drives on anything but perfect roads for any real length of time require long stretching sessions at best, deep tissue massages or chiropractor visits at worst. You can tell in the first 10 minutes this kit was tuned in Germany and not in Michigan; it’s only bearable on German-spec, glass-smooth tarmac.
The dash has been massively simplified, with many the plethora of buttons, 50% in fact on the outgoing model replaced with more functionality via the infotainment system. A huge new piece of tech for the new Focus is the FordPass Connect system that’s built into the vehicle. What this essentially does is communicate with your smartphone via an app, provide a wifi network for up to ten devices & get info on traffic and nearby parking spaces whilst on the move. The most impressive part of this is undoubtedly the app-based functionality which tells you where your car is, how much fuel is left, what the tire pressures are and, if you get an automatic gearbox in your Focus, even start the engine for that perfect interior temperature. Provided you have internet access, you can perform all these tasks from anywhere on Earth.
At the launch in France, I drove a 1.0-liter EcoBoost petrol and 1.5-liter EcoBlue diesel on the twist beam, and 1.5-liter petrol on the independent rear suspension. The 1.0-liter petrol and 1.5-liter diesel are both refined units with good flexibility through the rev range while retaining the classic fun-to-drive quality the Ford Focus is famous for. The Ford Focus 1.5-litre had 182hp and ST-Line suspension tuning but it will be a niche car in Ireland. Still, for enthusiasts, it was nigh on perfect in terms of a controlled, engaging drive and power delivery.
The EcoBoost motor isn’t as charismatic as the five-cylinder that made the ST of two generations ago such a hit. But such is the way of modern engines. It gets the job done, responding quickly to the accelerator and able to maintain the boost in on-off throttle situations with a version of the anti-lag technology used by rally cars. In Normal mode it’s reasonably refined, with a pleasingly authentic rasp from the exhausts and a softer throttle; hit Sport and you get piped in noise and more decisive response. An extra £250 buys the Performance Pack with an additional Track Mode, launch control, rev-matching throttle blipping and another level of sharpness for the ultimate fast Focus experience. Most will consider this a no-brainer, given the cost.
The Active sets itself apart from the wider Focus range by sporting multi-link independent rear suspension under its hind haunches. It’s a set-up shared only with the ST-Line wagon, with all hatch variants in Australia riding on a torsion beam set-up at the rear. That’s not to say the more rudimentary set-up is bad – it isn’t – but the IRS in the Active brings with it another level of refinement.