New Ford Focus: mild-hybrid joins the range

It was always going to happen – the Ford Focus is now going mild-hybrid. A new Ecoboost 1.0-litre hybrid powertrain has joined the range, and it features tech designed to keep pollution and running costs down.

48V mild-hybrid system and cylinder deactivation mean the new engine is 17% better fuel-efficient. Rated at 153bhp, the six-speed manual-only hybrid puts out 10bhp more than the 2.0-liter petrol Focus made just ten years ago. A 123bhp hybrid is also available, again with a six-speed manual.

As with other mild hybrids, Ford has pulled out the standard alternator and replaced it with an integrated belt-driven integrated starter/generator. That means coasting and braking energy can be siphoned off and sent to an air-cooled lithium-ion battery beneath front passenger seats. And from there, it’s used in moments of acceleration – or to power other electrical systems.

As with other mild hybrids, Ford has pulled out the standard alternator and replaced it with an integrated belt-driven integrated starter/generator. That means coasting and braking energy can be siphoned off and sent to an air-cooled lithium-ion battery beneath front passenger seats. And from there, it’s used in moments of acceleration – or to power other electrical systems.

‘Our electrified powertrains are designed not just to save drivers money on fuel, but also to boost the fun-to-drive character of our vehicles,’ said Roelant de Waard, vice president, Marketing, Sales & Service, Ford of Europe. “The Focus EcoBoost Hybrid seamlessly integrates electric and petrol power for efficiency and performance that would have seemed the stuff of dreams just a few years ago.

New Ford Focus: everything else you need to know

The new Ford Focus, ‘is the ultimate evolution of the Focus species,’ says Joe Bakaj, Ford of Europe’s product development chief.  They mean a great deal, because, for the last 20 years, the Focus has vied with Volkswagen’s Golf to be the best family hatchback you can buy.

Models and price

So, how much better is the fourth-generation model, which will start at a UK price of £17,930? Ford claims the new car offers best-in-class cabin space, driving dynamics and aerodynamics – which helps deliver a 12 percent cut in fuel consumption – and makes big advances in driver assistance systems and connectivity (for a Ford, anyway).

There’s a broad choice of models: in addition to the five-door hatch, Ford will sell a stylish but capacious estate, an SUV-inspired Active version, plus luxurious Vignale and sporty ST-Line trims.

Better interior design

All these claimed benefits stem from an all-new vehicle architecture. The Blue Oval’s latest C2 platform positions the wheels closer to the corners of the car, compared with the previous Focus, extending the wheelbase and freeing up more space for occupants. Rear passengers benefit from bountiful leg-space and shoulder room, but people upfront will appreciate a dashboard pushed 100mm closer to the engine too. All this extra space hasn’t come by the Focus bloating in size either: the new car is only a thumb’s width longer than the Mk3.


It’s lower too, reducing the ratio of bodyside to wheels (which range from 16- to 18-inches in diameter). These revised proportions make for a more muscular, sporting look. Wraparound lamps front and rear make the car appear wider, and the sheet metal has a hat-trick of fabulous creases that catch the light and the eye, such as the undulating line from grille to tail-lamp that carves a concave channel in the bonnet’s edge. It’s a fine-looking five-door.

Although predominantly steel, Ford’s C2 architecture blends different thicknesses and types (including strong but light boron steel) to reduce weight. The average saving is 50kg, but some variants shed up to 88kg. The aluminum front end transmits the shockwaves from a collision along multiple paths around the cabin, while the reduced mass will have contributed to the new Focus’s braking distance shortening by up to a meter from 62mph.

To quieten noise, the monocoque is more resistant to bending than the outgoing car’s, and the suspension attachment points are 50 percent stiffer, enabling more precise dynamic responses. ‘The next-generation architecture brings new technology to the customer, but it’s still great fun to drive and has great steering feel, things that customers over the last 20 years have loved about Focus,’ pledges Joe Bakaj. ‘It’s still got that Ford feeling that puts a smile on your face on a country road.’

Drive modes

Back in 1998, the original Focus introduced an independent rear suspension to the family hatchback class. The short-/long-arm design of its mounting points, to alter the wheel camber during cornering, boosted grip and helped build the Focus’s reputation for great handling.

A new-generation Focus powered by the two bigger displacement engines (1.5-liter petrol or 2.0-liter diesel) employs the SLA rear axle, as do the wagon and Vignale; the smaller 1.0-liter petrol and 1.5-liter diesel engines are coupled with a twist-beam suspension. This features the ‘force vectoring’ springs introduced on the Fiesta ST hot hatch, which channel cornering forces into the spring to boost lateral stiffness.

Not before time, every Focus gets adaptive drive modes, adjusting the throttle, steering, automatic transmission, and cruise control programs between Eco, Normal, and Sport modes. SLA-equipped models can be coupled with Continuously Controlled Damping (£650-£800) which can adjust the damping force every two milliseconds to vary ride comfort.

Ford says the system is sensitive enough to mitigate the impact of a front-wheel rolling out of a pothole, and the control system will prime the trailing rear wheel to travel through the same rut as smoothly as possible. CCD gives a range of Eco, Normal, and Comfort suspension settings too, and yields two additional drive modes, Comfort and Eco-Comfort.

‘Our all-new chassis combined with sophisticated technologies like Drive Modes and CCD delivers the agility and responsiveness of a hot hatchback, with the refined ride of a large executive car,’ claims Helmut Reder, Focus vehicle line director.

It bodes well to keep the Ford Focus’s traditional handling creds intact…

A trio of brand new engines

Three-quarters of the Focus’s engines – all-aluminum 1.5-liter petrol, 1.5- and 2.0-liter types of diesel – are box-fresh, with the fourth – the 1.0-liter petrol – significantly upgraded. Here are the key performance figures and specs for a five-door hatch with the lower displacement engines available at launch, riding on 16-inch wheels.

Both petrol engines are turbocharged three-cylinder units, featuring cylinder deactivation to save fuel and exhaust filters to trap sooty particulate matter. The 1.0-liter engine, set to be the best-seller, gets a new cylinder head, higher-pressure injection, and a catalyzer that heats up rapidly to minimize emissions.

The diesel engines adopt a four-cylinder configuration, with a high-pressure common-rail injection to reduce noise and carefully meter out fuel. Exhaust gas recirculation helps clean up tailpipe emissions, and the 2.0-liter also deploys AdBlue urea injection to combat nitrogen oxides. This engine also features Ford’s first steel piston in a diesel, which is smaller and expands less when hot, to offset efficiency-sapping friction.

The Focus’s economy and CO2 figures were recorded using the new WLTP testing procedure and converted back to the old NEDC system to enable like-for-like comparison. Ford says the new model is up to 12 percent more fuel-efficient than its predecessor, with the maximum saving coming from a car equipped with the eight-speed torque converter automatic (roughly a £1400 option).

What about an RS?

There’s no dual-clutch ‘box this time around; the other transmission is a six-speed manual. All these cooking Focus models are front-wheel drive: there’s no propshaft tunnel between the rear seats, to reduce floor pan intrusion for anyone occupying the central perch.

Does that mean no all-wheel-drive possibility for a fourth-generation Focus RS? The outgoing hyper-hatch turns the back wheels thanks to a rear-drive unit from GKN; the same supplier is developing eTwinsterX, a compact electric rear axle for introduction in the early 2020s. It has two gears to allow a broader operating window for the motor, and torque vectoring across the axle. So if Ford teams up with GKN once more, the next Focus RS could have a hybrid drivetrain.

Fuel economy also gets a boost from the new Focus’s slippery shape. Aerodynamic measures include an active front grille shutter for when engine cooling isn’t required, front bumper vents channeling air through the body to smooth turbulence around the front wheels, and a number of underbody shields to calm airflow beneath the car. The five-door hatch has a 0.273 coefficient of drag – ‘best-in-class by a big margin,’ claims Helmut Reder. Ford and Michelin have also teamed up to introduce a new line of tires that slashes rolling resistance by a fifth.

Sophisticated auto-cruising

The outgoing Focus introduced a suite of driver assistance systems: lane-keeping assistance, traffic sign recognition, a driver alert system and low-speed collision avoidance. But the new Focus, to coin Ford’s marketing schtick, goes further.

‘The Focus is Ford’s most advanced car in Europe,’ says Glen Goold, the chief program engineer. ‘It has front and side radars, front and rear cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors, with the objective being to extend the interaction between these and link new elements to give additional functions.’

One appealing breakthrough is that the traffic sign recognition has been coupled with the active cruise control, so the new Focus is capable of Level 2 autonomy. That means it can drive itself in stop/start traffic on a smart motorway, accelerating up to the variable speed limit (or 124mph if you’re on an autobahn), and keeping itself centered in the lane. But the system, contained in the £500 Driver Assistance Pack, is only intended as an aid, so drivers have to keep their hands on the steering wheel.

Another upgrade enables the low-speed collision system to spot cyclists, as well as pedestrians and other traffic: it’s standard equipment, as is lane-keeping assistance. The Focus is also capable of deploying Evasive Steering Assist, which adds or subtracts torque from the driver’s steering input to make sure the car misses an upcoming obstacle.