Ford every road on a Focus

MISS TECH - Kathy Moran (The Philippine Star) - December 4, 2015 - 9:00am

There are many ways to test drive a car: one is to get onto the traffic-laden streets of metro Manila and drive; take the vehicle out of town and see what it can do on open roads; or a third, and my fave, is to get driving tips from famous racecar drivers on how to best floor the car on roads that have been cleared just for that. 

This is exactly what I got to do recently when I joined the New Ford Focus test drive with racing car experts George Ramirez and Jojo Silverio who gave tips as we maneuvered the new Ford Focus through an empty parking lot filled with pylons which we tried to avoid as we made steep turns at high speeds.

The new Ford Focus has been refined with a bolder, more sophisticated and advanced technologies, marking an evolution of the Focus. Its sleeker, modern design hints at the updates that make one of the world’s most popular compact cars even better — including new and improved driver assistance technologies that take the hassle out of parallel and perpendicular parking.

The new Focus is also more economical than ever, all while maintaining the fun-to-drive Ford DNA experience that has helped to make it so popular around the world.

“The new Ford Focus has been created with our customers and their needs in mind,” said Kay Hart, Ford Philippines managing director, in a statement I read before the test drive began. “The sophisticated, energized and progressive new Focus is loaded with the smartest and safest technologies in its segment, making it absolutely more efficient and cleverly designed, all within a more refined package.”

Still a looker

Before I boarded the Focus for the test drive, I got a good look from the outside. After all, there were four variants of the Focus lined up and ready for to drive.

I liked the stylish and new exterior design with its lower, wider stance: it gives the Focus that look of a serious racecar vibe.  Of course, I could not deny that for a small car, the Focus gives the impression of being a sturdy and well-build chiseled ride.

The headlights are slim and link the front end to the clean, flowing lines of its sides, which kick up at the rear window. More rectangular, elongated fog-lamps add to the bolder front end. The rear of the car has a sleek new fascia and tailgate arrangement, as well as thinner tail lamps, and a sculpted rear spoiler to enhance aerodynamics. Think of it as an athletic car that has been truly built to take on any road.

As I stepped into the cockpit of the Focus I smiled at how simple it is to get a grip on how to control the car as the driver.  The new Focus has a revised instrument panel and reorganization of switches results in a clean interior design that allows drivers to effortlessly control the vehicle’s features.

The simplified interior offers more space with a variety of new convenient storage options for a more comfortable driving experience. An adjustable console fits a variety of bottles and cups, and can simultaneously hold a one-liter water bottle and a 400 ml cup.

Let the test drive begin

With Ramirez in the lead car we were given instructions on how to take each corner as we floored the Focus — being mindful that safety always comes first.  The new Focus also features a host of cutting-edge technology to help drivers stay connected and in control.

Instructions clear and with my heart pumping and adrenalin rushing, I stepped on the gas as I kept my eye on the orange pylons lined up along the way.

“Floor it,” said Ramirez.  I did as I was instructed and then stepped on the brake just a bit so that I felt that response of the Focus immediately before I took that sharp turn. I liked how the Focus keeps its rhythm intact, as I never felt that I would lose control of the car even as I floored it.

That feeling of being able to floor a car, which I seldom get on the roads of Metro Manila, made me smile. I liked my place in the cockpit, and even if the ride only lasted for a few minutes — I asked if I could go at it again. Yes.

I got to test drive the four variants of the Focus, which are powered by a powerful and efficient 1.5-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine, which offers 180 PS of power and 240 Nm of torque. 

The engine uses the core EcoBoost technologies of turbocharging, high-pressure direct fuel-injection and Twin-independent Variable Cam Timing to ensure optimum performance. A new aluminum engine block helps to reduce weight, which improves performance and efficiency.

The 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine is paired with a new modern, lightweight and efficient six-speed automatic transmission, delivering refinement together with excellent performance and fuel economy. Paddle shift controls enable drivers to change gears without taking their hands from the steering wheel for an enhanced feeling of performance.

On the go, the new Focus is a class-leading driving dynamics and fun-to-drive DNA to a new level with enhanced handling. Ford engineers have carefully tuned the suspension and shock absorbers for a more solid and responsive vehicle that feels firmly connected to the road.

A more refined Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) system further improves the driving experience with more precise steering and lower effort, while reducing unwanted damping and providing excellent feedback to the driver.

“The new Focus reflects the strengths of its predecessor while evolving nearly in every aspect, from design and technology to driving dynamics, driver comfort and overall performance,” added Hart. “We are very excited to be launching a smarter, safer, efficient and more sophisticated Focus which guarantees to give that fun-to-drive experience that our Filipino customers are looking for.”



Go ahead, Park

The last test we took is the self- parking feature of the Focus. The Enhanced Active Park Assist, which builds upon Ford’s popular Parallel Park Assist with the addition of Perpendicular Park Assist. Once activated, the system scans for available parking spaces alongside other cars. When it finds one, the system takes control of the car’s steering to guide the vehicle into the space while the driver controls the shifting, braking and acceleration.

I have to say that I did make many mistakes along the way as I tried out the Park Assistance feature. Drivers like me are so used to controlling a car and letting go of the steering wheel when parallel parking is a no-no.

“Let it go and park itself,” said Jojo Silverio. I did what I was told, but I kept my hands close to the wheel.

The Perpendicular Park Assist uses two new ultrasonic sensors on the rear of the car, which also enables Park-Out Assist. Park-Out Assist takes the stress out of exiting a parallel parking space by taking control of the steering while the driver operates the brake and accelerator.

We also got to test the Active Stop feature, and I failed the test as usual. In urban driving up to 50 kph, an improved Active City Stop system can help to mitigate low-speed collisions. Using a windshield-mounted sensor to detect braking, slower-moving or stationary vehicles in front, the system pre-charges the brakes if the car is approaching a vehicle in front too quickly. If the driver fails to take action, the system reduces engine torque and automatically applies the brakes to reduce the impact of a collision.

The new Focus even allows owners to encourage safe driving when they are not behind the wheel with Ford MyKey. Owners can program a spare key to reduce the maximum speed of the vehicle, give an earlier low-fuel warning, limit the volume of the in-car entertainment or even disable it completely if the seatbelt is not fastened. The technology can provide reassurance to owners when lending their car to less experienced drivers.

To say that I enjoyed this test drive is definitely an understatement. I loved being in control of the Focus at high speeds and took the turns around the pylons with a carefree attitude. But, I also learned that it is okay to allow the Park Assist and Active Stop features to let me let go of the wheel — these features really work, and how.

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