Alas, the decline of this segment’s popularity tolled the death knell for the compact-car tuning trend. Today, trucks, SUVs and other 4x4’s rule the roost for enthusiasts looking for a daily-driver-and-toy-car project. But things are about to change once again. We have the rebirth of the C-segment.
At a glance, the latest revamped Focus looks to be the sportiest, most aggressive, and most driver-focused of this bunch, and it is. The Aston Martin-inspired grille screams Focus ST or RS lite; the 18-inch alloys look very bold; the low ride height is very racy; and the highest engine output (178hp and 240Nm) means the Focus is truly the athlete in this segment.
The EcoBoost engines deliver astonishing output matched with impressive efficiency and lower exhaust emissions. The 1.5-liter direct-injected turbocharged engine is the most responsive in this segment, and it pulls hard. It is mated to a conventional six-speed automatic that delivers smooth, rapid progress on the highway, but also provides quick, seamless shifting.
The Focus has the firmest suspension, riding on those huge wheels and 235/40 R18 tires. Thankfully, it doesn’t tramline and feels planted even on greasy roads, while the electric power steering provides far more organic feel than the Civic’s. But on big undulations, the car tends to run out of suspension travel and bottoms out unexpectedly, whereas the Civic and the Golf have loads of suspension stroke in reserve. Go faster and the ride does smoothen out, showing that high-speed damping is up to par.
In keeping with the Ford’s sporty nature, its brakes offer the best feel and modulation. The suspension also keeps body roll to a minimum, and the steering has the heaviest effort in this group, making the Focus easier to place accurately on the road even when flat out. Indeed, this car would be the best candidate for a full-on project car to take to the racetrack. Although we don’t get a chance to try out the torque vectoring, this is one huge handling advantage that the Focus has over its rivals, and is best sampled on decreasing-radius corners with a fast entry speed but demands a sudden slowdown mid-corner until exit.
On the highway, the Focus is a very decent cruiser. After four hours of driving from the south to Mandaluyong, it leaves me no more tired than any other car despite its very sporty intentions. The seats, in particular, prove supportive yet comfortable. As for kit, there’s the SYNC II system, six airbags, and traction and stability controls. There’s only proximity sensors all around, but this is the only car that can park itself in this segment.
Last year, Ford Global earned $7.4 billion. With products like this Focus, it’s not hard to see why.
SPECS: Ford Focus Sport + EcoBoost
Engine: 1.5-liter DOHC I4
Power: 178hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 240Nm @ 1,600-5,000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
UP NEXT: Honda Civic