Ford unveiled the all-new Focus. And, we're excited!

They might have just announced mass-killing of their cars in America but macho trucks and brawny SUVs aren’t the only vehicle types the folks at American car-maker Ford churn out in style. The brand's portfolio also consists of a range of driver-focused cars offering maximum fun for every penny spent. The Focus, Ford’s best-selling car nameplate of late, has always been at the forefront of this very virtue that defines the brand.

Ford recently unveiled the all-new next-generation Focus to the global media in simultaneous events held in Germany and China. It makes sense as Europe and our neighbour up north account for majority of Focus' sales. So, what about the new Focus got the press and the public talking?

There’s a Focus for everyone

It’s fast becoming a trend now. Like the new Fiesta that made its debut last year, Ford has announced the new Focus in multiple configurations, variants and body styles in an attempt to woo a myriad of car-buyers amidst changing tastes and preferences. 

Three body styles – a hatchback, a sedan and a station wagon – would be on offer. The hatchback, likely to be the most popular body style, would be offered in China as well as Europe. In addition, China will have the sedan while Europe will get exclusive access to the station wagon. That’s not all, Europeans will also have the privilege of choosing from specialized variants of the Focus like the plush Vignale and the high-riding Active. North America will not be left out with China-made Focus Active cross-hatches confirmed as the only car in the Ford lineup apart from the Mustang.

There’s an ST-Line variant too for those who want sporty looks but not necessarily more power and better performance. Remarkably, all these variants get distinct fascias with subtle but effective changes on the grille, bumper and fog lamps. 

It’s clear Ford has designed and engineered the new Focus to be more car for more people from the word go than most other cars in the segment. 

It’s dynamic prowess hasn’t been sacrificed

Now, this is crucial. At a time when often-mouthed terms like downsizing, fuel efficiency, emission norms and autonomy are threatening to kill the aspect of “fun” from driving, the new Focus continues to be a driver’s car it has always been. When Ford’s Head of Product Development in Europe talks about the car’s dynamic prowess at its launch and how it’s been taken care of, it shows Ford is serious about it. 

Solid build, reassuring handling and precise steering feel are virtues the Focus has built its reputation on. Ford claims the new Focus loses none of that while gaining in other areas that it lacked like feature-rich interiors and better connectivity options. Depending on the engine under the hood, the new Focus gets either a twist beam rear axle or a fully independent rear suspension with double wishbones. The move to twist beam on the lower variants is a step backwards from the current Focus that offers an independent setup across the board but that’s where the segment is unfortunately headed.

The ST-Line, that sits lower and gets stiffer bushes, is likely to be the pick of the bunch for those who love driving. Until the much-revered Focus RS comes along and slaps a big wide grin on our faces, that is! 

This is said to be the best Focus yet

Though the statement is cheekily similar to claims made by every car-maker for almost every new car launched these days, Ford’s claim is not without substance. 

Firstly, the interiors are bigger and look several notches better than the outgoing model, having adopted the brand’s new design mojo of a 8.0-inch touchscreen stacked on to the center console. Feature list has been thoroughly upgraded as well with more emphasis on connectivity and safety. 

The 2019 Focus also has the distinction of debuting the new Co-Pilot 360 safety suite in Europe and China. Depending on the trim level and market, the tech on offer include adaptive cruise control with speed sign recognition, lane centering assist to level two autonomous standards, emergency braking, park assist, rear cross-traffic alert and evasive steering assist. The new Focus also offers a Wi-Fi network that can connect up to 10 devices and work up to 15 meters away from the car. On cars equipped with this and the FordPass Connect system, owners can locate and start the vehicle, lock and unlock the doors and check essential car stats at the touch of a button on their smartphones.

It’s not surprising then Steven Armstrong, Ford’s European boss, claims “The new Focus is, quite simply, the best car in our 114-year history.”

The ST-Line looks super cool

In every new car, there’s one particular colour or variant that attracts our attention the most as it brings the best out of the car. In case of the new Focus, the ST-Line takes that honour. Wearing a cool new shade of blue, the ST-Line impresses with its sharp looks complemented by subtle hints of sportiness. 

If the wannabe ST looks this cool, we can't wait for the actual ST and the full-blown RS. Come on Ford, launch them already!

Want a Hybrid or Electric? Nah, you've gotta wait!

Despite all the talk about electrification, the new Focus will sadly not have an electrified power-train on offer at launch. Instead, two tunes of the popular 1.0-liter, 3-cylinder 'EcoBoost' petrol and a pair of 'EcoBlue' diesels - with 1.5-liter and 2.0-liter displacements - would be the power of choice though a mild-hybrid high-performance variant appear to be on the cards. 

Mated to these engines is either a 6-speed manual or a 8-speed torque-converter automatic transmission.  

Globally, the Focus competes head-on with Volkswagen's Golf and Hyundai's i30. The new Focus - with more space, sharper looks and an all-new platform underneath that promises best-in-class handling - should have them worried.

Ford Freestyle launched in India

Ford launched the all-new Freestyle, a cross-hatch based on the Figo, in India yesterday.

With prices starting from INR 5.09 Lakhs and going up to INR 6.94 Lakhs for the petrol and INR 6.09 Lakhs and INR 7.89 Lakhs for the diesel variants, the Freestyle is priced remarkably well and offers excellent bang for your buck. Four trim levels are on offer - Ambiente, Trend, Titanium and the fully-loaded Titanium +. 

The Freestyle is offered with two engine options. While the 1.5-liter TDCi diesel is carried over from the existing Figo and EcoSport, the petrol mill is an all-new 1.2-liter TiVCT unit from the Dragon family that debuted under the hood of the facelifted EcoSport. This 3-cylinder unit produces 95 horsepower and 120 Nm of peak torque. The diesel continues with the same tune that's found in the other Ford models, generating 99 horsepower and a peak torque of 215 Nm. Both the engines are mated to a new 5-speed manual transmission with an automatic sadly missing from the list.

Ford may have given the car a new name but there is no mistaking its identity. Look at it and you will know this is a jacked-up Figo. The fascia is differentiated by a new grille that gets a classy black mesh in place of the flashy chrome slats in the Figo. The headlamp also gets black inserts in place of chrome reflectors while the bumper is redesigned with a slim air dam underlined by a fake skid plate finished in silver. The fog lamp bezels extend upwards to form a nice C-shaped design element. All the usual tricks employed by hatchbacks-turned-crossovers - like the plastic cladding over the wheel arches, roof rails, bigger wheels and increased ground clearance - find their way on to the car. A pair of slightly-revised taillight clusters and a dual-tone bumper with C-shaped design elements matching the front rounds out the changes in the rear. 

Interiors have been spruced up as well. The dated center console with a plethora of buttons is gone, replaced by a brilliant 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with SYNC 3.0 software that supports Voice Commands, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Like all new Fords, the screen sticks out from the top of the dashboard between the two center air vents. The steering wheel, the climate control buttons and the rest of the interiors are borrowed from the Figo twins with a twist. The top half of the dashboard and the center console is now painted in a shade of brown that's sure to split opinion. 

The Freestlye comes fully loaded with a feature list that includes Antilock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), six airbags, Active Rollover Prevention, Hill Launch Assist (HLA), Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Traction Control System (TCS), Emergency Assistance, Ford MyKey, keyless entry with push button start, automatic climate control, electrochromic rear view mirror, power-folding and adjustable mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps, height-adjustable front seat belts and reverse parking sensors with rear view camera. Now, that's a list that could put some cars a segment above to shame!

In addition to being the most affordable car to offer the protection of six airbags, ESP, TCS and the likes, the new Freestyle continues Ford's emphasis on safety by offering ABS with EBD and dual airbags standard across the range.

To match its crossover credentials, the Freestyle gets a revised suspension setup that's stiffer and more suited for mild off-road sojourns.

With crossovers being the flavour of the industry right now, the Freestyle couldn't have launched at a better time. With good looks, an exhaustive feature list, a pair of competent engines and sorted dynamics in its arsenal, this could just be the success Ford is looking for!


Tata's H5X Concept-based SUV spotted testing

Tata Motors hogged the limelight at the Auto Expo back in January with the superb H5X and 45X Concepts, previewing the brand's upcoming new SUV and a potential premium hatchback to rival the likes of the Baleno and i20. With both these segments showing massive growth, Tata’s bets are in line with the market trends which augurs well for them. And the Pune-based car-maker is wasting no time getting these models ready to hit the market. 

Spotted right outside Tata’s facility in the outskirts of Pune, the brand's upcoming flagship SUV seems to be taking shape nicely. Despite the thick layer of camouflage, it is clear the new SUV’s styling is inspired by the H5X Concept, albeit toned down significantly. The stance, helped in no small part by the tall hood, the bulged-out shoulders and those beefy tires shod on 17-inch wheels, screams SUV. The size seems to be just right too with Tata’s new SUV looking considerably bigger than the Jeep Compass, the latest SUV sensation in the country. Whilst we can’t make out much apart from these, the precious few design elements that are exposed by this test mule are done just right, like the smoked 5 twin-spoked alloy wheels for instance. 

The folks at Tata Motors are said to be developing two models – a 5-seater and a 7-seater – based on the H5X Concept and the vehicle on test seems to be the latter. The roofline that doesn’t slope down as dramatically as the concept’s did and the considerable space between the B- and C-pillars are definite giveaways of the car’s identity. These actions open up precious headroom and legroom for the passengers in the third row and are crucial if Tata has to market this as a proper 7-seater. Let’s not forget most vehicles in this segment are just 5+2-seaters with the third row best reserved for kids and unwelcome adults. 

The H5X Concept-based SUVs are being developed with inputs from Land Rover and, as a result, are expected to boast robust mechanicals and solid off-roading abilities. Fiat’s 2.0-liter MultiJet diesel engine would be the power unit of choice with Tata expected to differentiate the 7-seater with a higher state of tune. This is the same engine that does duty with aplomb under the hood of the Compass. Every new launch from Tata in the recent past have been accompanied by a considerable upswing in their quality levels and it’s safe to assume these upcoming flagships would continue the trend. 

After being nearly written off a few years back, Tata Motor’s remarkable product-led transformation has been a revelation. The upcoming SUVs then are going to be just a couple of more feathers added to a cap that’s getting heavier by the day!