By Aaron Bragman on February 22, 2014
Competes with: Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Mazda3, Honda Civic
Looks like: Una Fiesta muy grande
Powertrains: 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, optional turbocharged 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder; six speed manual and automatic transmissions
Hits dealerships: Fall 2014
Ford has seen tremendous global success with its current Focus compact sedan, with the company claiming that it has become the world's best-selling nameplate for the last two years (Toyota may disagree, however).
To keep that momentum going, Ford has unveiled a freshened Focus that will appear at the Geneva International Motor Show in March before making its stateside debut at the New York International Auto Show in April.
The styling is evolutionary, and at first glance you might not realize much has changed. But compare pictures of the redesigned model to the current one, and you'll realize that the Focus really does get a very different look. It's not a different look for the Ford family, however, as the new Focus resembles nothing so much as a big Fiesta in its front-end styling. It wears the smaller car's lower headlights and trapezoidal grille, which make up the de facto face of Ford on everything from the Mustang to the Taurus. It's a good look for the Focus, which retains the side character of the current model and sports new taillights with a bulb pattern meant to give the rear a more horizontal design. It's a clean update and should nicely carry the Focus a few more years until a bigger redo.
Here's where the big news is: The buttons are back! Badly stung by negative press and plunging initial quality scores, Ford has been slowly reversing its design direction. It went from traditional interior controls to flat touch-sensitive panels and voice controls, but the new Focus finally comes full circle. The interior, even in Focuses equipped with MyFord Touch, is completely conventional - buttons on the dashboard for climate control, audio, ancillary systems and more. A big touch-screen remains in the center console for navigation, entertainment and the four-quadrant Sync system, and that's as it should be. But no longer will customers suffer from the distraction of having to locate a touch-sensitive pad for vehicle controls, an excellent move on Ford's part.
As for the rest of the interior, not much has changed, dimensionally. Some new seat trim, an improved Ford AppLink program with more developer-created applications for Ford Sync, a heated steering wheel and a redesigned, easier-to-access glove box round out the updates.
While Ford has not released any horsepower figures for the Focus' powertrains, the company has announced that two engines will be offered. Standard is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline direct-injection engine, but coming to the U.S. for the first time in the Focus is the company's novel turbocharged 1.0-liter three-cylinder EcoBoost engine. It will be the lineup's fuel-economy champ, and while Ford has not yet produced any numbers to go with the car, company officials point to the current 40 mpg highway target and hint that it will be better than that. There's just one problem: The 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine will only be offered with a six-speed manual transmission, which will severely limit its appeal among the Millennial generation that Ford says it is targeting with the new Focus.
The nature of the Focus' electronic systems means that Ford can offer a significant level of advanced safety systems in the compact car. New for 2015 is a lane-keeping system; it uses onboard radar and the car's electric power steering to help prevent the vehicle from wandering over a lane marker, first through rumbling warnings in the steering wheel, then through active torque application to the wheel. Radar-based blind-spot warning will be offered as well, and a rearview camera will be standard equipment.
It is still too early for pricing on the new Focus, but Ford says that the models will begin appearing in volume at U.S. dealers this fall.
Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman grew up in the Detroit area, comes from an automotive family and is based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Email Aaron