Seven years after its introduction, it’s high time for the third-gen Focus to be replaced by an all new model. In a surprising move, Ford chose to skip the Geneva Auto Show and unveil it in a standalone event on April 10.
That, in all likelihood, was done so that the Blue Oval would have everyone’s full attention, which wouldn’t be the case at the show. So, with less than a week remaining before its official debut, here’s what we know about the upcoming Focus that its maker hopes will kickstart its C-segment offensive.
The birth of a game changer
When it was launched in 1998 as a replacement to the ageing, and hardly competitive, Escort, the first-gen Focus took the world by storm, introducing fresh styling and top-notch handling, the latter thanks to a nicely sorted chassis and the first multi-link rear suspension in the C-segment. As a result, it walked away with the 1999 European Car of the Year award – and make the competition take serious notice.
In late 1999 it was also introduced in the U.S. market as a 2000MY, where it was available as a three-door hatch, a four-door sedan and a station wagon; the five-door hatch didn’t arrive until 2001.
Even though the first-gen was a hit, Ford somehow got its global car strategy mixed up. For the European market, the second generation was launched at the 2014 Paris Auto Show with a new design and larger dimensions but, more or less, the same underpinnings, while in the U.S. the second-gen Focus arrived in 2007 with different styling than the Euro-spec model and only in two-door coupe and four-door sedan versions, as the hatch and estate were dropped. It was short-lived and was replaced in 2011, with Ford opting for the global strategy once again, reuniting the U.S. version with the one sold in Europe and the rest of the world.
All new, Fiesta-inspired bodywork
The Blue Oval itself rolled out a number of prototypes last December, with a colorful wrap that gave us a first glimpse of the production model’s design and the #TimeToFocus hashtag. Yep, that’s very Insta-gen and all that, but we’ve already seen the production model thanks to one of our readers snapping it up in Portugal, most likely during a promo shooting.
The overall design is totally different to the current, third-gen car, and it has more flowing lines that are more in line with those of the new Fiesta. Yet, somehow, the end result also reminds us of Korean models like the Hyundai i30 and if we were to single out one thing, it would definitely be the headlights that look a lot like Volvo’s ‘Thor hammer’ (aka Mjolnir, for those of you not versed in Norse mythology or Marvel comics) ones.
It seems that Ford’s designers went for a modern look that, nevertheless, looks like an amalgam of different styling cues. We guess that, being a global car, they had to take many factors into consideration, though we’ll reserve judgement for a few days until it’s officially launched and we’ll see more high-res images.
Our best look at the car came from a reader of Vezess who snapped the hatchback during a photo shoot.
What’s under the skin?
The fourth-gen Focus hatch might be totally redesigned, but it will ride on a modified version of its predecessors’ global C-car platform. Which, in itself, is no bad thing, as we expect the already good dynamics to be sharpened up and, despite an increase in footprint that will bring a roomier cabin, weight to go down. Power will, naturally, be directed to the front wheels via a five- or six-speed manual or a dual-clutch transmission.
As for the engines, the European market will get an assortment of turbocharged Ecoboost units like the 1.0-liter three-cylinder, 1.5-liter four and a couple of diesels, in 1.5 and 2.0 guise.
Meanwhile, North America will likely continue with the current 123hp 1.0-liter turbo three and the naturally aspirated 160hp 2.0-liter four, though Ford might introduce a turbocharged petrol four, too. Both versions will get a replacement to the all-electric variant, probably with an upgraded battery and longer range, as well as a plug-in hybrid, both at a later date.
An upmarket interior
Whenever a new model is launched, its maker always claims that it uses higher-end material than its predecessor, with some going as far as calling them premium – even though they clearly aren’t. Well, Ford CEO Jim Hackett has already said that he expects sales of the new Focus to be slightly lower than today’s model, acknowledging that a lot of consumers nowadays go for SUVs. At the same time, he said that he wanted the car to be more upmarket, “in much the same way as the Fiesta”.
Thanks to a spy image, we know what the dashboard will look like. Like most new models, the main feature is its floating display, with a series of buttons right underneath followed by the center air vents and the climate controls. It looks fresh, and yet, like the exterior, quite generic.
We don’t doubt it will be very nicely equipped, as apart from the (mandated) standard ESP it will come with a full suite of driver assist systems, such as collision and pedestrian warning, automatic emergency braking etc., depending on the selected trim.
Made in China, imported to the U.S.
Last year, when Ford announced it intended to shift small car production to its Mexican plant, U.S. President Donald Trump was up in arms, going as far as openly threatening the Dearborn-based automaker. Eventually, the company changed its mind, but the new Focus still won’t be built in the States. Instead, it will be manufactured at the Changan plant in China, where the local Focus is also made, and will be imported in the U.S. in what is a company first – and President Trump has no problem with that.
The company claims that this change will save it $1 billion and has nothing to do with Trump’s attack. Which might, or might not, be the truth, as it is retooling its Wayne, Michigan plant for production of the Ranger mid-size pickup and the new Bronco SUV. Mind you, that applies to the U.S. version, as the Euro-spec model will be manufactured at Saarlouis, Germany.
The five-door hatchback will be joined by the sedan and estate versions that have already been caught out testing on numerous occasions. It remains unclear if both will make it Stateside, but what’s sure is that, like the current model, a three-door hatch, or a hard-top convertible for that matter, won’t be making a return.
What about the hot ST and RS variants?
In 2002, Ford caused quite a stir in the hot hatch niche with the first Focus RS that had its chassis tuned by the motorsport division and featured a 2.0-liter turbocharged four, a Qauife limited-slip front differential and Brembo brakes, and, perhaps more crucially, an aggressive front end and flared arches that made it look very much like the WRC racer Ford was fielding at the time. It was available only in blue and solely in European markets.
Its successor was powered by a 2.5-liter five-cylinder, which was also used in a milder state of tune in the ST, while the third Focus RS switched to a 2.3-liter four that also powers the base Mustang. Moreover, it was the first RS with all-wheel drive, which was a wise move with the engine churning out no less than 350 HP and it’s doubtful if FWD would have sufficed, even with Ford’s clever Revo-Knuckle set up.
We expect the new Focus RS to bow in 2020, with as much as 400 HP and, according to source, some form of electrification.
As with the previous models, there will also be a milder ST variant, which will ditch the costly AWD and rival the likes of the Golf GTI. While it has been rumored that Ford may downsize the ST’s engines to high-tech 1.5-liter four-cylinder twin-scroll turbo units, this has yet to be confirmed. It is more likely that Ford will continue with a 2.0-liter turbo gasoline lump with around 280hp offered with a six-speed manual and in some markets, a six-speed Powershift twin-clutch automatic gearbox.
When will I be able to get one?
According to Ford’s most recent announcement, North America will have to wait until the middle of 2019 to get the Focus with production primarily sourced from China. Other global markets, including Europe, could get the compact hatch earlier. More details on the exact release dates for each region are expected to be announced after the presentation on April 10.