The Ford Focus is a small family car made by Ford and sold in most Ford markets worldwide. It was launched in 1998 in Europe and 2002 in Australia. Since then, it has become the United Kingdom's best selling car, following in the success of its predecessor, the Escort. In 2001 and 2002, the Focus was the world’s best selling car. A new version of the Focus (Mk 2) was launched in Europe in January 2005 and a face lifted version in January 2008.
The decision to call the new car the Ford Focus was made in early 1998, as Ford's overheads had been planning to keep the Escort nameplate for its new generation of small family cars.
The interior of the car was also radically styled featuring many curves and sweeping lines. Although the design was clearly influenced by the Ka the interior design was more akin to those of American cars, in the same way the original Ford Mondeo was.
The Focus also introduced high specification components. The car featured a highly sophisticated fully independent multi-link rear suspension (dubbed "Control Blade") which was derived from the system used on the Ford Mondeo estate and was intended to give the car class-leading handling and ride. Although fully independent multi-link rear suspension is costly, Ford managed to design and produce the suspension in an ingenious and cost effective way by using pressed metal techniques. Until then a high proportion of other cars in the class had used Twist-beam rear suspensions, or other beam type suspensions.
In 2001 the Mk 1 Focus was subtly facelifted. Changes included:
A new flexfuel engine was introduced, based on the European Zetec 1.6 L version. This could use both petrol and bioethanol, but only on the Swedish market. This version is still available in some countries despite the advent of an all-new Mk 2 Focus.
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Adapted from the Facelift Mk 1 Focus, the ST170 had the following cosmetic revisions: 17" Multi-Spoke Alloy Wheels; Alarm; Side Airbags; Optional Recaro leather seats; Optional 9006 Stereo system with Subwoofer; and Locally developed bodykit (Australia only). The engine was developed by Cosworth and tuning bumped the horsepower from 130 to 170. Upgrades included: High-flow aluminum cylinder head; Variable valve timing; Dual state intake manifold; Stainless steel exhaust system; Sports catalytic converter; Larger brake discs (300mm front, 280mm rear); Getrag 6 speed manual gearbox; and Revised power steering pump.
The all-new Mk 2 Ford Focus was launched at the Paris Motor Show on September 23 2004 as a three and five-door hatchback and an estate, although the new car was previewed, in 4-door saloon form, as the 'Focus Concept' developed by Ford Europe at the Beijing Motor Show in mid-2004.
The basic suspension design, which contributed much to the Mk 1's success, has been carried over largely unchanged from its predecessor which, along with a 10% stiffer bodyshell, offers even better handling and ride according to Ford. The same body styles as the Mk 1 Focus were offered, though the saloon did not appear until mid-2005.
The Focus Mk 2 is much larger than its predecessor with a 25 mm (1 in) increase in wheelbase, 168 mm (6.6 in) longer, 8 mm (0.3 in) taller and 138 mm (5.4 in) wider. As a result the interior and boot space has increased. New technologies include a KeyFree system, a solar-reflect windshield, adaptive front lighting, Bluetooth hands-free phones and voice control for audio, telephone and climate control systems.
Stylistically, the Mk 2's styling features the same design language found in the Mondeo and Fiesta. Although still recognisable as a Focus the new car uses styling features from the abandoned B-Proposal for the original Focus which never reached production.
The interior and dashboard follows on from the Mk 2 Mondeo and is constructed from higher quality plastics than before.
Styling-wise, like the Mk 2 Mondeo and Mk 3 Fiesta the Focus has been criticised by the motoring press for what some perceive as a lack of flair, originality and boldness compared to its predecessor's New Edge design although many critics do say the new model looks more mature.
The interior design has not faced such harsh criticism with many journalists believing it represents a significant improvement through more sober 'German' styling and, more importantly, better quality plastics than the first generation design, although the general consensus from journalists is that the Focus' interior is still a notch down from the Mk 5 Volkswagen Golf.
The second-generation Ford Focus sold in Australia did not feature side curtain SRS airbags (XR5 excluded) when launched in 2005, and due to this, the Focus sat behind many of its close rivals in terms of safety. The lack of side curtain SRS airbags was due to the fact that Australia receives the Focus from the factory in South Africa. This means the car is normally marked down in various car comparisons, despite being one of the best cars dynamically. However, since August 2007 side curtain SRS airbags and Dynamic Stability Control have been available upon facelift.
The 1.8 L and 2.0 L Zetec petrol engines of the original were heavily revised and renamed Duratec HE. This engine is not based on a Mazda MZR engine as in the American Focus, and is very different to the smaller 1.25L, 1.4 L and 1.6 L Duratec engines (which are versions of the Yamaha-developed Sigma/Zetec-SE engines first used in the 97 facelift Fiesta).
The PSA-developed Duratorq Diesel engine in 1.6 L and editions, Ford's own 'Lynx' Duratorq 1.8L diesel carried over from the previous model and the PSA DW10 diesel in 2.0 L form rounds off the range in standard Focus guise (this is a different unit to the 'Puma' diesel in the Mondeo).
From September 2006, Ford revised the standard trim specifications slightly, to allow for the introduction of further options called X-Packs.
Ford unveiled a facelifted Mk2 Ford Focus at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2007, to go on sale in early 2008 in the hatchback, estate and saloon bodystyles, with the Coupé-Cabriolet and ST to follow in Spring 2008. Went on sale in the UK on 2nd Feb 2008. Changes include:
Prices are set to be similar (if not identical) to that of the pre-facelift Focus, as its lead at the top of the British car sales charts has quickly been cut by the Vauxhall Astra in the last couple of years.
Ford collaborated with dance floor superstar Alesha Dixon in January 2008 to create an exclusive special edition remix and video to celebrate the launch of the new Ford Focus.
The Focus Coupé-Cabriolet, a two-piece retractable hardtop, was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in February 2006 and went on sale in October 2006. Originally named the Vignale by designer Pininfarina, it was previewed at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show. Pininfarina performs final assembly. Ford plans to sell about 20,000 annually in Europe.
In February 2008, Ford revealed a new Focus Coupé-Cabriolet sporting the new 'Kinetic Design' front end of the generic Ford Focus. Notably however, unlike the generic Focus models, the side and rear body panels were not changed, and neither were the door mirrors upgraded to the new-style units, as on the rest of the new Focus models. Nor were bodyside mouldings removed, as with the rest of the Focus range. Some press outlets had expected such changes in line with the rest of the range.
On December 17 2007 Ford of Europe confirmed that a Mk 2 Focus RS will be launched in 2009. The press release also notes that a concept version of the RS is due in mid-2008.Contrary to numerous rumours and speculation the RS was announced by Ford to have a conventional FWD layout with an upgraded Volvo T5 engine, gearbox, suspension, and LSD.
The first Focus World Rally Car made its debut in rallying and the World Rally Championship on the 1999 Monte Carlo Rally with Colin McRae and Simon Jean-Joseph at the wheels of the two cars, replacing, for the first time in a generation, the venerable Escort. It was immediately on the pace, setting many fastest stage times, but a vehicle weight issue meant that the two cars were excluded from that event. McRae went on to give the Focus WRC its maiden victory on the Safari Rally in February of the same year and took victory again in the following rally, the Rally Portugal.
The MkI Focus WRC went on scoop further victories over the years for McRae, Carlos Sainz and Markko Märtin from then until it was phased out in favour of the MkII offering in late 2005. This car, a winner in both Marcus Grönholm's and Mikko Hirvonen's hands in the two-car factory BP-Ford World Rally Team that contested the 2006 World Rally Championship season, duly racked up the manufacturers' title, spelling the end of a formidable twenty-seven year wait for such an honour in this series for the Blue Oval. The team successfully defended the manufacturers' title in the 2007 season.
All the rally cars are built, prepared and run for Ford by M-Sport, the motorsport team based in Cockermouth, Cumbria in Northern England. The team is managed by Malcolm Wilson, a well known former British rally driver.
Besides rallies, the Focus has also been used in the SCCA Speed World Challenge Touring Car Series.
Despite its radical styling (the hatchback version in particular), and some controversial safety recalls in North America, the car has been a runaway success across the globe, even in the United States, where Ford has traditionally failed to successfully sell its European models. This was the best-selling car in the world in 1999 through 2004. It was elected Car of the Year in 1999. The Focus won the North American Car of the Year award for 2000.
Ford was therefore left without a light-duty commercial vehicle when the Escort finally went out of production in 2000. The purpose-designed Transit Connect, introduced in 2002, largely served as its replacement. A convertible version was another notable omission that was rectified with the Mk2 Coupe-Cabriolet.
Auto Express in 2005 hailed the European Focus Mk 2 "Supreme Champion" in its New Car of the Year awards. The Focus also won the subcategory of Best Compact Family Car in the same awards.
What green car in 2008 named the "green" version of the Focus, The Ford Focus ECOnetic as its Green Car of the year 2008. It won for its class-leading low emissions and high fuel economy.
But the Focus quickly became popular thanks to its competitive asking price, sharp handling, generous equipment, spacious interior and comfortable seats. It has been Britain's best-selling new car every year since 1999, and the second generation model (on sale since the end of 2004) has just strengthened its position.
The majority of motoring surveys have given the Focus a good rating for reliability, build quality, driver appeal and overall satisfaction, and helped it compete with reputable Japanese and German brands in terms of quality.
The Focus was Britain's best selling car once again for 2007 - the ninth successive year that it has achieved this success. It is now just one year away from achieving the Ford Cortina's record of ten successive years as Britain's best selling car.