The fourth-generation Ford Focus range arrived in Australia at the end of 2018 with a very different looking line-up to the model it replaced, with the range jazzed up with an ST-Line warm hatch and a striking wagon version.
The range starts with the Focus Trend hatch, that looks a little bland compared to the ST-Lines, but it shares much of their excellent driving dynamics. But is that enough to give it an edge over its small-hatch rivals?
Priced at $25,990 the Ford Focus Trend hatchback is the cheapest Focus in the range.
Our test car featured Desert Island Blue premium paint valued at $650, which took the retail price to $26,640, which is what you’d pay for other similarly-equipped mid-spec hatches, such as the Holden Astra RS ($27,240), Hyundai i30 Active with optional active safety ($25,390) and the Toyota Corolla SX ($26,670).
The Focus Trend’s official fuel consumption is 6.4L/100km combined, with our testing taking that up to a still-respectable 7.2L/100km.
The Ford Focus Trend is covered by Ford’s five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
All fourth-generation Focus variants in Australia are powered by a three-cylinder 1.5-litre ‘EcoBoost’ turbo petrol engine coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Autonomous emergency braking is standard across the range, as is an eight-inch touchscreen with 180-degree view parking camera, Ford’s Sync3 infotainment system with in-built-satellite navigation, digital radio and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, phone charging pad, LED daytime running lights, and rain-sensing windscreen wipers.
The Trend rolls on 16-inch alloy wheels and has cloth seats with manual adjustment.
At 4.38 metres long, the fourth-generation Focus is 18mm longer and has a 53mm lengthier wheelbase (2.70 metres), than its predecessor. This adds to interior space, but trim overhangs at each end give a more compact, svelte appearance.
This, and the fact it's 88kg lighter than the previous model, makes it feel impressively nimble, making it great for driving around town and parking in tight spots.
A more compact dashboard design adds an additional 100mm to the cabin and results in more rear legroom than before, even with the front seats pushed back to accommodate tall occupants.
The boot space measures 373 litres, which is about average for the small hatchback class.
The Ford Focus Trend comes standard with autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, along with lane-keeping assist. It also has post-impact braking that applies the anchors after impact so the car doesn’t roll away.
An extra $1250 brings a Driver Assistance pack that brings additional safety features such as rear-cross traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control with ‘Stop & Go’, which is great in traffic jams.
All Focus variants are equipped with six airbags, front and rear side curtains, and ISOFIX child seat anchors in the rear seats. Crash safety is good, with the 2019 Ford Focus range awarded a 5-Star ANCAP rating in December 2018.
The roomy interior design is clutter free and intuitively designed, but doesn’t exactly boast much in the way of design flair.
The cloth front seats are pretty basic but are comfortable enough with good back support. The rear seats feel good too, but lack a centre armrest and their own air vents or USB sockets (though there is a 12v socket for device charging).
The dashboard design is a big improvement over the previous model, with the bulky central head unit replaced by a floating touchscreen that display’s Ford’s very user friendly Sync3 infotainment system. It’s a bit dull though, unless you like everything black, and the gauge cluster looks like it was borrowed from a truck.
On the plus side it’s very comfortable, with a smooth and quiet ride on the 16-inch wheels and conventional torsion beam suspension that rides over imperfections well.
ON THE ROAD
The 2019 Ford Focus’s spirited performance would be evident even during a short test drive.
Its 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo is an enthusiastic engine and is rarely found wanting. There’s little by way of turbo-lag when you put the foot down and the eight-speed auto does a nice job shifting through the cogs, with Sport mode holding onto gears to deliver sprightlier performance.
Fuel consumption is also helped by slippery aerodynamics, with the new design featuring underbody panels and an active grille shutter that have significantly reduced drag compared to the previous model.
The steering is light but crisp, so there’s good engagement between your hands and the front wheels, which combines with the well-balanced chassis to inspire confidence when pushing it into corners.
The ride feels controlled but comfortable around town or on the highway, which makes for an enjoyable ride whether it’s a quick trip to the shops or a weekend road trip.
The Ford Focus has always been an excellent hatchback dynamically speaking, and this fourth-generation model doesn’t let its lineage down.
The Focus Trend is well equipped and a lot of fun to drive for an affordable small car, and is a lot more enjoyable behind the wheels than most of its direct rivals, without losing any ground on comfort and practicality.
If anything its biggest rival will be its Focus ST-Line sibling, which for just $3000 brings extra interior and exterior features, and lowered sport suspension for even better handling. However, if that's stretching the budget too far then you can rest assured that the base model Focus will still provide plenty of delight.
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