Overview: Ford Focus, 2011

Click here to see our earlier article about the new Focus, published in March 2010; click here to read about the Focus Electric.

Convergence is a wonderful thing. You don’t need to be very old to remember when the idea of a ‘world car’ had severe limitations, brought about by profound differences in consumer taste across different markets and by ‘global’ manufacturers leaving their local satellites to do as they pleased. These considerations haven’t gone away: what has changed is that the motor industry has achieved genuinely global thinking. Rooted in expediency and cost-saving, the new global reality means that we’re all going to get more or less the same products in future.

Whether this loss of diversity is in any way significant is a moot point: if development money is better focused, we would suggest that the customer is probably better off.

Ford Focus, 2011.

The new Focus was developed in Europe, chiefly at Köln in Germany. Ultimately the car will be sold in over 120 markets worldwide, with 80 per cent. parts commonality, the core model riding on Ford’s new global C segment platform. This platform will eventually underpin at least ten vehicles around the world and, Ford hopes, account for two million units of annual production by 2012.

At 1484mm high (on 17-inch wheels), 4358mm long and 1823mm wide (without mirrors), the new five-door model is 16mm lower, 21mm longer and — curiously — 16mm narrower than the current Focus. Its wheelbase is 8mm longer at 2648mm.

Inside, Ford’s latest generation of Human Machine Interface (HMI) uses two five-way switches on the steering wheel to control the car’s two main displays — one in the instrument cluster, one in the centre of the dash.

The Focus’s running-gear has not changed in essence, though everything has been reworked for the new car. The multi-link rear suspension and subframes have been redesigned, and electric power steering has been introduced across the range.

Ford Focus, 2011.

The new Focus range incorporates features from Ford’s Econetic Technologies programme. For example, the Focus is the first Ford to standardise stop-start technology across a significant part of the range. All vehicles with the 1.6-litre Ford Eco Boost petrol engines and the 1.6-litre TDCi diesels are equipped with stop-start; the diesel models deliver a CO2 yield of 109g/km.

Driving Technology

The new Focus offers five driver assistance features based on a digital camera system. This helps the driver stay in lane, remain alert, monitor traffic signs and operate the headlamp high beam.

Mounted next to the rear view mirror, the forward-facing camera captures a view of the road ahead which is analysed by a computer.

Lane departure warning
This feature uses the electric power steering system to deliver a vibration to the steering wheel if the car drifts out of lane. The system is deactivated at speeds below 37mph.

Lane keeping aid
This extends the functionality of the lane departure warning system by using the car’s EPAS system (Electric Power Assisted Steering) to steer the vehicle back into its rightful lane, rather than just triggering an alert.

Driver alert
This detects when a driver is becoming tired or falling asleep. Unlike other systems, which analyse steering movements, Ford’s monitors the vehicle’s position relative to the road markings. If it decides the driver is drowsy, it triggers visible and audible warnings.

Traffic sign recognition
This system uses the digital camera to identify traffic signs on either side of the road and on bridges, providing the driver with information such as the latest detected speed limit and overtaking regulations via the instrument cluster display.

Auto high beam
A familiar and self-explanatory feature; there are no unexpected twists to the Focus system.

Quite apart from these safety-related features, there are a number of systems that would normally be associated with more upmarket cars than the Focus. Part of the reason for this is undoubtedly that Ford — like other manufacturers — expects to pick up some custom from drivers of larger cars who have decided (or have been forced) to ‘downsize’ their personal transport. Another rather significant factor is the steady fall in the cost of these systems, made in rapidly increasing munbers by suppliers such as Bosch and Hella and effectively available off-the-shelf.

The most upmarket feature of all is the optional Active Park Assist. This automatically steers the vehicle into a parallel parking space for you, though you still have to work the pedals.

Ford’s blind spot information system works on both sides of the car and is similar (or perhaps even identical) to the systems used by other manufacturers.

Ford’s radar-based adaptive cruise control helps to maintain a safe distance to the vehicle in front. If the system detects that the vehicle in front is slowing down or is too close, it decelerates automatically to maintain the preset distance. When the gap opens up again, the system accelerates back to the chosen cruising speed. The active cruise control incorporates a ‘forward alert’ feature, which warns the driver if there is a risk of a rear-end collision.

A speed limiter is available, allowing the driver to set their own speed limit.

More minor — but nonetheless useful — gadgets are many and varied on the Focus. To take three examples, a rear-view camera is included in the Sony Premium DAB Navigation Pack, providing a wide-angled view with a graphical overlay on the 20cm touchscreen display; key-free driving is standard on top models; and Ford’s Easy Fuel system, fitted as standard to all models, is designed to prevent the driver filling a car with the wrong fuel.

The new Focus’s electrical system uses — depending on the equipment level — up to 46 control modules to look after networking requirements. Three 1MHz Controller Area Network (CAN) bus systems are used to link the electrical features.

The electrical systems were developed using Hardware in the Loop (HIL) testing and Yellow Board testing. The former is a software-based automated test system which allows a large number of tests to be compressed into a short period of time. The system is active, simulating the operation of the car when it is driving, enabling features like driver assistance and active safety systems to be tested without the cost and complexity of running tests in a vehicle. More than 20,000 automated tests can be completed in a single overnight run.

Yellow Board testing is used to test the entire functioning vehicle electrical system, including all of the control modules, connections and wires. The physical parts are laid out on ‘yellow boards’ in a test lab for detailed analysis. Every electrical feature of the vehicle is put in place on the yellow boards to undergo continual testing for lengthy periods.

Ford is boasting of a strengthened body structure for the new car — up by 15 per cent. on the five-door shell — though no torsional strength figures are quoted. Front and rear subframes have been stiffened. Attention has also been paid to increasing local stiffnesses in the most important areas for vehicle dynamics and NVH, such as the chassis attachment points and the front-end structure. Also of note are new designs for the ‘Control Blade’ multilink rear suspension and or the semi-isolated front subframe. Electric power steering is standard, serving to provide some of the Focus’s driver-assistance systems — lane-departure warning, lane departure correction and the parking ‘assistant’.

The electric power steering’s servo motor is mounted on the steering rack. Compared to the outgoing model, the steering ratio has been raised substantially from 16.0:1 to 14.7:1. Ford claims that the adoption of the EPAS system reduces fuel consumption by around three per cent. compared to a conventional hydraulic power steering system.

Ford’s adoption of torque vectoring control as standard across the range for the new Focus is significant, not just for buyers of the cars but also in demonstrating how the cost of electronic control systems is dropping. The Focus system uses the car’s brakes to imitate the effect of a torque vectoring differential, constantly balancing the distribution of engine torque between the front wheels during cornering, improving grip and reducing understeer. While Alfa Romeo got there first — the Giulietta has this system on all models — it’s the Focus that will create wider demand. Ford’s system operates using the car’s Electronic Stability Program (ESP) module, which in this case works at 100Hz. (The Giulietta’s torque vectoring system operates in the same way, using Alfa Romeo’s version of ESP.)

Efforts to reduce powertrain NVH focused on reducing noises at source, though some additional sound-absorbing material has been deployed. To help reduce wind noise, the Focus adopts the same door structure and sealing concept as used on the latest Mondeo, S-Max and Galaxy, including a three-lip continuous glass run design. Focus models with a diesel or Eco Boost engine feature a windscreen with an acoustic layer, which reduces noise transmission. The result is a claimed reduction in overall road noise levels over the outgoing model in the range of 1.5 db(A).

As to product quality and manufacturing methods, all manufacturers say much the same things about focusing on quality. Of note in the case of the Focus is that the car will be built at a number of plants in disparate parts of the world, and Ford has developed common global manufacturing processes to deliver consistent quality from all plants.

Ford had a dedicated Craftsmanship Team that was heavily involved with the Focus development process. The team was tasked with delivering perceived quality, including the visual appeal, touch, feel and operation of all controls, features and surfaces. Although some of this seems rather whimsical, it’s worth looking at the sort of subjective things that preoccupy development teams.

  • Selecting authentic chrome plating on interior trim parts, such as the door release handles, rather than painted coatings.
  • Engineering the interfaces and transitions between parts for optimum quality and appearance, and robustness in production.
  • Achieving precise colour matching between plastic trim parts by adopting sophisticated optical measuring equipment to define the colour precisely.
  • Creating carefully choreographed Welcome and Farewell sequences for the interior lights and displays, to apply when customers enter or leave the vehicle.
  • Optimising the softness and feel of key customer contact points such as the steering wheel, door armrests and centre console.
  • Ensuring the new LED Crystal Blue interior lighting is delivered with consistent levels of colour and brightness.

Powertrains

The news here is that two versions of Ford’s new(ish) 1.6-litre Eco Boost turbocharged petrol engine are used for more upmarket spark-ignition models. Although they share a fair amount of engineering with the atmospheric (‘Ti-VCT’) units, their head and intake system are novel.

The Eco Boost 1.6 is an all-aluminium design, directly fuelled using a centrally-mounted six-hole injector. Both derivatives — 150PS and 182PS — use a Borg Warner KP39 low-inertia turbocharger and variable timing for both intake and exhaust camshafts. The camshafts are driven by a single belt with a dynamic tensioner.

Both versions deliver the same torque output, suggesting that the more powerful derivative benefits solely from better top-end breathing. That said, the torque output is very impressive for a petrol engine of this size, and delivered at a commendably low engine speed: 240Nm is available between 1600rpm and 4000rpm. There is also an overboost facility, which delivers 270Nm for up to 15 seconds.

Each pair of engines — the two atmospherics and the two turbos — turns in identical fuel consumption figures. The same is true of both 1.6 diesels, and of all three two-litre diesels.

Diesel models are powered by the familiar Ford-PSA co-op engines of 1.6- and two litres. The smaller unit delivers 95PS or 115PS; the three versions of the two-litre engine offer 115PS, 140PS and 163PS. The least powerful two-litre engine is available only with Ford’s six-speed Powershift dual-clutch transmission.

Both diesel engines use the same rather unusual method of driving their camshafts: to wit, the intake camshaft is driven directly by a belt, while the exhaust cam is driven by a chain from the intake cam. The belt uses a dynamic tensioner, while the chain is tensioned hydraulically.

The Powershift gearbox is clearly not one of those dual-clutch transmissions that manage to out-perform their manual brethren for fuel-efficiency. The six-speed manual box — used on most models — is new, dubbed Durashift B6; atmospheric petrol versions of the Focus get the five-speed iB5 transmission.

The best headline economy and emissions figures are turned in by the 1.6 diesels. Both of them. As we mentioned above, both 95PS and 115PS TDCi engines return identical consumption and CO2 results.

An assortment of technologies from Ford’s Econetic portfolio are deployed on the Focus. Notably, these are a stop-start system on some models, the incorporation of an ‘eco mode’ in the driver information programming, and an active grille shutter.

All cars with a 1.6-litre Eco Boost petrol engine or a 1.6-litre TDCi diesel engine — between them equating to around 35 per cent. of the U.K. sales volume, according to Ford — will be fitted with automatic stop-start as standard. The Eco Mode is not an alternative engine management map, but rather a feature built into the car’s driver information system to encourage an efficient driving style.

An Econetic model, with more energy-saving features, will be introduced later in 2011; the Focus Electric, which we examine elsewhere, will be launched in Europe in 2012.

The active grille shutter helps to control the car’s aerodynamics as road speed changes. It uses vents to control airflow through the grille to the cooling system and the engine compartment. When fully closed, the reduction in drag means a claimed reduction in emissions of two per cent.

Ford’s decision to lower the Focus’s roofline and reduce its width has contributed to an impovement in aerodynamic performance. The active grille shutter is no hindrance, either. Five-door models give the best performance, with a drag coefficient of Cd 0.295. Its predecessor delivered a Cd value of 0.318. The use of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) contributed substantially to the Focus’s aerodynamic development, though Ford boasts of spending ‘nearly 1000 hours’ in the wind tunnel nevertheless.

Sustainability

A number of aspects of the Focus’s design are worth noting under this heading. The most sweeping is not a design feature but a modus operandi for product development. Ford has evolved a Product Sustainability Index (PSI) to assess the environmental, societal and economic impact of a vehicle. Ford’s PSI tracks eight product attributes identified as key sustainability elements of a vehicle. These are:

  • Life-cycle global warming potential (mainly carbon dioxide emissions).
  • Life-cycle air quality potential (other air emissions).
  • The use of sustainable materials (recycled and renewable materials).
  • Substance management (including TÜV allergy-tested interior certification).
  • Exterior noise impact (drive-by noise).
  • Safety (for occupants and pedestrians).
  • Mobility capability (seat and luggage capacity relative to vehicle size).
  • Life cycle ownership costs (full costs for the customer over the first three years).

We’re not entirely convinced that restricting the consideration of ownership costs to the first three years is quite in the spirit of sustainability. After all, a vehicle impacts the environment throughout its life, and modern cars can last a long time. Still, the idea of a sustainability index is a good one. During product development, the index allows new models to be compared to their predecessors, to confirm that sustainability performance is improved.

For more than 20 years, Ford’s Restricted Substance Management Standard has spelled out what materials must be avoided or eliminated in Ford products and in the parts and materials provided by suppliers. The Company has now set out on the road to make its cars hypoallergenic. Since 2004, Ford products have been successfully tested for their allergen performance by TÜV Rheinland, and the new Focus is expected to meet the same standards when it is tested.

Recycled materials used in the Focus include sound insulation material manufactured from recycled denim jeans and cotton fibres, and carpets featuring recycled plastic content. Also, a number of plastic components — including the battery housing, cover and baseplate, the wheelarch liners, and the heating and ventilation unit — have been made from various consumer and industrial waste materials.

Structure & safety

The Focus uses more high-strength steels than any previous Ford: over 55 per cent. of the structure is made from high strength and ultra-high strength steels. More than 26 per cent. of the car’s structure is formed from ultra-high-strength and boron steels — significantly more than any other Ford product. The shell features a ‘tailor rolled’ B-pillar design, which has varied thickness along its length.

On average, the yield strength of the steel in the body is 47 per cent. higher than the current European Focus. (It is most unusual to see a manufacturer refer directly to the yield strength of its bodyshell materials.) As we mentioned previously, torsional rigidity has improved: the new 5-door Focus, for example, is 15 per cent. stiffer than the current model.

In the interests of dynamics and refinement, attention was paid to increasing the local stiffness of the structure at the suspension mounting points. In these areas, the body stiffness has increased by as much as 75 per cent.

The increasing use of powerful simulation software to test and break components ‘virtually’ during the design process has not (and should not) reduce the need to crash real cars as the design approaches completion. Ford quotes figures of 80 real vehicle crash tests and 2500 full-vehicle simulations for the Focus, covering the structure and the restraint systems.

The new Focus is the first Ford to feature the Company’s Low Speed Safety System. This is designed to help drivers avoid the kind of low speed collisions that are very common in congested urban conditions, when a car drives into the rear of the vehicle in front. The system is active at speeds below 20mph: it uses a forward-facing infra-red laser mounted next to the rear view mirror to detect objects in front of the car. Operating at 100Hz, the system continuously monitors the distance to the vehicle in front and the closing speed to determine the risk of a collision. If an imminent collision is predicted, the system pre-charges the brakes; if the driver does not react, it automatically applies them.

Ford Focus four-door, California.

The Focus’ Electronic Stability Program (ESP) system controls and coordinates many of the car’s active safety features. It incorporates technologies such as torque vectoring, hill start assist and trailer sway control which are available on a Focus for the first time with the new model.

Achieving a passable score for pedestrian protection in NCAP safety testing is very difficult, with a lot of cars scoring barely half marks. (An extreme example is the Volvo C30, which scores a full five stars overall but only 26 per cent. for pedestrian protection.) Ford has set out to do better by the new Focus, describing pedestrian protection as ‘a key consideration’ in the detailed design of all elements of the front-end, including the bumper and bonnet, the front structure, and the engine compartment layout. A dual motor windscreen wiper system has been adopted in the interest of pedestrian protection: this allows the main elements of the mechanism to be moved to a safer position away from the centre of the vehicle and a ‘soft’ cowl design incorporated into the body structure to reduce the effect of impacts at the base of the windscreen.

NCAP results for the new Focus were not available at the time of writing.

All Focus models feature a new rear seat ‘Beltminder’, which alerts the driver if any passengers in the rear seats do not have their seatbelts fastened. Optional across the range as part of the Family Pack are powered child locks for the rear doors, allowing the driver to activate or release the rear-door child locks by way of a switch on the dash.

Finally, we’re not particularly impressed to see that the Focus estate is not available with a full-size spare wheel, though the hatchback and saloon (which isn’t imported into the U.K.) both are.

Ford Focus
Diesel
1.6 95PS 1.6 115PS 2.0 115PS 2.0 140PS 2.0 163PS
Cylinders 4I 4I 4I 4I 4I
Block/head Al/Al Al/Al Fe/Al Fe/Al Fe/Al
Valves 2 2 4 4 4
VVT
Aspiration/
geometry
T/v T/v T/v T/v T/v
Injection
pressure
165MPa 165MPa 200MPa 200MPa 200MPa
Bore/stroke 75.0/88.3 75.0/88.3 85.0/88.0 85.0/88.0 85.0/88.0
Swept volume 1560cc 1560cc 1997cc 1997cc 1997cc
Compression
ratio
16.0:1 16.0:1 16.0:1 16.0:1 16.0:1
PS/rpm 95/3600 115/3600 115/3750 140/3750 163/3750
Nm/rpm 230/1500 270*/1750 300/1500 320/1750 340/2000
Maximum speed 112 120 122 129 135
0-100km/h 12.5 10.9 10.9 8.9 8.6
Urban MPG
(l/100km)
55.4
(5.1)
55.4
(5.1)
41.5
(6.8)
44.8
(6.3)
44.8
(6.3)
Combined MPG
(l/100km)
67.3
(4.2)
67.3
(4.2)
53.3
(5.3)
56.5
(5.0)
56.5
(5.0)
CO2 g/km 109 109 139 129 129
Emissions EU5 EU5 EU5 EU5 EU5
Transmission M6 M6 AM6 M6 M6
Driven wheels Front Front Front Front Front
Fuel tank 53l 53l 60l 60l 60l
Kerb mass † 1263 1269 1296 1346 1346
PS/t 75 90 88 104 121
Nm/t 182 212 231 237 252
Note: All performance and economy figures are for five-door hatchback models.
* 285Nm with overboost.
† Five-door hatchback models, DIN kerb mass. For E.U. kerb mass, add 75kg.
Ford Focus
Petrol
1.6 Ti-VCT
105PS
1.6 Ti-VCT
125PS
1.6 Eco Boost
150PS
1.6 Eco Boost
182PS
Cylinders 4I 4I 4I 4I
Block/head Al/Al Al/Al Al/Al Al/Al
Valves 4 4 4 4
VVT I/E I/E I/E I/E
Aspiration/
geometry
A A T/f T/f
Injection id id d d
Bore/stroke 79.0/81.4 79.0/81.4 79.0/81.4 79.0/81.4
Swept volume 1596cc 1596cc 1596cc 1596cc
Compression
ratio
11.0:1 11.0:1 10.0:1 10.0:1
PS/rpm 105/6000 125/6000 150/5700 182/5700
Nm/rpm 150/4000 159/4000 240*/1600 240*/1600
Maximum speed 116 122 130 138
0-100km/h 12.3 10.9 8.6 7.9
Urban MPG
(l/100km)
35.3
(8.0)
35.3
(8.0)
36.7
(7.7)
36.7
(7.7)
Combined MPG
(l/100km)
47.9
(5.9)
47.9
(5.9)
47.1
(6.0)
47.1
(6.0)
CO2 g/km 136 136 139 139
Emissions EU5 EU5 EU5 EU5
Transmission M5 M5 M6 M6
Driven wheels Front Front Front Front
Fuel tank 55l 55l 55l 55l
Kerb mass † 1195 1201 1258 1258
PS/t 87 104 119 144
Nm/t 125 132 190 190
Note: All performance and economy figures are for five-door hatchback models.
* 270Nm with overboost.
† Five-door hatchback models, DIN kerb mass. For E.U. kerb mass, add 75kg.
Ford Focus 5-door 4-door
(not U.K.)
Estate
Length 4358 4534 4556
Width 1858 1858 1858
Height 1484 1484 1505
Wheelbase 2648 2648 2648
Track (min/max) *
— front
— rear

1544/1559
1534/1549

1544/1559
1534/1549

1544/1559
1534/1549
* Depending on wheel offset.
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