In an ever-changing automotive world where fuel economy receives plenty of scrutiny, Ford has taken their popular Focus model and done some downgrading. Now hold on, it’s now what you think. They’ve only downgraded the size of the engine options. There’s still the 2.0L and the ST available but for the SE sedan (sadly, not hatchback), it’s an option. It’s the same engine that’s available in the feisty Fiesta so it’s not a totally new concept to the Canadian Ford family.
Paired with a mandatory six-speed manual gearbox, (which I really like because I feel that the manual gearbox is a lost art that should be brought back) the oh-so tiny 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine has only three cylinders. Yup, that’s not a typo. Ford is so serious about leading the fuel economy charge that they’ve put an extremely small engine as an option in the Focus lineup. Now it spits out 123 horsepower, which doesn’t seem like much on paper but when you’re in the driver’s seat, you’ll find that it’s adequate to keep you in motion. If you’re old enough to remember, there’s that classic story of “The Little Engine That Could” where grit and determination brought the “little engine” over the mountain. The Ford Focus 1.0 version is “The Little Engine That Did”. And what it did was offer Canadian drivers an incredibly fuel efficient option in the compact segment through a good looking vehicle that’s roomy, well put together and has a strong amount of available options. For only $1,600 above the strategic MSRP a touch below $20,000, you’ll get fog lamps, a full body styling kit, rear spoiler and 17” alloy machined wheels and an engine block heater. A $700 winter package is up for grabs as well (heated seats, heated steering wheel, heated/power mirrors and all-weather floor mats). And for $500 more, you’ll enjoy the reverse sensing system and stainless steel scuff plates.
Let’s move on to what it’s like behind the wheel, shall we?
The six-speed manual transmission shifts smoothly for this class and even though it’s got a minimalistic engine, the rest of the car is still “Focus-esque”. Still the same sedan body, still very roomy inside with a great stance and it maintains its high value for money stigma.
Booting around in an urban setting will see you run up and down the gearbox between first and fourth (maybe fifth depending on your manual driving style). On the highway, you’ll have to utilize as much lead in your right foot and speed in your right hand to get you up to speed quickly. It’s not a complaint about the smaller engine. Rather, it’s simply stating that with less power, you’ll have to act quickly to get up to highway on ramp speeds.
The steering is spot on as is the comfort level. An array of information is available between the dashboard and the infotainment system and Ford has still kept the clean layout, making buttons and dials easy to find and operate.
I suppose if I were to make a complaint, it would be that there’s an up-shift/downshift sign on the dash that indicates when the Focus feels you should be shifting. When I was in third gear at 50 km/h, the sign said I should up-shift to sixth gear, which didn’t make any sense to me. Sixth gear and 50 km/h go as well together as chalk and cheese.
My fuel economy for the week was a beautiful 5.9 L/100 km over 500-ish km of mostly city driving.
With this 1.0 offering, it appears as if Ford has broadened their reach tremendously in the Focus lineup. There’s a Focus for those who want superb fuel efficiency (1.0) a great, functional compact car that’s got plenty of space and adequate power (2.0) for those who want a performance hatch (the remarkable ST).
As fuel prices start escalating again (I write this in mid-June 2015 with gas at $121.9 per litre) having the option of a 1.0 litre engine will offset that to a degree. You won’t be the fastest car in town, that’s for certain. You will, however, be making fewer stops at the gas station.
And frugal Jay is completely on board with that.