By the Sahel’s Croceate Sands

Ford officially unveiled the next iteration of the Focus. So, what have we here?

2018 Ford Focus: Autocar

We see change. I’ve been waiting for a better Focus since the last one appeared in 2011. That car never met my expectations even if it proved pleasant. How have Ford changed the Focus for 2018? Have they made all change change for the best?

To answer that it’s very much a case of needing a side-by-side comparison since the Mk3 lacks the kind of character that’d make it memorable. Let’s start at the front and walk around. The new version shown above is the ST Line, meaning the front clip is probably not going to be quite the same as on the other three models. The headlamps and bonnet are standard though and the defining theme is of lines radiating from the roll axis and a subtle, semi-organic softness belying the actual aggression of the visage.

This style would something along the lines of what I call contemporary vernacular and unlike the distinctive, high-concept themes of the Mk1 and Mk2 (first series) Foci. This is a conservative market segment so Ford probably was very reluctant to do anything alarming.

2018 Ford Focus rear: Autocar

I suppose one could call it muscular. The very pronounced flaring of the bodyside and the bone-line at the base of the door add to this effect. Notice the plastic air-flow separators at the side of the rear sceen – rather Megane but also something of a standard these days. It makes the rear screen look broader as well as being aerogood.

What they haven’t done is any C-pillar jiggery-pokery as on the Opel Astra or Lexus RX-7. That makes it conventional. If you don’t focus on the car it does suggest Megane. It’s quite acceptable yet also tame too. This is evidently what customers want and being tame hasn’t hurt VW one bit. What I can call disappointing are the rear lamps which are as huge as they are uninteresting.

2018 Ford Focus rear: AutoExpress

Here is the current Megane for comparison:

2017 Renault Megane: Car

Renault’s contender has a shade more definition and the lamps are different but not wierd. Notice the air-flow separator (I grudgingly admit that Renault’s car looks very good).

2018 Ford Focus: Autocar

Did I hear someone say stance? The Focus certainly has that, and almost a Citroenesque pointiness, courtesy of the overhang and the acceleration of the curvature of the bonnet towards the leading edge. This (above) is probably the best view.

Ford’s design manager Jordan Bennett explained the styling: “With this car we really wanted to move on the design language… the previous car was styled under our Kinetic design influence, whereas this language is much more athletic.” No, the design has not moved on and it is not more athletic…

It’s not less athletic either. I really don’t like it when the old car (however bland) is needlessly put in a bad light so as to make the new car seem better. It’s a good idea to compare your new product to other brands’ offerings, not the one your customers already have on their driveway.

I see the new Focus lacks a cheater panel: the windscreen base now stops at the junction of the door and side glass. That implies that the front windscreen is more upright, by a smidgin.

2014 Ford Focus “not so athletic”: Ford.co.uk

The press write-ups stress the infotainment as much as the driving quality. Alas, the man at Ford admits that being good to drive means nothing if the in-car distractions are not competitive: “Joe Bakaj, Ford of Europe’s vice president for product development, said: “Driving quality in itself isn’t enough to sell cars. If you’re not up to scratch [in infotainment], you’re not even considered. But owners will still get that fun-to-drive feel that people have loved about the Focus for the past 20 years” (Autocar).

And what do you know, so many people don’t care about driving quality that torsion beam suspension is now standard on the lower-order models. The good news is that Ford have trimmed 88 kg from the car’s weight, compared with the last model. That’s the mass of a slightly overweight average buyer.

A saloon will be sold in the EU-market. Britons and Irelanders won’t get this. This is the estate version:

2018 Ford Focus estate: AE

This slide show highlights some aspects of the estate’s design:

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This slide show puts the Focus estate into context. There are two generations of Megane and the Kia Ceed estate.

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Did someone move the goal-posts as Ford froze the design of the Focus estate, I have to ask. The new Focus has some hints of old Megane. You won’t mistake Ford’s new Focus for a decade-old Renault Megane while they are also out of the same old box.

Speaking of the estate, Ford have gone with a conventional D-pillar and I don’t think it works that well. The BIW reaches a narrow point towards the top (see the slide show), which is almost indecisive, seemingly the last variant of the theme left in the design bag of D-pillars before one does away with the feature entirely.

I haven’t shown the interior because it is simply not worth displaying. It’s far from bad, in the same design spacd as almost everyone else’s. Car interior design has ossified.

So, to conclude, Ford have revised their rather anonymous current Focus with something a bit tidier and a bit calmer yet still veering towards the bland and timid. There is little wrong with it and it is an improvement of a degree. I would really like to have seen what they rejected.

(Some facts from AutoExpress: “The Focus range arrives with seven familiar trim levels: Style, Zetec, ST-Line, ST-Line X, Titanium, Titanium X and Vignale. The Style starts at £17,930 – lowering the entry point to the range by £2,300 compared to the previous generation. Further up is the sporty-looking ST-Line, which starts at £21,570. While drivers looking for the most luxurious Focus have the option of the Vignale – which opens the books at £25,450.”)

Photogallery credits – 2009 Megane: Pinterest; 2017 Megane: Renault.co.uk; 2018 Kia Ceed: AutoCropley

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

41 thoughts on “By the Sahel’s Croceate Sands”

  1. Is this the most cryptic headline amongst DTW’s famously cryptic headlines ? Probably not. But it is out there with the best of them. Those headlines are a good puzzle sometimes. Some of them even have me still puzzled. To this day. 😀

    Anyway, I quite like this new Focus iteration. Better than the last offering anyway (urgh, those melty and shapeless tail lights).
    I find that stance it’s most handsome asset. I’d have prefer a less evolutionary approach to the front end, it feels like I’ve seen this fascia for far too long. Overall I think the car looks a bit more “Latin” compared to the more “rigid” looking previous versions.

    I’am surprised about the estate. It’s not as clean-looking as the usual Ford station wagon which, usually, have in my opinion a far “cleaner” third side-window and D-pillar arrangment. It did remind me of the Megane Tourer too, especially the DLO.

    Tail lights are a bit of a disappointment, I’am not too keen on the vast expense of red on their outer edges and perhaps they remind me too much of Fiat’s latest Tipo’s tail lights. Talking about the Tipo, I dont’ know if it’s those tail lights that skew things but I get a Tipo’s vibe about the whole hatch’s exterior….and a hint of BMW’s 1 series maybe ?

    1. Thanks. The headlines take a bit of crafting. I treat them as small poems. Literal headlines would be rather tedious: “Ford’s New Focus Revealed”.
      I’ll take a look at the Tipo now you mention it.

    2. I don’t always get the reference either, and because of that I feel very educated when I do. I respect a man that gets me confused, it means the bar is set very high. It’s the snob appeal of being one of a chosen few, like the famously counter intuitive slogan for Gösser beer: “Only one in ten likes Gösser!”

  2. I appreciate those efforts 🙂 “Ford’s new Focus revealed” is so mainstream and basic. This wouldn’t do for the world’s least influential motoring site.

  3. Was the Mk3 Focus really lacking character? I found it grotesquely overstyled and bursting with flamboyant touches to such an extent that it became difficult to see it as a coherent whole, but lacking character?

    This new one certainly is a lot sleeker and cleaner, probably with a much improved stance (its predecessor always suffered from slightly tortoise-like proportions), not to mention the absence of the most dreadful rear lights and the most absurd fuel filler lid in recent memory.

    And yet we might look back at Mk3 with an absurd sense of nostalgia – ‘hell, it was ugly, but wasn’t it distinctive?’ Focus Mk4 is neither.

    Unlike the Lexus RX-7, I must say. That Wankel hybrid powertrain alone is inspiring.

    1. The outgoing Focus had many features that didn’t make a cohesive whole. Everything has some character. The debate turns to the quality and degree of that character. The last Focus lacked a distinctive quality, just like the Citroen C4.

  4. Seriously, when are they unveiling the new Focus? A car worthy of wearing the nameplate of the bold design that rebooted the sector in 1998?

    This looks like it was designed by a machine learning algorithm that was fed various attributes from competitors’ vehicles. It’s hard to imagine a more dull mish-mash of nothing-in-particular. The most interesting thing I can find to say about it is the return to the wide spacing between the letters on the rear model nameplate, in a 1960’s/70’s style. It should probably say E S C O R T though.

  5. “We’ve got the Aston grille and the Volvo front lights… we used to own those two companies, so can steal design motifs from them in perpetuity, that’s how it works… hey, BMW, mind if we borrow the Hoffmeister kink?”

    This is not a particularly original or exciting design, and I agree that the execution of the estate lacks a little finesse. Mind you, I saw a new model Astra estate this morning, and dear me that is bad.

    But it’s largely very competent. The design is good enough, I’d say. I’m more upset by Ford reverting to a torsion beam rear suspension for most versions. It’s clear why they have done so, because most customers do not know or care, but it’s a shame.

    It also seems rear seat passengers won’t get their own air vents, so they get a bad deal all round.

    1. It won´t surprise you in the least to know I consider the Astra estate to be very handsome indeed. It doesn´t look like anything else either. Competent sums up the Focus and I don´t think that´s good enough.

    2. Richard, no surprise at all!

      The chrome trim line on the Astra and Insignia estates reminds me of a 1970s Cadillac hearse. A nice nod to GM heritage, perhaps, but frankly weird if you ask me.

    3. Jacomo: they seemed odd to me at first. Now I like the playful attitude to the formal convention of brightwork and lend the car a visual link to other Opels and make them distinct from competitors’ cars.

  6. I agree that it’s a competent but unambitious design, and would be an anticlimax had there not been many “spy” photos preparing the ground. It is, however, disappointing that Ford has abandoned all of the earlier Focus design cues (such as the high tail lights and third light behind the C-pillar) apparently unwilling or unable to evolve them in the manner that VW has evolved the Golf over its seven generations.The most interesting aspect of the new design for me is the abandonment of the “cab forward” stance in favour of a longer bonnet, more upright windscreen and almost RWD proportions, hence the comparison to the BMW 1-Series.

    1. Mercedes and Mazda have also made their windscreens steeper. The shallow rake concept has reached its limits now. The final result was the Civic, two models back where there was very little visible break in slope between the bonnet and the screen. I agree that Ford, as usual, has not one single common theme between this and the previous generations. Even the second Focus had almost no link to the first. Ford don´t do continuity. This has a cost.

  7. Now that I’ve stared at it a bit more I especially like how the area under the bone line has been handled: its flat surfacing is quite novel or unsual at least I think and helps gives the car that particular stance maybe ? I also like the very thin painted sills on the hatch but I like it less on the Vignale versions with that added chrome strip.

    With the sedan, DS Automobiles may be disappointed to know someone else put to production before them those winglets (?) on each side of the front bumper they premiered on the E-Tense concept car. I think the upcoming DS3 Crossback might sports them. Although in Ford’s case it’s done in a more conservative and controlled sort of way perhaps.

    I’am always surprised how Peugeot is often subtly ahead of styling trends but sometimes ends up doing them in a clumsy way: on the Focus hatchback, those squared-off bumpers, with that distinctive angular edge were already on Peugeot’s 207 back in 2006. Admittedly it has been done numerous times since then but it’s nicely resolved here I think.

  8. Has anyone else noticed that on the latest Fiesta and now this Focus, Ford have turned their trapezoidal grille upside down so it has more of a grin?

    1. On the new Fiesta it looks a bit like a downturned mouth. The car looks gutted in some shots.
      Still, I prefer the much narrower grille of that new Fiesta than the Ford gaping grille which looks a bit too much like a “Peugeot’s creatures of the sea” character and probably dates back to the same era.

    2. The Mk 3 Phase 1 Focus grille particularly grated on me. It was revised away after three long years. There are doubtless some good designers in Ford. The leadership is responsible for how their talents are deployed. Conceivably the leadership changes quite quickly so there is never much stability. I get the feeling VW, Renault and Opel have maintained a more consistent line. Peugeot changes abruptly.

    3. BMW have tried the same thing with the X2.

      It’s been compared to Hitler’s moustache. Not in the best of taste, but the point is well made.

  9. There’s an endless list of cars which this car resembles – one not mentioned thus far is the Nissan Pulsar (which shares its platform with the Megane??).

    As a design, do I find it attractive? No. Repulsive? No.

    As a piece of design, do I feel it’s ‘good’? No. Do I feel it’s bad? No.

    All answers so far in the negative.

    Overall, do I prefer it to its predecessor? I find that very difficult to answer, because I did not like that car, but when I saw the photo which Richard included towards the end of his piece, my immediate response was ‘that looks quite nice [rear lamps aside]’. The flanks seem more solid and I prefer the clean, gently rising baseline of the DLO. So, I’ll boldly say that I prefer the facelifted version of the previous Focus to this MkIV.

    By default, that must mean that I think there is a long list of cars which I would rank above the Focus on external looks, and very few after it. And, the Estate is worse than the 5 door hatch.

    Ouch!

    And I’ve not got to the move to put cheaper versions on the torsion beam suspension, which may matter little to the vast majority of buyers, but represents a further dilution of the Focus ‘USP’. Mr Topley said it earlier – it’s no longer a Focus but the Mk6 Escort.

  10. If the Mark 1 Focus hadn’t been such a stylistic breath of fresh air, how would we view this latest version I wonder? Of course had the first iteration not existed, the model would have evolved in an entirely different manner. Because even if we agree that Ford has failed to meaningfully evolve the original style, it has faintly informed what followed, as dispiriting as each has successively been.

    A slight reality check though. As derivative as this car appears, as just about alright a face to the world it presents, is it as outright piss-poor as a nu-A-Class? Nope. Not even close. Nothing is. So while Amko and co have comparatively little to feel satisfied about, we are nevertheless presented with a masterclass of form, proportion, stance and surfacing by comparison to the hot and cool entrant from Rastatt.

    Another observation: With both the new Fiesta and now the Focus, the so-called Aston grille has mutated, and in conjunction with the more expressive headlamp units is now visually suggestive of a selfie-taking instagrammer pouting for the camera. Which is terribly now, I think you’ll agree.

    Is that you, Antonella?

  11. Sorry to keep commenting. I read that the new model is more aerodynamic than its predecessor. Do manufacturers even provide coefficient of drag figures any more?

  12. A-Class but C-grade to my eyes. The increasing prevalence of long bonnets is no doubt a reaction to pedestrian impact laws; if that means the end of plastic fillets or windows without windows at the bottom of the A-pillar, then all to the good. The “front clip” (to use Richard’s Americanism) is a vast improvement, and the rear could hardly be worse than the previous smeared fried eggs, but the abandonment of the high set C-pillar clusters have left the Focus bereft of any distinctive character. Euro-bland is the result, as unremarkable as the Fiat Tipo I once lambasted. As for the torsion bar on lower models, Ford are masters of suspension tuning, so I doubt the average punter will notice.

    1. Move over continuous glazing or the illusion thereof… I think we can safely say the widely spaced, CAPITALISED rear badging motif has officially become a ‘thing’.

    1. How low did Rover go with that final facelift of the 400/ 45? Nice colour, though and that body hid a very capable chassis.

    2. The thing with the Rover is that I suspect some deeply self-important designers thought it was a very good facelift or they felt they could present a bodge.
      The V6 is a gem though.

    3. More likely the fact that they had approximately £4.76 cobbled together from the canteen budget for the facelift and this was the best they could do. It screams expedience.

    4. I noted yesterday driving home that I was following an A R T E O N … Which was amusingly similar to Chrisward’s A R S E (if you get my drift). I think T – R O C is another one out there. I actually find it all a bit self-important.

  13. Well, since only one other person caught it, I might as well ask: What is a Lexus RX-7 mentioned in the article? And what has it to do with the lowly Focus? Did you really mean Mazda or some other insectoid current Lexus?

    1. The RX-7 is a fairly new SUV. I’ve only seen one. Everyone Lexus found to help with the customer clinics and user surveys were expressionist painters. It is so very unusually styled that I will not know until 2027 if it’s good or bad. The bit which attracted my attention was the C/D pillar which is partly glazed a la Astra, Nissan Maxima, Hyundai or Kia.

  14. The latest issue of CAR magazine quotes the drag coefficient as 0.273, which is “best in class by a big margin” according to Ford. I thought it might be lower given some of the figures Audi and Mercedes have been posting in recent years. I know the Focus is shorter and more upright then those cars.

    1. I wonder is there a table of the cDs for the Focus class of car. It´s interesting Car mentioned the value. In 1989 Citroen achieved a cD of 0.28 for the XM, not very far off Ford´s value. Perhaps cD can´t get a lot lower for a car. Drivemag.com claims the Auris has a cD of 0.277. The Ford Fusion has 0.275. The Golf has .277. The Mercedes B-class boasts 0.26. The Mazda 6 ad 3 have 0.26 which means Car is wrong since the 3 is Focus competitor. In the same club is the Jaguar XE, Infiniti Q50 and BMW i8 and the A8. Coming in at 0.25 is Peugeot´s 508 (the outgoing model), Roewe I6 and Alfa Romeo Giulia. Even lower are values are 0.23 for the Audi A4 and Mercedes GLA. And 0.23 for the new and rather disappointing BMW 5 series G30. The VW XL1 has a cD of 0.189 and looks like a Citroen who are not on this list at all.

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