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Driven: Ford Focus sales set to lift with Active

High-riding Active hatch targets SUV buyers as Ford continues Focus range expansion

31 May 2019

FORD Australia has high expectations that sales of its new-generation Focus small car will bounce back with the launch of its Active crossover-style hatchback – and as the company continues to expand the range.


The Focus ST hot hatch due around March or April next year is the only forthcoming model officially confirmed, however a hotter RS hatch is in the works – with all-wheel drive – and a wagon version of the two-wheel-drive-only Active has just been released in Europe, opening up the prospect of a broader Active line-up in Australia if the market’s response to the high-riding hatchback proves positive.


Focus sales were down 13.9 per cent to the end of April this year – to 1521 units – compared to the same period in 2018, however Ford has only just now completed its staggered launch of the fourth-generation hatch and wagon.


This kicked off at the end of last year with the Trend hatch (from $25,990 plus on-road costs) and ST-Line hatch and wagon ($28,990/$30,990), with the flagship Titanium hatch arriving early this year (at $34,490) and now the distinctly different mid-series Active completing the line-up – for the time being – priced from $29,990.


Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the Active hatch in northern NSW this week, Ford Australia marketing director Daniella Winter said the company expected to see Focus sales improve with the Active, which should slot in as the second-best-selling variant behind the ST-Line.


“We’re really happy with Focus’ performance. It’s definitely stronger than we had planned, which is good. We’re continuing to see good feedback from customers from their experience with the product, and that obviously takes several months before we get that industry data back,” she said.


“So we’re really happy with how it’s going and I think have high expectations for where we might take it as we move forward.


“We’ll continue to look at the offering out there. You’re aware there’s many different models that we don’t have here in Australia and we’ll continue to evaluate what suits the needs of our customers here based on the success of this ‘first-generation’ product.


“We anticipate it (Active) will take a good portion of our total Focus sales. ST-Line and Active are definitely our two ‘focus’ vehicles, they’re the two vehicles we’re also campaigning through our communications, so we do expect that they’ll take the lion’s share of the volume.”


Ford has positioned the Active as a passenger car with increased capability over the regular Focus – not as a bona fide SUV or crossover – but is aiming to capitalise on the rapid growth of small SUVs and the trend of small-car owners moving into the SUV segment.


Ms Winter described the Active, which competes against the likes of the (all-wheel-drive) Subaru XV and Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, as occupying “a new subsegment within the traditional small-car space”.


“We don’t consider it an SUV per se, but definitely it has some elements of styling that are more akin with an SUV buyer than a traditional small-car buyer, so we do think we’ll attract buyers from both segments in particular,” she said.


“Obviously, some elements are just dressage around the car versus the incremental ride height which does bring some improved elements in terms of some off-road performance versus a traditional small car, so we think that will attract a different sort of buyer.”


Setting the vehicle apart from other members of the Focus range is a higher ride height – up 30mm at the front and 34mm at the rear – with a specific suspension tuning that, perhaps most notably, is applied to the multi-link rear set-up that is not available on any other hatchback at this stage.


Expect the ST to have the same SLA (short long arm) independent rear suspension when it arrives next year, but for now the Active and ST-Line wagon are the only variants with this configuration, which was a feature of previous generations but made way for a torsion beam axle this time around.


The Active also has a unique alloy wheel and (Hankook) tyre specification – standard at 17-inch with 215/55 tyres and upgradeable to 18” 215/50 – and two additional drive modes, Slippery and Trail, added to the standard Normal, Eco and Sport programs.


Other Active highlights include modified front and rear bumpers – the front end still with LED daytime running lamps and adaptive cornering foglights – and black plastic wheelarch cladding, while the interior has Active-branded scuff plates, specially embroidered and “more rugged, versatile” cloth seat trim, and blue stitching on the seats, steering wheel, dashboard and doors.


It is also the only Focus hatch with roof rails, allowing for a 75kg load up top, but these are deleted if the panoramic sunroof is optioned.


Maximum braked towing capacity is 1500kg, while other notable aspects of the spec sheet include ground clearance of 163mm (unladen), dropping to 141mm when loaded. Only a temporary spare wheel is provided, which is not much help with a flat when off the beaten track, but it does allow for 375 litres of luggage space with the 60/40 split-fold rear seats upright, or 1354L when folded.


There are no other major changes to the Active over regular Focus models, all of which rely on a 1.5-litre EcoBoost three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine that produces 134kW of power at 6000rpm and 240Nm of torque at 1600rpm, driving the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission (with steering-mounted paddle-shifters).


Tipping the scales at 1404kg, the Active can accelerate from 0-100km/h in a claimed 8.7 seconds, on its way to a 216km/h top speed. Its official fuel economy on the combined cycle is 6.4 litres per 100km, while CO2 emissions stand at 148 grams per kilometre.


A high level of electronic driver-assist safety technology is on board, including autonomous emergency braking (with pedestrian and cyclist detection), intelligent speed assistance (with speed sign recognition), evasive steering assist, hill-start assist, forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, a rearview camera (with 180-degree split view), and more.


Six airbags are also provided in a cabin that likewise ticks plenty of boxes in the ‘comfort and convenience’ department, headlined by the Sync3 infotainment system (with 8.0-inch touchscreen and voice activation), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, wireless smartphone charging, DAB+ digital radio, satellite navigation (with voice activation and traffic updates) and six-speaker audio.


A $1250 driver assistance pack adds blind-spot detection (with rear cross-traffic alert and active braking) and adaptive cruise control (with ‘stop and go’ functionality).


An $1800 design pack bundles the 18-inch wheels, tinted glass and adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beam, while prestige paint adds $650 and the panoramic glass roof costs $2000.

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