Ford Focus Sport GTDi 2016 new car review

The 2016 Ford Focus RS is gathering many headlines at the moment, lauded as one of the best hot hatches ever built.

Richard Edwards
Richard Edwards
Expert Reviewer | Auto Media Group

The 2016 Ford Focus RS is gathering many headlines at the moment, lauded as one of the best hot hatches ever built. But what if you don’t have $69,000, and want something with a little of the sauciness, but a bit more comfort, a little less noise, and a far healthier price tag.

Exterior , 3.5 out of 5 Drive , 4 out of 5 Safety , 5 out of 5 Value , 4 out of 5

Overall score , 4.1 out of 5

The good
  • Excellent driving characteristics
  • Turbo-charged engine
The not-so-good
  • Thirsty engine
  • Interior gaps

For now, the best option is the Sport – 1.5-litres of turbocharged fury – this time in a rather stunning bright orange hue.

Boosted

Fury is a strong word; the EcoBoost unit is perky but more targeted for an economy/performance balance over outright performance.

The 1.5-litre GTDi engine produces 132kW from 6000rom, and 240Nm of torque at 1600rpm. If there is a downside to the engine, it is that it requires premium fuel, and it is not particularly fuel-efficient. A 2.5-litre Mazda3 will use 0.7-litres per 100km less.

It is paired to Ford’s PowerShift automatic transmission. In a world of dual-clutch boxes – Ford went down the automated-manual route and appears to have backed out following reliability issues – is a very smooth unit.

The one thing the Focus has over the rest of the very crowded small car market, it is verve. This is a fun car, steering is perky, quick and direct, throttle response instant, and the chassis balance more akin to something light and sporty – not something designed for five and the shopping.

Underneath are McPherson struts in the front and a ‘control-blade’ multi-link rear system. There is a torque-vectoring system to improve drive through corners. The next step from here for driving enjoyment is probably a BMW 1-Series. It even sounds a little sporty.

A hint of Aston

I like the Focus’s look — received in a facelift last year. The gaping mouth, a family look it surely borrowed from former possession Aston Martin, may be a little much for some, but I am a fan. The alloys look old-fashioned to me rather than sporty.

The 17-inch alloy wheels are a little understated.

The interior is nice, although falls down in its appearance of quality over the Mazda 3. An odd design feature is near canyon-like gaps between the door trims, exposing obvious strips of body colour – not helped in the test car’s case by the striking exterior tone. The driving position is great, the fabric seats are also very comfortable and supportive.

The rear could be roomier. Ford’s Sync2 is finally developing into a reasonable one control screen with options for most of your needs. It can pair with your phone through Bluetooth as well as pull audio over USB. I still think climate controls are a little fiddly to access underway, and the centre stack is more home stereo than car audio. The system has a strong speaker count of nine. With two USB ports, and an 8-inch colour LCD. Navigation is standard.

The specification is very healthy. The seat fabric feels quality, and there are leather touches on the steering wheel, handbrake and transmission shifter. Climate control is due-zone, entry and start are keyless, cruise control and a limiter, and automatic lights and wipers. It has parking sensors all round and can self-parallel park. Both front seats are manually adjustable, and the rear splits 60/40.

Got a youngster driving? Ford MyKey lets you set speed and stereo limits.

Safety is ANCAP 5-Star, and there is a hefty suite of airbags, emergency brake assist, and stability control. But Ford reserves the top safety tech – active city stop, blind-spot detection, and lane departure warnings, for the top-level Titanium – a disappointing move.

What else?

If you are looking for competitors, the closest on power and specification has to be the Mazda3 SP25. The Mazda has slightly more power and torque, although the Ford delivers its push far lower down the rev range, and the Mazda is less than $2000 more expensive at list. The Mazda is by far the more mature and economical vehicle, the Ford perhaps slightly edging it on driving involvement.

Nissan’s Pulsar SSS beats both on power, just, but is slightly more expensive again and is nowhere near as cohesive a package. Volkswagen’s Golf at this price level is over 20kW shy on power.

The Focus Sport is a ‘must drive’ for those who enjoy an involving drive.

Note: this was reviewed as a new vehicle.

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Richard Edwards
Richard Edwards
Expert Reviewer | Auto Media Group

I've been writing about the automotive industry for 16 years, and lead a range of publications through Auto Media Group. I play with my 1984 Toyota MR2 and travel in my downtime.

Opinions are my own and not those of Trade Me.