Ford is hoping to pull off a three-peat with its compact Focus model. Laying claim to having the world’s best-selling passenger vehicle, the Detroit maker has pulled the covers off the updated Focus sedan it will launch later this year.
The 2015 Ford Focus will get a number of design changes, inside and out, along with a new 1.0-liter EcoBoost powertrain that should yield some of the best mileage numbers in the compact segment. Also available for the next model-year will be a number of new or upgraded technical features, including the latest version of the Ford Sync infotainment system.
And a number of options normally found on more expensive product lines, such as a heated steering wheel, also will be available for 2015.
“I think the customer will be very pleased with what we’re going to do” with the updated Focus, said Seema Bardwaj, the vehicle’s brand manager, during a background briefing at Ford headquarters in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn.
Ford has to hope buyers will be pleased. Focus has become one of the maker’s most critical products, especially as it expands its presence in China and other emerging markets – while also pushing to shore up its position in the U.S. and Europe.
In part due to a 50% surge in demand in China, the Focus was the world’s best-selling nameplate for the second year in a row, according to data compiled by tracking firm R.L. Polk. Using registration data, Polk said demand for the Focus surged 8.1% last year, to 1,097,618 vehicles worldwide. That compares with global Focus sales of 1,014,965 in 2012.
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“It is remarkable to see Focus again lead the industry as the No. 1-selling vehicle nameplate on the planet,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s global marketing chief. “With the new car, we’ve raised the bar again, showcasing Ford’s commitment to continuous improvement – adding better technology for drivers and a sleeker, more modern exterior across the entire Focus family.”
But Focus doesn’t have much breathing room in a crowded compact market segment – Toyota disputing the U.S. maker’s claim and insisting its own Corolla is the worldwide best-seller. Honda and Nissan are also pressing hard to gain the global sales crown.
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Ford revealed a new hatchback version of the Focus during last month’s Geneva Motor Show but for the American market, the four-door model is expected to remain the primary version.
The 2015 Focus sedan is a mid-cycle refresh, in industry parlance. That means it retains the underlying platform, as well as the same doors and roof. But it gets updated front and rear fascia, a new hood and front fenders. There are also new LED accent lights and taillamps. The bolder look is more in line with that of the well-reviewed Ford Fusion midsize sedan.
Set to make its public debut at the New York Auto Show next week, the 2015 Focus sedan will add a new engine and transmission package to its existing powertrain line-up. And though the maker isn’t ready to reveal specific numbers, it is hinting that the 3-cylinder, 1.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine – which, in the U.S., will be paired with a six-speed manual gearbox – should yield near-hybrid mileage.
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The 2015 Focus will also be offered with a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated 2.0-liter inline-four, and with a 2.0-liter turbo EcoBoost engine on the sportier ST model. The fourth powertrain is an all-electric package powered by a 22 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery.
In keeping with market trends, Ford is upgrading the new Focus, especially mid and high-end versions, with such features as paddle shifters, a heated steering wheel, and a standard-issue MyKey keyless ignition system that allows an owner to program specific settings – such as limits on how a teenage driver may operate the vehicle.
There will be a number of new safety technologies, including a blind spot monitoring system and lane keeping assist. Also available will be a rearview camera – a technology federal regulators plan to make mandatory on all new vehicles by 2018. A forward collision warning system is not on the option list though could be added later, Ford officials said.
The electrically-assisted power steering and suspension have both been revised, Ford claims, to deliver improved ride and handling.
Targeting the young buyers who dominate the lower end of the automotive market, Ford is also updating its infotainment technologies. Among other things, smartphone users will have access to over 60 different apps that now can be operated through the vehicle’s Sync Applink system. There’s even an updated, onboard charger that can power up a smartphone battery twice as fast as before.
The base car will offer a 4.2-inch video display but buyers can opt up to a MyFordTouch system with an 8-inch screen.
Though pricing won’t be released until closer to the 2015 Focus sedan’s launch later this year, Ford officials suggest they will take steps to make the new model even more competitive. The current 4-door starts at $17,635, with sporty Focus ST going for $24,995, both figures including delivery charges.