Text and photos by Chris Van Hoven
The automotive scene of 2016 saw a distinct trend as far as compact sedans were concerned. Far from the days when C-segment sedans were considered boring everyday family cars, manufacturers started offering sportier, more exciting products with cars boasting sleek lines, agile handling and most importantly, powerful engines. The Mazda3 and the Honda Civic RS Turbo, are the more popular specimens of this trend shift; but the five-door Ford Focus Sport+, with its 1.5-liter Ecoboost engine, just might be the biggest surprise of them all. Here’s why.
Not as aggressively “out there” as the Civic, or as silky slender as the Mazda3, the Focus Sport+ sits right at the middle, with handsome lines, well-balanced proportions, a subdued but appealing front fascia, and a simple and unobtrusive tail end. Its large 18” alloy wheels are particularly striking, endowing the Focus with a planted, sporty stance. The Focus Sport+ gets the additional bonus of daytime running lamps, not found in the lower specced Sport model.
While we’re comparing Focus Sport variants, it’s interesting to note that the cabin has the biggest differences between them. The added “+” symbol gets you ambient lighting, overhead map lights, a sunglass holder, a sliding armrest, paddle shifters, and supportive leather seats with side bolstering that is six-way power adjustable for the driver. The Sport+ also features dual-zone air-conditioning, and a larger eight inch touchscreen for Ford’s SYNC 2 infotainment system. The choice of materials exude a surprisingly premium feel, with soft touch plastics on the dashboard, and one of the more plush leather-wrapped steering wheels in the segment. The rear can be a bit of a tight fit even with front passengers adjusting their seats forward, and three passengers at the rear could find themselves uncomfortably intimate, to put it mildly.
Sometimes manufacturers sacrifice interior room for added luggage space, but unfortunately, this isn’t the case with the Focus Sport+. Its 316 liters of luggage space is only marginally larger than the Ford Fiesta’s 290 liters, but thankfully more space is available with the rear seat’s 60/40 split, if you need it.
Where the Focus Sport+ does shine, however, is the way it drives. Much praise has been given to the Honda Civic’s 1.5-liter turbo engine, but most don’t realize that Ford’s own 1.5-literEcoboost engine actually outperforms it, offering 180 hp and 240Nm of torque compared to the Civic RS’ 173 hp and 216Nm. This essentially places the Ford Focus with the Ecoboost engine at the very top of the horsepower war in the compact sedan segment; and the difference is noticeable. A jolt of power is immediately available at low RPMs, with just the smallest hint of turbo lag. Prodding the accelerator results in extremely linear power delivery, making overtaking easy and predictable, even at speeds exceeding 100 km/h.
The Focus Sport +’s handling, while not as agile as the Mazda3’s, is still nimble enough to enjoy tight turns with. The steering wheel returns good feedback whether driving around the city or changing lanes on the highway, despite being on the lighter side. The Focus is also good at absorbing bumps on the road, impressively maintaining a comfortable ride without sacrificing vehicle stability.
The Focus Sport+ uses a conventional six-speed automatic transmission instead of Ford’s dual-clutch Powershift, and this actually results in a smoother drive. A sports mode holds gears longer, and paddle shifters are present for a more immersive experience. There’s no doubt that the Focus’ “Sport” moniker is well deserved here. Fuel economy is on the acceptable side, returning around 7-8 km/L around the city, and 9 km/L on mixed city and highway conditions.
The Focus offers fantastic value for money, considering the amount of features you get for its P1,278,000 price tag. Safety is something that the Focus Sport+ excels at, with features like Active City Stop, ESP, Hill Launch Assist, traction control, and full perimeter alarms. For convenience, the Sport+ features Enhanced Active Park Assist, which essentially allows the car to park itself in parallel or perpendicular parking spaces with minimal driver input (and yes, it’s very cool). Automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, push button start, and smart keyless entry are all standard as well.
As a driver’s car, the Ford Focus Sport+’s combination of performance and comfort is up there with the best. Combined with an extremely reasonable price tag and features that make the Focus a technological marvel in the segment, the Ford Focus Sport+ offers a bargain that’s difficult to ignore.