When product chief Raj Nair previewed the 2015 Ford Focus, he was quick to state the obvious, calling it one of “the most important products” in the Blue Oval’s lineup. That’s not hyperbole. Ford sold more than 1.1 million Focuses last year in 140 countries around the globe, and more than 12 million Focuses have been sold since 1998, laying claim to the title of best-selling nameplate in the world.
That’s heady stuff, and with that in mind, Ford used a light touch to freshen the Focus for the 2015 model year. (The last model, which we named an Automobile Magazine All-Star in 2013, has been largely unchanged since its 2010 launch.)
The hatchback will be revealed in March at the Geneva auto show, and the sedan will make its debut in April at the New York show. Both Ford Focus models go on sale in late fall.
“We were focused on doing what made us successful with the original nameplate and taking it further,” Nair said.
The most important update for American car buyers is the addition of the 1.0-liter EcoBoost in-line three-cylinder engine, a direct-injected, turbocharged powerplant that uses variable valve timing. It debuted in North America in the 2014 Fiesta, where it gets 32 mpg in the city and 45 mpg on the highway. Fuel economy for the Ford Focus was not announced, but it is expected to get at least 40 mpg with the 1.0-liter engine. Though it is new to North America, the three-cylinder EcoBoost is used on five nameplates in Europe; 32 percent of the Focuses sold there have the 1.0-liter.
The EcoBoost unit will be an up-level option on the Ford Focus in the United States, where it will be teamed with a six-speed manual transmission. The other available engine, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 160 hp and 146-lb-ft, carries over with a five-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic dual-clutch gearbox. Nair said the automatic, which has drawn criticism from consumers for its shifting patterns, has been continually refined to offer a more conventional driving experience. Eventually, the joint venture between Ford and General Motors to develop nine- and ten-speed transmissions could provide a new gearbox for the Focus.
The chassis has also been retuned for 2015 to provide a more connected feel, even though the suspension and steering have generally received solid reviews.
“They’ll [customers] get in the car for fuel economy, and they’ll be surprised how fun it is to drive,” Nair said.
Design changes are meant to bring the Focus in line with familial look of other Ford vehicles like the Fusion and the Fiesta. The dimensions remain the same, but the front end is restyled from the A-pillars forward, including a new grille with Ford’s inverted trapezoid appearance, a new hood with curvier lines, and new headlights that are slimmer and sleeker.
“It’s important for us to give the Focus our new approach to the front end,” design vice president Moray Callum said.
Inside, the updates include a new center console with adjustable cupholders and a new glove box. The layout and switches have also been simplified, although the setting is still similar to the previous model.
Doubling down on the Focus’s value-oriented positioning, Ford added a backup camera as standard equipment. New options include blind-spot detection and a lane-keeping assistance system that applies torque to steer the car back into position if needed. Ford’s Sync, which is standard on the Focus, gets an enhanced AppLink feature that enables greater smartphone connectivity.
“Clearly, we see a lot features coming into the segment,” Nair said.
The small-car segment remains one of the most important in the industry. While Ford’s changes to the Focus are subtle, its executives are confident they went far enough to keep their car competitive. As Nair put it: “You just can’t stand still.”