Thursday, April 14, 2016

TEST DRIVE: 2016 Ford Focus 1.5 EcoBoost Sport+ Hatchback (Automatic)

Alright folks, remember that I wrote in the facelifted Ford Focus Titanium+ sedan test drive that I wanted to take a Focus up Genting Highlands? Well, I managed to do just that actually. I however did that not in the Titanium+ but I managed to do that in the facelifted Sport+ hatchback. Even better yes?

So, what is a Ford Focus Sport+? This Ford's full name is the Ford Focus 1.5L EcoBoost Sport+ 5 door hatchback. It is priced like the Titanium+ 4 door Sedan – RM139,888+ and like the sedan is packed to the brim with equipment. It has the usual lots of airbags (which you would only benefit if you crash), ABS, EBD, Traction Control (all of this would benefit if you are about to crash), that incredibly good Blind Sport detection system (BLIS) and incredible goodies that you could only get in a RM200,000 Volvo V40 T5 (as the Focus uses the same platform). Such goodies include collision avoidance, Active City stop (which actually brakes the car for you in anticipation of a crash) and self park features (parallel park and reverse park). Major differences between the Sport+ hatchback and the Titanium+ sedan are:

  • the 17inch wheels and sports suspension on the hatch vs 16 inch and comfort suspension on the sedan;
  • sports front seats with manual adjustments for the hatch vs sport seats with electric adjustment for the driver side; and
  • a hatch for the hatchback vs a boot for the sedan.

The last one is pretty obvious actually. There is also a base hatchback called the Trend. This has 17inch wheels like the Sport+ but fabric seats, comfort suspension and SYNC infotainment system instead of SYNC 2 like the Sport+ and Titanium+ range topping models. Anyway. These facts are not that important as I am reviewing the Sport+ hatch here and I am babbling abit about the other models.

The inside of the Sport+ hatchback is exactly like the Titanium+ sedan. There is a tailgate instead of a boot as I said above. Aside from that, if you had read the earlier article, the self parking features may get a little confused. The other issue to me is the passenger space. There are no real complaints about rear headroom or leg room from the people I carried. It is perfectly adequate for most people. But for a top of the line C-segment hatchback it should be equipped with rear air vents for the rear passengers.

The front passenger space is a little tight for those with long legs (or that are over 1.65m in height). There is that feeling that the futuristic looking dashboard is too close to my kneecaps when in the front passenger seat. There is not much room at the back if you push the seat more than a certain distance. It is a packaging issue. But I hope Ford does not add more length to the outside of the car to handle this problem but adjust the size of the dashboard instead. Maybe Ford could make the dashboard curve away from the passenger instead of have that sloping wedge shaped thingy you see in the photo above.

If you are driving the car, the legroom is alright. The driving position is spot on where the steering wheel can be adjusted for reach and rake. The seat can be brought down really low to get that touring car driver's feel. But if you're talking about the same chassis, I believe the Volvo V40's driver seat could be set lower. Small matter actually, as the view outside is good. No major blind spots. Even if there were blind spots, the Blind Spot Indicator System (BLIS) takes care of that.

Driving the Focus 1.5L EcoBoost Sport+ Hatchback

I decided to drive the car straight from the the Ford Sime Darby Auto Connexion center along Federal Highway straight up to Genting Highlands via the old Bentong Road. This is my happy hunting ground when it comes to spirited driving. I get to test cars on a very tight twisty section of road that is full of the usual ruts, bumps and camber changes. This is before you reach the Genting stretch of road where the road gets wider but the inclines are steeper in angle. I usually end up taking the Karak Highway stretch after reaching the Genting Highlands Resorts at the top. So it is a mix of fast B-road and windy undulating highway driving too. A fantastic test for a car that is supposedly the version for motoring enthusiasts.

As with the Focus sedan, the Sport+ hatchback handles very well. The chassis is fluid and you'd expect such chassis sophistication from something that is the likes of a BMW 3 series instead of a compact hatchback. But then again Ford these days make cars that drive pretty well most of the time. So chassis control is therefore very good. On the worn tarmac stretches and bends of the old B-road, the Sport+ soaks up all bumps with ease and corners without much drama. There is ample front end grip and a rear which can be mobile when you want it to be. You can trail brake into most corners without upsetting the balance of the car. The rear assisting the front as it does feel eager instead of being tied down. This fluid nature of the car is truly for the enthusiast. 

The electric power steering system has good weighting and is nicely direct in terms of steering input and cornering angle. It would wag its tail out a little if you enter a corner faster than you're supposed to. I was a little too fast through one corner down Genting and I had to brake harder than usual to slow the car down whilst adding a lot more steering angle to make the corner. The tail would then come out so that the cornering line is tightened when you're shooting out of the corner. The Sport+ has none of the nose led stuff type of handling that you would normally find in most front wheel drive hatchbacks. The Sport+ is quite throttle adjustable (also due to a nicely tuned engine) as well as adjustable on the brakes. 

But speaking about the brakes, I think Ford may have specced brake pads which are not up to the task. Especially if someone wishes to drive the nuts out of the car on some fabulous B-road up and down a mountain. If there was a weak spot in the test car it had to be the brakes. There was a lack of bite on the downhill stretch from the summit towards Awana resort. After a trip straight from the old Bentong Road, to Genting Sempah, straight up the Highlands and down again towards GohTong Jaya the brake pads had overcooked themselves.

I knew it wasn't the brake fluid as the brake pedal did not go straight to the floor. It was the pads as there was still pressure but a lack of total bite. If you took this car box stock and straight to the Sepang F1 Circuit, it'll wear out in about two or three laps or so. It's the pads. If I were to be technical, the pads have an operating temperature from 0-300 degrees Celcius. It should be higher. Right now the pads are adequate for normal everyday driving with one or two emergency stops but not good some someone taking it up and down Genting Highlands virtuously.

Anyway aside from this very correctable flaw, the Sport+ has the performance to back up its skillful chassis. The 1.5liter Ecoboost petrol engine may seem like something small that you'd find in a Honda City. However it is packed with a whole lot of technology like direct injection, variable valve timing and a turbocharger. This allows the little engine to make 180ps and a whopping, for a small engine, 240Nm worth of torque. It is smooth all the way to the 6,000rpm and a bit more redline. It is refined all the way and whilst I remember saying that it felt like a larger engine earlier, it does have moments where you'd notice that it has a smaller capacity when you're on a tight mountainside road with serious inclines. 

Of course, on most Malaysian highways and in town driving, it feels more than adequate. Powerful even. Only on really challenging roads where you somehow need more torque does it feel its actual size. I suppose it does feel like a 2.0liter normally aspirated car most of the time. It needs some revs to hustle at times. It also does feel like a 2.0liter car in terms of acceleration (0-100kmh tested at 9.5secs which is close to what a 2.0liter achieves) and overall lugging power. And since the 6 speed gearbox is now no longer a dual clutch job but a hydraulic torque convertor, it is smooth in gear shifts without any of the usual low speed dual clutch roughness. Shift times are not as fast as the dual clutch but is actually adequate if you want to hustle the Sport+ a little.

I have to add that refinement levels are darn high in the Sport+. The engine and gearbox is a refined combination with good mechanical refinement as well as good levels of soundproofing too.The overall refinement levels for a C-segment sedan is very high. Wind noise and road noise are actually minimal even at speeds of over 150kmh. We still can have a normal conversation at that speed. Again. High speed ride is good and the car feels very solid. The 90-120kmh cruise is silent. As quiet as something like the current Mercedes Benz C-Class. Really impressive refinement levels here actually.

The Ford Focus Sport+ is indeed an impressive car. I do wish it were slightly more affordable and I have to say that I did enjoy the few days I had with the car. A darn impressive drive experience actually. Needs better brake pads though. 


Pro: Very very capable chassis, ride and handling is excellent, refinement is supremely high, feels solid, fantastic equipment levels, better plastics than before, better ergonomics, SYNC 2 system is good, Ecoboost engine is strong for its small size

Cons: Self Park does not detect a space sometimes and may need a second try, front passenger space, rear passenger space if you push the front seats a little too much, brake pad fade if you're really pushing the heck out of it, some may not like the futuristic dashboard design, better interior packaging would be welcomed, may be considered as slightly pricey

Conclusion: Probably one of the most refined RM140,000 hatchback around. Probably the most fun you can have in a RM140,000 hatchback. But Ford definitely needs better brake pads (higher temperature ratings) for me to keep on attacking Genting Highlands without worry. 

Ford Focus 1.5 Ecoboost Sport+

Specification & Prices

RM139,888 otr (w/o insurance) Peninsular Malaysia / RM144,588 otr (w/o insurance) Sabah & Sarawak - For those who are current Ford Focus owners - All current/existing Ford Focus owners can enjoy a cash rebate of RM3,000 when purchasing the new Ford Focus from now until 30 April 2016.

Engine Type 

1.5-litre EcoBoost inline four-cylinder Common-Rail direct injection, turbocharger



6 speed torque convertor automatic with pedal shifts
Front wheel drive

Power 180ps
Torque 240Nm @ 1600-5000rpm

Weight 1358kg (approx)

0-100kmh in approximately 9+ seconds
Top Speed: manufacturer's claim - 220kmh.

Fuel Consumption: As tested - 10.8liters/100km in a combined cycle. Most should get it in the 9-10liters/100km range easily.


  1. I still remember the Ford XR3i turbo in early 80s..

    1. Used to read about them in FAST CAR magazine. There were one or two in KL in the late 1980s. But we all had the Japanese Ford Laser back then. Twin carb Laser S in the early to mid 80s, then the Laser TX3 fuel injected 1.6 came out....

  2. 0-100 in 9secs ish and 10.8l/100km. Isn't both this figure a little steep for the 1.5l turbocharged engine? I was expecting about an 8 sec 0-100 and much much better fuel consumption. Probably because you were going uphill to genting that it had to drink a little bit more?

    1. Hello,

      Actually no. I had also tested the Focus 1.5 Ecoboost Trend (the entry level version) and got a similar time for it. You must also know that it is also down to what gear ratios a manufacturer wants to put in the car. In this case, I believe Ford also wants fuel efficiency rather than all out acceleration for the Malaysian specced Focus. Torque convertor automatic instead of a manual or a dual clutch too.

      But a rapid 0-100time isnt as important as proper mid-range pull which this car has.



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