Ford Focus 2015
Ford Focus 2015

USED CAR REVIEW: Ford’s facelifted Focus 2015-2018

FORD'S Focus has gone through a rough time. The third generation was launched in 2011 to great acclaim but its PowerShift dual clutch automatic - also found in the Fiesta and EcoSport - has given owners and Ford nightmares.

Multiple problems, a class-action lawsuit, the consumer watchdog taking Federal Court action and ultimately a $10 million fine weren't good PR for the maker or the model.

A shame because the Focus is a cracking car to drive and, if you avoid the 2011-15 models (the LW series) and target a used LZ from late 2015, you should be in safe hands.

For this facelifted series, Ford reverted to a six-speed torque converter automatic, so buyers sidestep the dreaded PowerShift.

You could be truly radical and buy a used Focus with three pedals and manual shift.

2015 Ford Focus: Hatch or sedan, turbo engine, manual or auto — no PowerShift
2015 Ford Focus: Hatch or sedan, turbo engine, manual or auto — no PowerShift

With the new fourth-generation Focus due in showrooms by November, plenty of current owners will look to upgrade. Expect their preloved examples to flood the classifieds.

The LZ launched in May 2015 with the sporty ST grade, followed in October by the everyman versions.

Used examples (bar very early STs) will have some factory warranty remaining if they have covered less than 100,000km.

Choose between a four-door sedan or more popular five-door hatch. All have EcoBoost four-cylinder turbos (1.5 or 2.0-litre) and use a six-speed manual or six-speed auto gearbox.

The ST, solely a manual hatch, had exclusive use of the tasty 184kW 2.0 turbo engine.

We'll exclude the all-wheel drive Focus RS here as its buyer is a totally different type.

Entry level is the Trend hatch and sedan, the latter coming only with an auto gearbox, and specification is good.

Included are 16-inch alloys, daytime running lights, rear parking sensors, cruise control, eight-inch colour touchscreen running Ford's smart infotainment (post-April 2016 cars get the even better SYNC3), Bluetooth, audio streaming, voice control, satnav and rear camera.

Titanium cockpit: Leather trim, auto only plus alerts and driver assist
Titanium cockpit: Leather trim, auto only plus alerts and driver assist

Next rung up, the Focus Sport hatch lives up to its name with a bodykit, 17-inch alloys, sports tuned suspension, LED tail-lamps, dual zone climate control, ambient lighting, leather steering wheel and gear shifter, Sony audio, auto lights and wipers, keyless entry and push- button start.

Luxury Titanium grade is auto only, adding 18-inch alloys, front parking sensors, leather sports seats, blind spot and rear cross traffic alert, parking assist and auto emergency braking.

The ST really dials up the sportiness. Its 184kW/345Nm engine makes it a genuine warm hatch, while it gets gorgeous 18-inch alloys, red brake calipers and some funky colours including Tangerine Scream and Race Red.

Inside you find Recaro partial leather sport seats and ambient lighting, and some owners may have optioned a technology pack ($2000) bringing a host of active safety extras.

Look out for super-rare Mountune Focus STs for even more oomph. This $4135 factory upgrade fettled the engine to produce a chunky 202kW/400Nm.

No matter what your choice of Focus, you'll get assured and balanced handling and satisfying turbo performance clad in good-looking bodywork. The ST in particular is a great value thrill ride.

The dashboard is a lot cleaner and with a higher-tech feel than the older Focus. Rear seat and boot space aren't huge but should be ample for many, including small families.

 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Such new cars should have full Ford dealer service history. Aim for one with less than 100,000km to get the remaining warranty.

Test drive over a variety of road surfaces. The Focus's excellent handling is in part down to quite stiff suspension, so harsh bumps are really felt in the cabin, especially on the higher grades' bigger wheels and lower profile tyres.

Ensure you can tolerate the ride - and the cabin noise, which is a bit louder than some core rivals.

Reliable overall: Some used examples may show signs of over-enthusiastic driving
Reliable overall: Some used examples may show signs of over-enthusiastic driving

Some owners report the turbo engines are thirstier than Ford's quoted figures and, as it recommends at least 95RON, it won't be the cheapest car to run.

There are some hard plastics in the cabin and instances of trim coming away in places. Check all is perfectly screwed together in any potential purchase.

If you're shopping for an ST, remember some will have been bought by Dan Ricciardo wannabes. Check tyre wear, excessive brake dust on the alloys and any dodgy noises from the engine, gearbox and underneath suggesting it's been thrashed. A specialist mechanical check would be a wise investment.

Automatic cars don't have steering wheel paddle-shifters, so don't neglect the manual versions for a more engaging drive.

Reliability overall has been very good (as you would expect from such recent arrivals) but check any manual MY15 and M16 Focus you're considering was recalled in May for a clutch assembly fix.

 

IAIN SAYS

4 stars

Carsguide 8431m Ford Focus 2015
Carsguide 8431m Ford Focus 2015

After the disastrous PowerShift saga in pre-2015 cars, these unaffected LZ models have restored the badge's reputation and are far better used buys.

All are fun to drive and have decent specification, so even entry-level Trends are a fine choice. Move up the grades and you get real sportiness and luxury. ST models are true performance bargains.

Don't pay too much for these still young Focuses. The new higher-spec generation will be here in a couple of months (probably from $23K) with a new five-year warranty.

 

OWNERS SAY

ANNE SCOTT: We have a 2017 Trend sedan which we bought to downsize from a larger car, and find it a good choice for we "young pensioners," especially for parking. It's compact, drives great, has good acceleration and manoeuvres well. There's good outward vision and enough room in the boot.

STEPHEN: My2016 Titanium hatch is very smooth and refined to drive. The engine reminds me of a torquey Ford six, plus it's very economical. The ride is firm on the 18-inch wheels with very low-profile tyres. The SYNC3 infotainment and eight-inch screen are superb. No reliability issues so far, but it is early days. I'm surprised they don't sell more.

 

THE EXPERTS SAY

2015 Focus: Pay from $16K-odd — next generation will likely start from $23K new
2015 Focus: Pay from $16K-odd — next generation will likely start from $23K new

The LZ series introduced Ford's advanced infotainment, SYNC2, as standard on all models and a raft of driver-assist in the flagship Titanium.

To the end of last year, Ford sold more than 15,000 examples of the LZ, the best tally being in 2016 with 6800 sales.

Among current listings, there are some 2018 models already. The high-performance RS accounts for about one in five, in part explaining why overall 45 per cent of those for sale are manual. The Trend is the most common, with a third of the listings.

The 2015 Trend manual hatch ($23,390 new) is still valued at $16,850. That year's range-topping Titanium ($32,690 new) is fetching $23,500.

New prices did not change for either version in 2017. The Trend is still worth $20,600, while the Titanium is valued at $28,750.

Rivals include the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Mitsubishi Lancer and Honda Civic. The Focus retains value better than the Corolla and the Lancer but trails the Mazda3. Earlier examples of the Focus hold value better than the Civic, though the Honda's resale has improved since the new 10th generation arrived in Australia.

 

FORD FOCUS 2015-18

PRICE NEW $23,390-$32,690

SAFETY 5 stars

ENGINES 1.5-litre 4-cyl turbo, 132kW/240Nm; 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 184kW/345Nm

TRANSMISSIONS 6-speed man/auto; FWD

THIRST 5.8L-7.3L/100km



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