Much to Love: Hands-on with the Ford Focus Hatchback Sport+

Much to Love: Hands-on with the Ford Focus Hatchback Sport+


When Ford invited Unbox to check out the all-new Focus, I have to admit I was at first a little perplexed. It’s a little bit of a departure from our regular fare of smartphones, tablets, and consumer audio.

Within 60 seconds of sitting in the car, we knew exactly why Ford wanted us to have a look. The Ford Focus Hatchback Sport+ is a glimpse into the shiny, smartphone integrated driving experience we’re all going to be enjoying in a couple of years.

At the heart of it all is a vehicle command system co-developed with Microsoft called SYNC. You might think of it as Siri for your car. It’s best experienced with a Windows phone, but I didn’t have any problems getting my iPhone up and running.

After a painless 30-second setup process, I was commanding SYNC to call the wife, shuffle my music library, and play my favorite 90s songs. All without taking my eyes off the road for one second.


SYNC’s one-touch, hands-free simplicity doesn’t take away from what is a pretty visually arresting dashboard. The Focus Sport’s centre console alone has over 47 buttons, dials, and switches, and 18 on the steering wheel. In contrast, the Japanese SUV I take to work every day has about 30 on the centre, and 11 on the wheel.

Overwhelming? Not once you’re used to it. Unnecessarily complicated? Maybe. Awesome looking and a great first impression? Absolutely! Seriously, this, alongside the grippy racing-style seats hugging your torso, lends the Focus Sport a fighter jet cockpit feel.

The ride certainly validates it. We enjoyed tons of grip and plenty of power on the twisty mountain roads in and around Lake Caliraya in Laguna. The Focus Sport itself is really the definition of a hot hatch, with the 2.0L Duratec engine putting out 170 brake horsepower and plenty of torque, as well as a suspension tuned less for comfort and more for hugging curves.

It’s also all very European inside, and drivers used to how the Japanese do things will be in for a surprise. The headlamps are on a dial outside the steering wheel. You lock the doors from the center console.


Overall, one might quibble about how cramped everything seems, especially with five guys on a road trip. But I don’t get the impression that this was designed to be a simple people carrier. It doesn’t look or feel like a family car, and the exterior design is certainly not something that screams conservative.

Still, there are features that made the wife smile. There are visual parking sensors all around (although I was hoping for a camera). Perhaps a rear camera would have eased the tension involved in trying Focus Sport’s amazing new Active Park Assist, which literally scans the side of the road for gaps large enough to parallel park into, and executes the parallel park flawlessly! Seriously, Active Park Assist is a feature which when attempted for the first time is simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating, validating the notion that robots will eventually take over the earth, starting with our streets.

I could not test the other safety feature, Active City Stop, which applies the brakes during a moment of impending collision.


After dark, there’s plenty of illumination , inside and out. The HID headlamps have “cornering capability”, which shines an extra headlamp into the corner you’re going into. In the cabin, there are convenience lights all around — on the center ceiling, on the rail beside the door, as well as beside your head.

So the Ford Focus Hatchback Sport+ is a glimpse into the future. This is what this means for us:

  • We’re all going to be driving cars that sync with our smartphone contacts, music libraries, and navigation systems.
  • We’re all going to be driving cars whose systems respond to our voice commands.
  • We’re all going to be driving cars that parallel park themselves.
  • We’re all going to be driving cars that predict our behavior and help to make it easier.
  • We’re all going to be driving cars that detect and avoid potential collisions.

With all that tech in this car, it comes as no surprise that Ford CEO Alan Mulally is reportedly on the short list of executives rumored to become Microsoft’s next CEO.

But the cars of tomorrow don’t seem to be taking anything away from the exhilarating drives of today. They’ll take the technology out of the way so you can become one with the road. So you can illuminate where you’re going. So you can blast around corners and mountain curves with confidence. Hey, if the Focus Sport is representative of that future, then sign me up today!

Unbox Video Feature on the Ford Focus Sport+

Check out this 3-minute feature video that we did on this awesome car!



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