Ford Focus: Raising the Standard for Small Cars
4 January 1999Ford Focus: Raising the Standard for Small Cars
DETROIT, Jan. 4 -- The all-new Ford Focus is set to redefine customer expectations of small cars, as it makes its debut at the North American International Auto Show. The new Focus is designed to raise the standard of what a small car should be with new levels of roominess, comfort, driving dynamics and safety. Combined with a bold new exterior design and an all-new chassis, the Focus is designed to give customers much more car while still providing affordability and value. "Ford Focus is a fresh example of a car designed around people -- with a spacious interior that reflects the increasing average height of the population," says Richard Parry-Jones, Ford's group vice president of worldwide Product Development. "By the year 2000, we expect men will be nearly a half-inch taller and women a quarter-inch taller than they were in 1990. "Focus responds to these trends by providing extra roominess and comfort that our customers require -- together with a level of driving dynamics and safety technology unprecedented in this price class." On sale this fall, Focus is available in three body styles -- a sporty three-door, four-door sedan and versatile wagon -- and a choice of five series matched to varying lifestyles. "Focus will appeal to a wider array of customers than ever before" says Jim O'Connor, Ford vice president and Ford Division president. "Buying a small car doesn't have to mean making compromises -- in comfort, roominess, appearance, driving character, safety or value. Focus combines these elements so there are no compromises." Leading the Way Focus is based on an all-new platform. Thanks to a streamlined development process and a customer-centered way of operating, the platform has provided attributes that make Focus stand out from the competition. Among them: -- The most spacious interior in the class -- with room to seat five adults comfortably -- More legroom in both the front and rear than the competition -- Stiffest body structure in the class -- and one of the lightest -- for class-leading driving dynamics -- Independent multi-link rear suspension -- for improved ride, handling, stability and NVH -- Low-friction steering and suspension -- for improved steering feel and ride -- Driver and passenger airbags as well as available head-and-chest side air bags -- ISOFIX child-safety seat attachments in the rear -- one of the first small cars to offer them -- Advanced safety belt system, including pre-tensioners and load-limiting retractors -- Battery saver that automatically switches off lights left on after 10 minutes -- Extensive comfort and convenience features -- usually found only in more expensive cars -- including theater dimming and flip-up rear seat cushions that "flat fold" for easy storage "Smart Design" One of the key objectives set for the new Focus was a best-in-class package with intelligent use of space, as well as ergonomics. The car's design started on the inside -- around a new generation of customers, who are taller than ever before -- to provide more cabin space, interior comfort and roominess. Focus' high roofline, raised seating positions, tall, wide doors, and long wheelbase work together to provide more interior passenger room than any competitor. They also provide more leg room and aid ingress and egress. Ergonomically, the Focus' interior features are logically placed and provide easy-to-use controls. For example, audio dials are large in size for ease of grabbing, while placed higher on the dashboard than the heater control because they are used more frequently. Similarly, all rotary knobs are rubberized, while push/pull buttons use silicon pads to help drivers easily and tactilely distinguish between controls while driving. On the outside, Focus' appearance is designed to be progressive, adventurous and distinctively different from the softer, more traditional proportions and silhouettes of other small cars. Focus' bold, innovative use of Ford's "New Edge" design -- with its combination of rounded shapes, crisp edges, sharp intersections and taut lines -- brings a new look to the class. The athletic stance underscores the dynamics and technology under the skin. "We wanted to create an all-new appearance, a progressive design that unmistakably signals what's under the skin," says John Doughty, Focus' chief designer. "Design never stands still. The design had to communicate the car's dynamic attributes and lead the small car market into the new millennium." Focus' design also was driven by maximum functionality. The car's low hood line and shape couples superior aerodynamics with maximum crash protection. Focus is available in three body styles -- sedan, wagon and 3-door -- and five series: "Focus" and ZX3 (3-door); LX (sedan) and SE (sedan and wagon); and a high-series ZTS sedan. Each has separate, distinct personalities designed to appeal to different niches in the broad small car market. The sporty three-door is bold and unique with curving arcs created by the roofline and high-mounted taillamps that were designed for safety and reduced repair costs. The four-door sedan combines a progressive front-end, deep luggage compartment in the rear and comprehensive safety systems. As the high series, the ZTS sedan represents the image leader for the Focus line-up with the most standard features, such as the 16-valve Zetec engine and antilock brakes (ABS), for the most demanding customers. The Focus wagon demonstrates optional versatility defined by extended rear side-windows and full-width tailgate, which, at 37.5 cubic feet, provides the largest load area in the class. A Major Step Forward in Driving Dynamics The mission for the dynamics team was clear from the start: Make Focus ride and handle better than any car in its class had done before, including being more stable, easier to drive, more reassuring, rewarding and fun for all drivers. To achieve the objectives, Focus is based on an all-new platform and features the stiffest and -- one of the lightest -- body shells in the class. The highly rigid, yet lightweight platform, architecture provides the best possible base and mounting points for Focus' next-generation low-friction steering and front suspension and fully independent rear suspension. With zero offset front suspension geometry and fully compensated dampers, Focus' chassis provides superior ride and handling quality equal to and even better than larger and more expensive cars. The fully independent, multi-link rear suspension provides greater longitudinal compliance for superior ride quality. Lateral stiffness and better wheel control greatly improve stability and active safety -- particularly in extreme cornering or heavy braking situations. The system also delivers substantially reduced NVH and package benefits. Intrinsic stability is boosted by an advanced braking system that provides new levels of driver reassurance. New friction materials and larger brake-pad area reduce stopping distances, while helping to maintain a progressive and uniform reaction to pedal effort. The latest four-channel anti-lock braking system (ABS) is available as an option. Power rack-and-pinion steering is standard. Powertrains Focus is powered by a choice of two 2.0-liter engines and a choice of manual or an all-new electronically controlled automatic transmission. The lightweight, high-efficiency 2.0-liter 16-valve DOHC Zetec I-4 engine delivers 130 horsepower at 5,500 rpm. Peak torque is 127 pound-feet at 4,250 rpm. The Zetec engine uses a cast-iron cylinder block and two belt-driven overhead camshafts running directly into the aluminum head. A ladder frame is sandwiched between the crankcase and oil pan, helping to reduce powertrain noise and vibration, as much as 30 percent compared with earlier versions. The 2.0-liter SOHC I-4 split-port induction (SPI) engine delivers 107 hp at 5,000 rpm. Peak torque is 122 lb.-ft. at 3,750 rpm. The SPI engine has been significantly upgraded to improve NVH and reduce weight. The engine utilizes a siamesed bore cast-iron cylinder block to increase displacement and improve NVH, with a split-port cast aluminum cylinder head. Weight savings of 5 percent have been achieved through the use of die-cast aluminum pistons, powder metallurgy forged connecting rods, weight-reduced valve train components and cast aluminum Front End Accessory Drive (FEAD) bracket and structural oil pan. The SPI engine is available with the latest Ford improved IB5 five-speed manual transmission. It features external stiffening ribs on the transmission and clutch housing to resist powertrain bending forces more effectively and reduce NVH in the engine/transmission assembly. The final drive gears and bearings also are strengthened for greater durability. The Zetec engine is available with Ford's MTX75 manual transaxle. The adoption of a low-inertia hydraulic clutch and a cable-operating gearshift eliminate two direct acoustic paths from the powertrain to the passenger compartment, providing significant reductions in NVH. Both controls also offer superior precision for greater accuracy and ease of operating, together with greater durability and weight savings. Low-friction, needle-roller bearings and low viscosity mineral oil aid fuel economy. Both engines are available with an all-new, light, compact four-speed automatic transmission, which features overdrive and a lock-up torque converter. The transmission's electronic synchronous shift control module works in conjunction with the electronic engine controls, using information from 18 different engine and transmission sources to calculate the best possible shifting strategy for multiple operating conditions. Fuel economy and performance are improved, while shift quality and speed of response sets new standards for small cars. The transmission is exceptionally quiet in operation, is sealed for life and requires no scheduled maintenance. Next-Generation Safety and Security With the stiffest body shell -- and one of the lightest -- in the class, Focus provides structural integrity that significantly aids passenger safety. The car's development team took a "whole car" approach to safety to develop a vehicle with intrinsic stability -- that helps avoid an accident in the first place -- and an ultra-stiff passenger safety cell with crumple zones as well as advanced restraints to provide optimum occupant protection in case of a collision. Before any prototypes were built, Ford harnessed its industry-leading computing power to evaluate crash scenarios and develop the optimum bodyshell construction for occupant protection. More than 100 computer simulations were performed to provide accurate predictions of how the car would perform in a real-world crash. This gave engineers the ability to design, test, redesign, refine and re-test the car's body structure and restraint systems in scores of different crash modes, even before the first prototype car was assembled. The ultra-stiff body structure is engineered to achieve maximum crash-energy absorption through controlled collapse, minimizing impact forces to the passenger compartment. Front and rear bumpers are designed to resist low-speed impacts of up to five miles per hour with minimal or no damage. Inside the car, fully integrated advanced restraint systems further improve occupant protection. The systems include: -- Optional front seat head-and-chest side-impact air bags, which reduce the potential for severe head and chest injuries in a side impact collision. -- Safety belt pretensioners and load-limiting retractors, which are calibrated to work in harmony with the car's air bags to better hold passenger in place during a collision. -- For rear passengers, a three-point center safety belt and ISOFIX child safety seat mounting -- one of the first small cars to offer such child protection in the industry. -- Advanced anti-lock brakes (ABS) are available. For security, Focus is equipped with Ford's SecuriLock(TM) electronic engine immobilizer system. The passive anti-theft system makes it virtually impossible to start a car or truck without the properly coded key. Each SecuriLock key can be programmed with any one of more than 72 quadrillion codes. Without the key, the engine cannot be started. Environmental Stewardship Environmental compatibility and recycling were designed into Focus from the beginning. All Focus models will meet low-emission vehicle (LEV) requirements, which exceed U.S. Federal emission requirements. Beyond offering excellent fuel economy and low emissions levels, the car's lubrication oils, coolants and other fluids were chosen with the environment in mind. Besides CFC-free refrigerants, all friction materials and insulation are asbestos-free. Recycled consumer goods -- such as old plastics, carpets and even denim jeans -- are used to make Focus components, including battery housings, heating components, sound-deadening materials, air filter housings and fuse boxes.