New Metal

Detroit NAIAS started today with surprisingly few new debuts. Major deal is the new Ford Focus. Not due for official launch for another year, Ford is keen to play its hand early and is clearly indicating that the new wave of competition from Golf, Astra et al hasn’t passed it by.

There’s a real impression of movement in the Focus’s profile with some novel touches, like the distinctly flared wheelarches, nicely integrated fuel-filler flap flowing out of the rear lamps, and aggressively kicked-up chromed beltline.

It’s amazing how close the Focus silhouette is to the new GM Astra and Renault Megane. There are distinct detail differences though, that effectively portray each manufacturers aspirations for each car. The Astra has softer, more flowing surfacing. It’s a calm-looking car with premium pretensions, much less aggressive than the Focus, but still with a vaguely muscular rear-end and shorter overhangs;

The Megane has simpler surfacing, with a less harmonious hood/wheelarch relationship, and some less-premium materials – reflecting the Renault’s more utilitarian roots;

Ford have talked openly about looking towards a new design language after the successful ‘kinetic’ era, and it’s clear that the Focus shows elements of ‘uber’-kinetics..the ultimate example of a quite busy surfacing style before a new design direction is kicked off…the most overt kinetic feature being the sculpting along its flanks. I think this ‘Z’ element works well, particularly so on the 4-dr sedan version. I’d go as far to say that the 4-dr is the better-looking of the two;

Inside there’s a technical flavour, and it’s quite dark…;

While this is a massive improvement over the current fake-metal interior there’s a couple of things that I’m not convinced by. First are the air-vents; the horizontal layout is a departure for Ford, and that’s cool, but they’re all a different shape and appear to feature a wheel feature to open and close them..overcomplicated? check. There’s also some dubious ergonomics behind the gearshift, where the HVAC controls nestle. Ford have often been criticised for their below-par interior execution, and this is a massive improvement. It looks busy though, and without being sexist, I can’t help thinking that the dark technical finish, with lashings of piano-black, might put off the odd female buyer.

Still, Ford have raised their game with the Focus. Time will tell whether they’ll regret showing the car a full year before launch, but I have a feeling that by the time it goes on sale they’ll have been enough previews, first-drives, and exclusives that it’ll be an instant best-seller.

Images courtesy of netcarshow.com

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5 comments

  1. choco · January 12, 2010

    Sorry Ed but this design does not say Focus to me, It says Unfocused, what do your colleagues in uk think! its very fussy and radical departure

    • The Face · January 13, 2010

      Well..I know it has divided opinions… it’s like the tricky 3rd album…All I’d say is give it some time – it grows on you. Think back to the last Focus refresh though and there was a lot of talk about it being too bland, safe, and not a patch on the original. What this new Focus brings is more definition, and a more technical surface language. I can’t say it’s to everyone’s taste, and personally I find it a little too busy in places, but I would say that there’s a lot of detail here, maybe even a bit of visual intrigue…

  2. Pingback: Quick Thoughts: A small car in a big car’s pants: the new Ford Focus | DownsideUpDesign
    • The Face · January 13, 2010

      @downsideupdesign.com – Think you hit the nail on the head with the comment about having to appeal to two very different markets, and the resultant compromises that have to be made. No problem if you’re sculpting a brawny D-segment BMW or Audi, but on a compact like the Focus there’s inevitably some ‘lost in translation’ moments! We’ll be getting a revised grille/lower-intake treatment in the EU which will be a little more refined..

      • dino · January 17, 2010

        ” revised grille/lower-intake treatment in the EU which will be a little more refined”
        Thank goodness, perhaps it will grow, but id take mark1 focus and leave it for prosperity one modern classic, or the mark 2 with econetic body kit as in the kineticdesign ad in the cool blue. more simple on the eyes, than the loose 2011 😦

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