COLOGNE - Three- and five-door gasoline-powered Ford Focus models will go on sale in October in Europe. By December, the first four-doors and station wagons should be available, as well as diesel-powered models.
The first automatic transmissions will be available in mid-1999. The Focus will go on sale in North America in late 1999.
No figure on investment in the range has been made available by Ford. Prices are yet to be announced, but they will be close to equivalent Escort models.
Designers and engineers in Germany and the UK designed the Focus to take over from the Escort as Ford's key medium-sized contender in the most competitive segment.
The Focus is being assembled in Saarlouis, Germany, and Valencia, Spain. The two plants between them can produce one million Focus units a year.
Meanwhile, the Halewood plant in the UK will continue to make the Escort for an unspecified period.
The Focus platform will underpin a generation of lower-medium Ford models worldwide.
Most engines will come from Bridgend, UK. The exceptions are the 1.4-liter Zetec SE gasoline engine produced in Valencia and the 1.8-liter Endura diesel that will be built in Dagenham, UK.
The styling bears a clear family relationship to the Ford Ka and Puma. The galvanized body has a 12-year anti-rust warranty.
Ford says the structure is twice as rigid as previous-generation cars of its size, and 15 percent stiffer than the best of other recent entrants. Although not referred to by name, the Focus' main rivals are the new GM Astra and VW Golf.
'It's only by working with an optimized and extremely rigid basic structure that you can develop effective add-on systems like dualbushings, hydraulic engine mounts and multilayer deadening pads,' said Rolf Deges, the engineer in charge of noise, vibration and harshness. 'As a result, noise levels inside the Focus are less than half those of previous models.'
The wheelbase of 2,615mm is the longest in its class. The Escort wheelbase is 2,525mm. The interior seeks to combine a higher driving position with generous head and shoulder room, family-size rear legroom, and a 350-liter luggage compartment.
The all-independent suspension incorporates a new multilink rear suspension. Four-channel ABS provides the basis for the optional electronic stability program and traction control programs.
The driver's seat adjusts for drivers who are 1.44 meters tall up to 1.93 meters, and whose weight ranges from 44kg to 108kg.
The seating design 'was by far the most challenging task,' said Michael Salonski, Ford Focus package supervisor. 'With the Puma you know that approximately 80 percent of customers will be a certain age group so you can design a package to suit. With the Focus the customer profile is huge, and hugely diverse. There is no typical buyer, nor a typical human frame.'
Focus Project Manager Rose Mary Farenden watched 300 hours of videotapes of drivers of medium cars - Fords and competitors - showing how they handled the controls and looking for 'the type of minor design and engineering flaws that don't cause instant problems but which become irritating in the long term.'
Model: Ford Focus
Launch: Three- and five-door gasoline manual versions in main markets in October; sedan, wagon and diesel in December and January; automatics in mid-1999
Competitors: GM Astra, VW Golf, Renault Megane, Peugeot 306, Citroen Xsara, Fiat Bravo/Brava, Honda Civic, Mitsubishi Carisma
Basic price: To be announced
Engines: 1.4-liter, 75hp SE; 1.6-liter, 100hp SE; 1.8-liter, 115hp E; 2-0-liter, 130hp E; 1.8-liter, direct-injection turbodiesel
Dimensions: length 4152mm; width 1699mm; height 1430mm; wheelbase 2615mm (three- and five-door)
Versions: CL, Zetec, LX, Ghia
Standard: Driver airbag, electronic passive anti-theft system