Being overshadowed by your sibling sucks, however old you are. Especially if you’re a compliance car.
So it is for the Ford Focus Electric, which has just been given a facelift by its parent Ford along with the rest of the Ford Focus family. Yet while Ford’s Focus Electric now wears the latest design of Ford Grille, it’s likely doomed to a continued existence as Ford’s unloved, under appreciated plug-in.
Made in limited enough quantities to satisfy zero-emission mandates in various U.S. states, compliance cars are often ignored by their respective automakers, despite being usually very well engineered and made. The Focus Electric is no exception. And at this year’s New York International Auto Show, Ford’s plug-in hatchback gets little more than a passing mention in Ford’s press releases.
For a brand which has just been ranked by Polk as the best-selling vehicle nameplate in the world, that’s more than a little disappointing.
Efficiency, but not that sort of efficiency
Read Ford’s various press releases about the facelifted 2015 Focus, and you’ll note that Ford is keen to promote the existence of its all-new 1.0-litre EcoBoost gasoline engine for the U.S. market. Currently available in the smaller Ford Fiesta in the U.S. and already offered in the Focus in Europe, Ford says the new engine addition increase ‘raise the efficiency among non-hybrid compact vehicles.’
Add to that an emphasis on stop-start technology and other fuel-efficient technologies, and you’ be forgiven for thinking the Focus Electric would be atop of Ford’s green list.
Yet it features just twice — in passing — in Ford’s official press release. Despite being Ford’s most efficient Focus model.
Similar upgrades to the gasoline model
But maybe we’re being a little harsh. After all, look at the rest of the 2015 facelift Focus lineup, and you’ll see there are marginal changes across the range. That’s hardly surprising though, since this is essentially a mid-cycle update for the third-generation Focus, which launched in 2010.
Onto what we do know: like the gasoline Focus, the Focus Electric gets the aforementioned facelift, as well as more soundproofing and thicker window glass for better sound insulation and a quieter ride.
Inside, the centre console gets a redesign, along with slightly different cup-holders. As Autbloggreen now notes, it’s impossible to tell from sitting behind the wheel if you’re in an electric or gasoline version of the Focus — until you turn it on. In addition, the interior is given what we’ve heard is a more up-market look, with chrome detailing, new seat trim and updated switches.
Rear-view cameras now come as standard across the range — partly due we suspect to impending legislation in the U.S. mandating rear-view cameras in all new cars. Like the gasoline model, there are also a choice of ten different wheels available as options, and a heated steering wheel for cold weather driving.
As you’d expect too, there’s an updated infotainment with a new version of the Ford Sync system found in older models. This should be a welcome piece of news to existing Ford Focus Electric owners, who have commented that the current infotainment system isn’t as good as it should be.
Finally, there’s a suspension upgrade, which Ford says improves ride quality and we hope, the ride quality of the ride in the Focus Electric too.
Missing out on the important stuff
It’s worth saying at this point that we never expect any automaker to make major improvements to a car for a mid-cycle update. But in the case of electric cars, waiting a full six-year development cycle to make changes is just too long.
Take Nissan, for example. After just two years, Nissan drastically improved the efficiency and range of its LEAF hacthback by making some fairly large mid-cycle updates to the car’s power train, battery pack chemistry, and heating system. The result is a car which is far more capable than early generation LEAFs and also costs far less to buy. Consequentially, Nissan’s LEAF has positively soared of late in the electric car sales charts.
As well as improving the motor and efficiency however, Nissan also improved its on-board information systems to include a percentage state-of-charge gauge, better range prediction algorithms, and finally, an upgraded on-board charger which halved charging time.
Ford, meanwhile, has tweaked a few aspects of its main on-board infotainment, but nothing specifically for the EV side. There’s no state of charge percentage visible on the car’s main screen.
Nor does it have rapid charge capabilities, meaning the Focus Electric is doomed to be a car that takes hours — not minutes — to recharge. In a market full of rapid-charging cars like the Tesla model S, Nissan LEAF, BMW i3, Chevy Spark and Volkswagen e-Golf, it automatically discounts the Focus Electric from many buyers’ consideration.
With its new face, the Ford Focus Electric does at least look more like the rest of the Ford family. But without the kind of attention currently reserved for Ford’s favored plug-in cars — noticeably the C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi — we think the Ford Focus Electric is doomed to be a side note in the history books.
Do you agree?
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