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Ford Focus brings advanced driver assist technologies to the masses (at a price)

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The new Ford Focus unveiled this week in London (hatch and estate) and Beijing (saloon), promises to deliver the most sophisticated range of driver assistance technologies ever seen in the mainstream family hatch sector.

Inevitably, most of these advanced systems are not included as standard on the Focus. Most are only available as optional extras, and some can only be selected on higher-end models. As usual, the base models miss out on most of the good stuff, but hopefully the technology will filter down quickly over the life of the vehicle (which is likely to be at least seven years).

The systems are likely to also be rolled out fairly quickly across other new Ford models as they are launched in coming years. Most of them are enhancements to technologies already available either within Ford or at other brands, rather than all-new systems, but they do extend the level of safety provided beyond what has been possible previously.

New Ford Focus range, ST-Line, Vignale and Active

   

The suite of assistance systems, catchily titled “Ford Co-Pilot360 technologies”, will vary depending on specification, engine, gearbox and even the country you’re in, but will be made up from the following:

Autonomous Emergency Braking

(standard on all models)

Ford Focus pre-collision alert (autonomous emergency braking)

Called Pre-Collision Assist, the system in the Ford Focus doesn’t just scan for cars stopping in front of you. It can detect pedestrians and even cyclists in front of you or crossing your path.

The cyclist detection system is something the Ford engineers are particularly proud of, as it required developing new software algorithms to recognise the size and movement of a cyclist both in front of the car and moving across the car’s path.

Post-Collision Braking

(standard on all models)

If you are unfortunate to have a collision in a new Focus, the car will even remember to apply the brakes after impact, to help prevent you rolling into oncoming traffic or onto a footpath after you have bounced off whatever you hit (or whatever hit you).

Evasive Steering Assist

(standard on all models)

If you are trying to swerve around an obstacle ahead, the Focus can recognise your movements and assist with steering inputs while still maintaining full braking pressure.

The car will give you extra steering assistance as you swerve to avoid the obstacle, and then limit the counter-steering the other way to prevent you triggering a spin or rollover as you steer back onto your side of the road again.

Adaptive Cruise Control

(not available on Style, Zetec and ST-Line, optional on other models)

Ford Focus adaptive cruise control

No, Ford is not the first manufacturer to offer adaptive cruise control in this segment. However, Ford claims that its system is smarter than the opposition efforts, and can speed up or slow down according to speed limit changes en route. It will also keep the car centred in its lane rather than letting you drift over to the lane markings or road edge.

Ford claims to have developed a new system for the car to detect unpainted road edges, making the system far more useful on UK roads than most other similar systems.

If you have an automatic gearbox, which in the UK will initially only be available with the top-spec diesel engine, the system will also have full stop & go traffic functionality to make your morning commute that much easier.

Active Park Assist

(not available on Style and Zetec, standard on Vignale, optional on other models)

Ford Focus active park assist

This is another system that works better with an automatic transmission than a manual gearbox. With the auto ‘box, the new Ford Focus can park itself in a parallel or perpendicular parking spot with no input from the driver other than holding down the relevant button.

With a manual gearbox, you will have to engage first and reverse gears as required as well as operate the brake and throttle yourself, meaning the car will essentially only do the steering bit (although, to be fair, that’s the bit that most people want it to do).

 

Blind Spot Assist with Cross Traffic Alert

(not available on Focus Style, optional on other models)

Ford Focus cross traffic alert with active braking

The radar units that provide you with blind spot warnings are now also used to warn you of traffic crossing behind you as you reverse.

In addition to providing a beep warning, the system can apply the brakes to prevent you reversing into another car. This should be particularly helpful in busy car parks, particularly if you find yourself parked between a pair of SUVs or Transit vans and unable to see what’s coming as you back out.

Wide-angle reversing camera

(not available on Style and Zetec, standard on Vignale, optional on other models)

Ford Focus wide-angle reversing camera

As well as the beeping, a wider-angle reversing camera promises to give you a better view of what’s behind you as you reverse. Many reversing cameras have quite a limited field of view, making them less useful. Ford claims “a near-180 degree view”.

Adaptive front lighting

(optional on Focus ST-Line X and Vignale, not available on other models)

Ford Focus adaptive headlights

Again, Ford isn’t the first company to offer headlights that steer into corners. But the Ford system works predictively rather than reactively, meaning it swivels the headlights into a corner before you turn the wheel rather than afterwards.

The adaptive headlight system can monitor the road up to 65 metres ahead of the car, looking for road markings and signs to signal a bend, corner or junction is ahead. Most other systems wait until the driver steers into the corner and then move the headlights to follow where the steering wheel is pointed.

Like rival systems, the adaptive headlights can switch off part or all of the high beams to prevent blinding other drivers and even cyclists coming towards you.

Wrong Way Alert

(not available from launch in UK)

Ford Focus wrong way alert

Starting off in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, then eventually rolling out elsewhere, the Focus will be able to recognise if you’ve turned onto the wrong ramp to enter a motorway or headed the wrong way down a one-way road.

A large red warning message will flash on the driver’s information screen, accompanied by what Ford engineers describe as an “intense acoustic signal”. Presumably, this is technician-speak for a very loud and annoying buzzing noise.

Head-up display

(optional on ST-Line X and Titanium X, standard on Vignale, not available on other models)

New Ford Focus - head-up display

If The Car Expert ruled the automotive world, all cars would have a head-up display (HUD). Projecting important information directly into the driver’s line of vision is a major safety advantage, and Ford claims that its HUD system sets new standards.

The HUD in the new Focus is said to be the brightest in the business, making it easier to read in bright sunlight. It’s also apparently the most configurable, so you can decide exactly how much or how little information you want to be projected onto the display screen.

In another worthwhile first, the Focus HUD is said to be perfectly visible while wearing polarised sunglasses. Anyone who wears these will know that they usually turn digital displays to blank screens, which is incredibly annoying.

We look forward to testing these systems (under controlled circumstances, of course, not by actually trying to drive the wrong way along a motorway…) when the new Focus is available to drive later in the year.

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Stuart Masson
Stuart Massonhttps://www.thecarexpert.co.uk/
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.

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