Look-a-like: Ford Focus and…

The Ford Focus has had a curious evolution – after the revolutionary first car it seems that with every subsequent generation Ford has tried to make the model more appealing to mainstream buyers. What this meant in practice was partly comfier suspension tuning and a high-quality cabin, both welcome developments, but also a stylistic evolution that took the model away from the first model’s “love it or hate it” styling towards a less offensive, but also less distinctive look. However, while the second- and third-generation models both could claim a direct visual link to the first model (the distinctive window in the rear pillar, those elongated rear lights), the fourth-generation model decided to break with that, losing a lot of the model’s “Focus-ness” in the process. Which in off itself would not have been so bad, were it not for the fact that the final product looks a lot like the two-years-older Fiat Tipo…

Now, the Fiat Tipo is not a bad-looking car per se, it’s just a rather bland looking one. By deciding to make the Focus more appealing globally, including to Chinese audiences (which have rather distinct stylistic tastes), Ford somehow settled on the same stylistic choices as the designers of the global Tipo. Just look at the shape fo the rear lights, the body-colored space between them, the positioning of the license plate, even the black aerofoils on the sides of the rear windscreen and the body-colored spoiler above – the similarity is uncanny. And that is before you consider the shape of the glasshouse from the profile, which looks nothing like Focus Mk I-III, but almost identical to that on the Tipo. All of this would be justifiable, at least in part, if the Focus was “aiming high”, by copying either the more attractive or the premium models in the segment, but despite being an honest, attractive model in its own right the Fiat Tipo is neither of those things. Truly, a hard-to-understand decision by Ford…

  1. To my eye, the new gen Focus hatchback looks very much like the 2004-2009 Mazda3 hatchback, with a 2018 Focus grill grafted on, especially the shoulder line above the front and rear wheels. The taillight treatment is the latest “thing”, shared with many other cars, just as the little fake vents on the side of the front fenders has been a much copied “thing” over the last few years. I also suspect that the new Focus and the Mazda3 that breaks cover next month are sharing the same platform, what with both moving to a new platform within months of eachother, both moving to a beam axle and both moving the gas filler to within a fraction of an inch of the same location.

    1. Ford and Mazda are no longer associated, and haven’t been for quite some time now. The new Mazda3 and the Focus IV will not share platforms, or anything at all, really.

      1. “Ford and Mazda are no longer associated,”

        Fiat doesn’t have an equity position in Mazda, but Mazda builds Miatas with a different front clip and a Fiat engine for Fiat to sell.

      2. They also build Mazda 2 sedans for Toyota, what’s your point?
        Why would Mazda use a Ford platform when they’ve spent the last few years improving on their own SkyActiv platform?

      3. “Why would Mazda use a Ford platform when they’ve spent the last few years improving on their own SkyActiv platform?’

        Cost. I have read reports that Mazda could not have afforded to develop the current generation Miata if they had not had the extra volume from Fiat.

        As for Mazda using a Ford platform, maybe it’s the other way around. As soon as I heard that the 2019 Focus would be longer, with a longer wheelbase, I thought “so it will be more like a Mazda3” Then I saw the other similarities. Maybe it’s Ford who is using a Mazda platform, as the Escort and the Capri did in the 90s.

        Why would Ford use a Mazda platform could easily be a matter of cost. If the Mazda3 and Focus are built on the same platform, then there will be a larger number of cars built over which to amortize the development cost. Sales volume for the new gen Focus is going to be far below that of the 2012 generation because they will not be sold in North America. That drop in volume would pressure profit margins because the amortization charge per car would be greater, unless Ford goes back to mining Mazda’s technology.

        Keep in mind, the Mazda3/Focus platform sharing is a theory of mine. The new Mazda3 breaks cover next month. Someone will have to crawl under the thing and see if it looks like the new Focus.

      4. Cost savings are something you want your investors to know about. If there was a cooperation between Mazda and Ford, we would have heard about it years ago, much like you are now reading stories of VW and Ford getting together for commercial vehicles that will only appear well into the 2020s.

        And considering that the new Focus platform will soon be the basis for pretty much all of Fords small and mid sized vehicles worldwide, it would be strange for them to put that much responsibility on someone else.

      5. “Cost savings are something you want your investors to know about. If there was a cooperation between Mazda and Ford, we would have heard about it years ago,”

        Was there a big public discussion, prior to the model’s release, that the 91 US Escort was little more than a reskinned Mazda Protege, or that the 5th gen Fiesta was a reskinned Mazda2?

        An additional consideration is appearances. Toyota took an equity position in Mazda a year ago. The parties may have decided to conceal their cooperation on the Focus/Mazda3 program. If I am right, the parentage will be evident when the Mazda3 breaks cover.

  2. Almost all C segment cars resemble one or more of their competitors. Over the years, this important segment has become a mix of interchangeable cars. Play it safe seems the key motto of the brands. Boring!
    Apart from the similarities with the Fiat Tipo, BMW 1 series and Mazda3, I think the new Focus is a very good looking car. Especially the hatchback and sedan, the wagon is too stretched and slender for my taste. Finally Ford has designed a different model unlike the second en third generation which were poor optical substitutes for the brilliant first Focus.

  3. It looks like while Seat, Kia and Hyundai have reached the quality and the looks of standard manufacturers, some standard manufacturers (Ford, Fiat, Citroën) are moving towards the low level of the segment: The place Seat, Kia and Hyundai have just left. Maybe in ten years or so Dacia will move upmarket and its position will be taken by Ford. Citroën and Fiat might not even exist by then.

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