Finally a mainstream manufacturer is offering an alternative to VW’s DSG twin-clutch gearbox. No, it’s not Seat, or Skoda or Audi or any other member of the Volkswagen Group, but Ford. The Blue Oval’s new Powershift ’box is the first twin-clutch gearbox for the masses not from VW. After all, you can’t exactly call Nissan’s GT-R, BMW’s M3 or Ferrari’s California people’s cars.
Now that those performance models have been launched, the technology is starting to filter down to more mainstream models. The auto industry was taken rather by shock when the Mk1 Audi TT turned up with DSG. And while VW might be onto its second-generation DSG with its latest seven-speed transmission, we must remember that when Ford is late to the party, it usually does pretty well. Remember the C-Max, S-Max and Kuga?
Read our new Ford Focus review: we drive the latest hatchback
So I presume I can have this Powershift gearbox with whatever engine I want?
Nope. The Powershift transmissions can only come mated to the 2.0-litre TDCI engine. You can have it in 134bhp tune with the twin-clutch ‘box as an option, or as a new 108bhp version with the Powershift transmission as standard (this one being aimed more at fleet buyers). The same transmission will also be available in the Volvo C30, S40 and V50.
We tested the Ford Focus Powershift in rare four-door form; in Titanium spec it costs £20,050, £1200 more than the manual. In four-door trim, the 108bhp car costs £19,250.
That’s a whole lot of cash for a humble Focus. After all, the ST hot-hatch costs just £18,250. The twin-clutch box will have to be pretty good to justify the outlay…
Click ‘Next’ to find out how the Focus Powershift drives
Ok, so Ford’s Powershift gearbox is pricey. But is it any good?
It’s very good, actually. Like all twin-clutch ‘boxes, there are two clutches (obviously), one for the ‘odd’ gears, one for the ‘even’ ratios. The transmission pre-selects the next gear it expects you to use, whether you’re accelerating or braking, so shifts are quicker and smoother, with no loss of torque.
Select ‘D’ on the rather ’90s-looking gearstick, put your foot down and away you go. This is good. There’s no soaring of revs before the clutch engages, just instant go. Not once was the Powershift system caught out in automatic mode at any junctions or roundabouts.
Get caught in traffic and there’s a creep function that’s beautifully judged so you don’t move along with your foot on the brake trying to slow the car. A twitch of your ankle and you can easily up the pace, with no sudden jerky throttle response. A hill-hold system is coming later, but with the creep function Ford pretty much has inclines already covered.
So with two fancy clutches I supposed there are paddles and sport buttons and everything else?
Not a bit of it. Nudge the gearstick across the plane to the right and you’re in manual mode. That’s it – there’s nothing else. That’s no bad thing, because not only is manual mode very good, but you flick the gearstick back to go up a gear, and knock it forward to go down. Exactly in line with the momentum of the car, and completely intuitive. Thank you, Ford. Everyone else, take note.
Ford does without a sport mode because it reckons the standard manual mode is up to the task. It’s right. Unless you’re nailing it everywhere (which you won’t be in a diesel hatch), the new transmission has all bases covered.
It only upshifts once you ignore the red change-up light, and the accompanying boom from the engine at over 5000rpm. And it only changes down a gear when it absolutely has to, like if you try to negotiate a roundabout in sixth – it’ll drop to a lower cog for you.
Click ‘Next’ to see how the Focus Powershift fares on key costs
All win-win so far but let’s talk figures…
Fair enough. Compared to a manual Focus diesel, the key figures are slightly worse. Fuel consumption drops from an combined average of 50.4mpg to 48.6, while CO2 emissions climb from 147 to 154g/km. Top speed and 0-62mph times are both down, if that actually matters to you, but with VW’s DSG system the benchmark sprint time is usually the same or quicker.
For comparison a DSG-equipped 2.0 TDI Golf does 47.1mpg and 159g/km CO2. So the Focus is bang on the money.
This is Ford’s facelifted Focus so there’s a neat nip and tuck with sharp new lights and side sculpting that lifts the whole look of the car.
And because it’s a Ford Focus, it’s still one of the benchmark small hatchbacks to drive. There’s weighty steering that inspires confidence, and a supple ride that soaks up the worst of Britain’s B-roads without ever feeling floaty or wallowy. It’s very well judged.
Click ‘Next’ for CAR Online’s verdict
Ford has done it again. On paper, its Powershift transmission bests VW’s DSG system; on the road, it’s smooth, smart and fun to use. If you need a large diesel automatic in a mid-sized hatch then it’s between this and a Golf. Don’t ignore it just because there’s a blue oval on the front rather than a VW roundel.
And for those of you holding your breath, Ford says there are no current plans for the Powershift transmission to turn up in Mondeo or Kuga, or even Focus RS.