Car torque: Ford Focus gets voice control

Listen up: Ford Focus 184kW ST understands Kiwis

Ford Focus listens carefully

Voice control technology is now common in new cars. VCT that actually works without requiring vocal gymnastics on the part of the user is virtually unheard of.

But the Sync system fitted to the latest Ford Focus has made a major leap in that direction. Sync can be used to control media and telephone functions. It analyses individual letters, so users – even ones with thick New Zealand accents – can speak in a normal voice, at normal pace.

You can ask for something quite detailed, such as a particular track from an iPod or a telephone book entry by name and get instant results. At least that is how it seemed during my introduction to Sync last week.

Most of New Zealand’s Focus production now comes from Thailand, which has been the catalyst for the equipment upgrade. Sync is fitted to every model in the 2013 Focus range, from the entry-level $32,990 Ambiente to the new flagship hot-hatch, the $52,490 ST (pictured).

The luxury-oriented Focus Titanium has also gained Active City Stop (which will act autonomously to prevent a nose-to-tail impact), reversing camera and body kit. Further testing of Sync is imminent in this column – with the 184kW ST as the conduit, naturally.

More about Falcon future

The media training kicked in nicely at the Ford New Zealand’s Focus ST/Sync launch in Taupo last week.

The Blue Oval team had very little to say about the Sydney Motor Show announcement that Falcon will be upgraded for 2014 … other than the fact that the Falcon will be upgraded for 2014.

But Ford NZ managing director Neale Hill did have this to say over dinner: Falcon 2014 will be a “substantial reskin” and production is only confirmed through until 2016, the timeframe for which Ford Australia has guaranteed funding for local prodution.

Beyond 2016? “No decision has been made.” Or perhaps no decision that is being shared at this time. “No, honestly: no decision has been made,” Mr Hill said.

Small safety message

The Kia Picanto city car has achieved a five-star rating in the latest round of Australian New Car Assessment Programme (ANCAP) crash testing.

That’s an impressive feat not only because it’s difficult to make such a small car safe in a major impact but also because the Picanto is not actually available in Australia.

In fact, the Picanto was not tested by ANCAP at all. The five-star rating for the local market was generated by transposing the Euro NCAP crash test results for the car to the Australian scoring system.

Picanto scored higher in ANCAP than for Euro NCAP, thanks to a higher level of safety equipment fitted to the car as standard for this market.

New BMW managing director

This writer stands corrected about the future direction of BMW New Zealand.

Contrary to speculation in these pages about the company coming under the auspices of BMW Australia, a new managing director for the local distributorship has been appointed.

Nina Englert will join BMW New Zealand on December 1 after the departure of former managing director Mark Gilbert.

Mrs Englert (41) is American-born but currently stationed at BMW head office in Munich, where she manages the regional office for America, Canada and Mexico.

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