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Ford updating Focus compact; adds smaller, more efficient engine to boost sluggish US sales

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DEARBORN, Mich. - Ford is giving its Focus compact car a small face-lift and a more fuel-efficient engine as it tries to boost sluggish sales in the U.S.

The Focus, which Ford bills as the top-selling vehicle name in the world, will get some cosmetic updates inside and out for 2015. Ford will also equip it with the 1-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged engine that's now available in Europe.

Gas mileage wasn't released, but Ford says it will be better than the current Focus, which has a 2-litre, four-cylinder engine that can get 36-40 mpg on the highway. The smaller Fiesta with the 1-litre engine gets an estimated 45 mpg on the highway. The tiny engine accounts for almost one-third of Focus sales in Europe, where gas prices run about $9 per U.S. gallon.

Focus sales fell 4.6 per cent last year in the U.S., even though compact car sales rose nearly 7 per cent. Even big rebates — up to $2,500 in cash — couldn't halt the sales decline.

Ford said Monday that the updated Focus will go on sale in the second half of this year. It will get a restyled hood and grille, as well as new headlights and tail lamps. The interior gets satin chrome detailing, new seat trims and a heated steering wheel as an option. A backup camera is standard on a 4.2-inch screen. The cars also are available with 8-inch touch screens.

Ford also is offering blind spot detection, lane departure warnings and new apps for its Sync voice-activated system.

The car also gets suspension upgrades to make it quieter and make drivers feel more connected to the road.

The price of the updated car wasn't announced. The current Focus starts at $16,810.

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