Back in 1992, when I worked at Fleet North, my company car was an F reg red Ford Escort 1.4 petrol 5 door. The car was already six years old when I got it & the Escort as a model had already been around for almost 25 years. It was to continue right up until 1998, when the Focus replaced it & at it’s launch in 1998, it became comfortably the best car in it’s class. I like many others, really liked the Focus Mk 1, especially for it’s fun drive & incredibly practical boot. Amazingly, even with several facelifts & a new body, nothing really changed with the Focus, except that it got uglier, heavier, safer & a lot less fun to drive. That was until 2011, when Ford launched a completely new Focus, which I was lucky enough to drive at the end of November.
Firstly, the new Focus looks like a Ford, a big brother to the Fiesta in it’s looks. But, this is pretty much where the familiarity ends, as it couldn’t be more different underneath. My test car came with a plethora of extras, including 18″ alloy wheels, a Convenience pack, which offers Active Park Assist & power mirrors. A Ford DAB system, pearlescent paint & by far the most interesting for an extra £750, a Driver Assistance Pack. This contains Fords Active City Stop, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Aid, Traffic Sign Recognition, Auto High Beam & Blind Spot Info System.
What does all of this do ? I’ll try to explain. Active City Stop, can automatically apply the brakes to prevent low speed accidents. A forward facing scanner located just ahead of the rear view mirror scans the road ahead for obstacles & if for whatever reason you fail to stop, the system applies the brakes to fully bring you to a safe stop. If you’re travelling at less than 10 mph, the systeme will stop the car before you hit something, but will only sloe you down at over 10 mph, so don’t try it ! The Traffic Sign Recognition system, similarly placed next to the rear view mirror, monitors road signs ahead. If it spots a no overtaking sign, it will display a warning light on the instruments between the speedo & rev counter.
But, the most impressive feature is it’s ability to steer itself. If the Focus detects you veering into the wrong lane for example, it will turn the steering wheel the right way & apply the brakes to one side of the car to help correct your mistake. I tied it on the M56 & it really works !
Just in case that’s not enough, for those of you who can’t parallel park, it offers Active Park Assist. Hit the APA button on the centre console & sensors work out the size of the space. The dashboard then instructs you to engage reverse gear & whilst using the pedals, the onboard computers turn the steering wheel for you.. great for those 1960’s car parks which don’t like 21st Century cars !
Forgetting the gizmos, the new Focus is a vast improvement over the last model to drive. The 2 litre diesel engine feels a little sluggish at first, but once you get used to the feel of the accelerator, it’s a blast to drive on the motorway, with great road holding when your on smaller roads. The engine is quiet & the ride firm, but comfortable. There’s plenty of room in the back for 3 & the boot will comfortably take your holiday luggage.
The interior & exterior build quality is excellent & I really liked the cockpit feel of the cabins instruments & the way the dash curved into the shape of the front of the car.
Claimed fuel economy is 56.5 on the combined, I managed 42.6 & with CO2 emissions of just 129g/km it’s an attractive proposition. However, I’ve yet to drive the 1.6 TDCi & would expect this to be the more popular company purchase.
Any gripes ? The boot door is incredibly heavy , showing excellent build quality, but some smaller people may not be able to lift or close it. I love the dash, but the steering wheel is literally covered with switches which may confuse some. I couldn’t for the life of me get used to the DAB radio system or SAT NAV, finding 6 days in the Focus too short a period of time to work either properly. And, I suppose, cost, as with all of the extras that were added to my test car it would set you back £24,000, which is a lot of money for a Focus.
Gripes aside, I think Ford have a real winner on their hands. It drives like the brilliant Mk 1 Focus, but offers much improved quality & 21st Century technology over almost anything else out there. I loved the Driver Assistance Pack & would recommend it to anyone ordering a Focus. However, I would suggest that you have a look at the Focus 1.6 diesel, purely from a cost point of view, with the Edge model available from under £200 a month on contract hire. I never give more than 4 out of 5 for any test car & the Focus gets a well deserved 4 stars.