Will Dethrone VW Golf, For A While
The Ford Which Thinks It’s A BMW, Or Maybe a Merc
For handsome, high quality, drives well
Against prices dangerously close to premium competition
“quiet and fast highway cruiser, nimble and competent on back-roads”
JEREZ, Spain There must have been a precise date when the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe was suddenly doomed. One day, Russia’s cruel and totalitarian domination which had seemed endless and forever didn’t seem solid anymore and its days were numbered. Imagine the cartoon character Road Runner as he zooms off a cliff. For the first few feet he carries on as if there is a terra firma below him, but the game is up and he is destined to fall to earth. Nothing can stop it.
It’s the same thing with Ford. One day it was making Dagenham dustbins designed by accountants to make money and to hell with the customers. Now it has changed direction completely and makes fantastic driver’s cars of high quality which look great. I can’t tell you when this amazing turnaround started, only that it did. Whether Ford can make money though is still open to question.
The new Focus reinforces Ford’s new philosophy. Ford has loaded up its new Focus family car with so much technology and quality design you could be forgiven for thinking its main competitors were premium BMWs and Mercedes rather than more humble Volkswagen Golfs, Renault Meganes, Hyundai i30s or Kia C’eeds.
The computers on board the new Focus, which goes on sale this spring, will help you park, warn you if another car is passing dangerously close, wake you up if it thinks you are dozing off, wrench the steering back to the straight and level if it senses you are veering off course, and even apply the brakes if you are about to crash into the car in front. Oh yes, it will also switch on the lights when it starts to get dark, turn on the wipers when it rains, and tell you, with a little display on the dashboard, what the current speed limit is. There’s a gizmo to fix a speed limit too. Just like Jaguar, BMW and Lexus, Focus buyers can opt for adaptive cruise control, which uses radar to cut the car’s speed when it approaches a slower one, and automatically accelerates back to the selected cruising speed when the coast is clear.
Wayne supplies America
The Focus looks a bit like a large Ford Fiesta, and it’s no bad thing being compared with that little looker. Inside, the quality of the materials and the style of the design will impress possible buyers. On the roads around Southern Spain, where Ford launched the car to the international media, the Focus proved itself to be a quiet and fast highway cruiser and was nimble and competent on the back-roads.
Initially, buyers can choose from 1.6 litre petrol engines, and 1.6 litre or 2 litre diesels. There’s a six-speed automatic option. Good news, because the six-speed manual box I drove seemed a bit wooly.
Prices start at £15,999 for the Focus Edge with a 1.6 litre 104 hp petrol engine, and £16,995 for the 1.6 litre 94 hp diesel. The Zetec version starts at £16,995 with the 104 hp engine and includes a heated front windscreen and mirrors, leather steering wheel, and front fog lamps. The Titanium, from £18,745, has a more powerful 123 hp petrol motor and includes keyless start, hill start assist, rain-sensing wipers, auto headlamps, cruise control with speed limiter and premium Sony audio system. The range-topping Titanium X starts at £21,245 with a 1.6 litre 148 hp “EcoBoost” petrol engine and add-ons include bigger wheels, heated front seats, active park assist, bi-xenon headlights, LED day running lights, and power driver’s seat. Option packs, so far unpriced, will offer the Low Speed Safety System, Lane Keeping Aid and Blind Spot Information. If you choose SatNav, you get a rear-view camera. At launch there are three petrol engines and four diesels. Start-stop is standard on some.
The Focus has a tough mission as it seeks to be all things to all markets. Ford must be hoping that the Focus doesn’t go the way of the ill fated European Mondeo in the 1990s which failed its test as a Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique in the U.S, or the unloved little Escort in the 1980s. This time higher gas prices and changing U.S. demands augur better for the latest Focus.
The base price is set low at £15,995, but if you opt for just some of the technology available, prices will quickly soar past £20,000 and keep on running well into BMW, Mercedes and Audi territory. That is likely to be bridge too far even for this splendid little Focus.
(Ford supplied hotels, plane trip)
Neil Winton February 5, 2011
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