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Ford Focus 2007
Ford Focus
Looks Great, Drives Well, Top Quality

Look out VW Golf, This New Focus Has It All
But Prices Stray Into Premium Territory, Remember Icarus
**** out of 5

Ford Focus 2007
Ford Focus 2007
Ford Focus 2007
Ford Focus 2007
Ford Focus 2007


“As the car climbed higher up the mountain passes, and then swept through the high speed bends up in the plateau area of Haute Provence, the handling and ride matched anything the German premium manufacturers can offer” 

ST-PAUL-DE-VENCE, France Once an idea has become embedded in the public mind, it seems almost impossible to change it, even if it stopped making sense years ago.

Tory sleaze still seems to be on the tip of some people’s tongues in word association tests. A couple of brown envelopes stuffed with fivers and a few mild porkies from Jonathan Aitkin are still echoing in the brains of some Neanderthals. Poor Fiat and Alfa Romeo are still lumbered with the old canard about rust, even though this ceased to be a problem way back in the 20th century. As for Ford, it used to be thought of as a manufacturer run by accountants who cared more about the bottom line, and were happy to produce cheap and cheerful vehicles which sold on price rather than by generating any excitement. The Dagenham Dustbins weren’t up to much, but at least it didn’t cost a fortune to put them back on the road when they broke. And they did.

Since Ford has been producing top quality vehicles like the S-Max, Mondeo and Focus for some years now, any residual impact from the bad old days should have disappeared.

Brand power
But the proof of the pudding is in the brand power, and in truth nothing much has changed here. Ford still lags Volkswagen in brand perception, although having just driven the latest Ford Focus, the quality of the product is just as good, if not better, than the German one. The American company is probably thought of as on a par with its compatriot Opel/Vauxhall, otherwise known as General Motors. The two Americans are probably edged out in the brand power stakes by Peugeot and Renault, although Citroen and Fiat lag behind. All of these of course are in the second division (that’s the Championship in British football terms) compared with the Premier league leaders BMW, Mercedes and Audi.

That’s not fair. I’ve just been driving the latest Ford Focus 2.0 litre diesel through the alpine roads north of Nice and St-Paul-De-Vence. As the car climbed higher up the mountain passes, and then swept through the high speed bends up in the plateau area of Haute Provence, the handling and ride matched anything the German premium manufacturers can offer.

Titanium
The six-speed gearbox was excellent, although perhaps not up to BMW standards. (Incidentally, am I the only one who would like diesel cars with 6-speed manual gearboxes to have an indicator on the dashboard telling me which gear I’m in? Engines like these are so torquey, often you can’t figure out which gear you’re in).

The interior, with its high quality soft plastics and beautifully designed dials and switches, could have been BMW. The top-of-the-range Titanium version I was driving had a very smart Sony radio/CD player which screamed “class” and set the tone for the interior. The Titanium version even had bi-xenon lights, two-zone air conditioning, sat-nav, a tyre deflation detector, LED rear lamps, and an “Easyfuel” system for capless refuelling. The latter should make sure you don’t put diesel in your petrol version, or vice-versa. There will also be a DSG double-clutch automatic gearbox option. All versions – Ambiente, Trend, Ghia and Titanium - have an Electronic Stability Programme to keep you safe.

Committee design
The Ford Focus first appeared in 1998 and was a brilliant design in terms of looks, driveability and quality. The car was redesigned in 2004 and in my opinion, took a step backwards in terms of body shape. The original design was bold and cutting edge; the replacement was plain and seemed to have been designed by a committee whose first priority was to make sure they didn’t offend any buyers of the first Focus.

The latest Focus though really does look the business. Ford has added what it calls its “kinetic design” cues, borrowed from the bigger Mondeo, which incorporates swept-back headlights and projector style light bulbs. There’s a line running down the side which gives the car presence. A hint of the muscular has been added to the front and rear. In short, it looks terrific.

Petrol engines from 1.4 litres will be available with 5 and 6-speed manual gearboxes. The range topper will be a 2.5 litre 5-cylinder engine producing 225 bhp. Diesel engines range from 1.6 to 2.0 litres; I drove the six-speed manual 2.0 litre diesel producing 136 bhp. This was very quiet at startup, and produced a very lively performance and impressing-sounding economy. Ford claims an average of 51.3 mpg 5.5 l/kms.

ECOnetic
There will be an ECOnetic version with a 1.6 litre 109 bhp diesel doing an average 65.7 mpg-4.3 l/kms, which produces only 115 g/km of CO2. A Flexfuel option will use E85 ethanol, others will use compressed natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas.

One thing that does confuse me about the Focus, is the marketing of what appears to be an older version of the car in the U.S. Ford said that the U.S. version now has absolutely nothing in common with the European version bearing the same name which Americans drive. In a company dedicated to globalising its products, that’s hard to believe.

They started out as the same model when the Focus first appeared back in 1998, and diverged when the model was redesigned. Europe got a completely new Focus, while the U.S. made do with a revised version. Both models have recently been updated again, and guess what, Americans are making do with an inferior product again, according to the magazine Car & Driver.

American envy
“Ford’s Focus is redesigned inside and out for 2008, although the makeover didn’t go far below the skin. But the structure is solid, road manners are decent, and the interior is fairly roomy. It’s just too bad that Ford still doesn’t see fit to offer U.S. buyers the better Focus sold elsewhere (i.e. here),” Car & Driver said.

This is all about price. Prices of the Focus in the U.S. start at $15,000 (£7,500) and in Europe they start at about £12,000-€16,000, although the latter includes taxes. In Europe, small cars like the Focus are the biggest sales sector, and high quality and top performance are required. The U.S. Focus sector is smaller, often made of first time buyers, so it’s got to be cheap and cheerful.

Steep prices
And price is an area where at last I can find something to criticise. Yes, the Focus is a top car which can hold its own with Europe’s finest. But the price of the Titanium version I drove was £18,295-€25,800. That is encroaching into serious BMW, Mercedes, and Audi territory. Some might argue that brand power is really fictional and doesn’t stand up to rational examination. But even if you can prove that the engineering and quality is at least as good if not better, the power of the brand will reflect in the residual value.

That will always give the Premier league brands the win. The Ford Focus is good, but it’s still performing in the Championship. 


Neil Winton – December 10, 2007

Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi Titanium

Engine:
2.0 litre, 4-cylinder diesel
Power:
136 bhp @ 4,000 rpm
Torque: 319 Nm @2,000
Gearbox:
six-speed manual
Drive:
front-wheels
Acceleration:
0-62 mph-100 km/h 9.3 seconds
Top Speed:
126 mph-203 km/h
Fuel Consumption:
claimed combined – 51.3 mpg-5.5 l/kms
CO2 Emissions:
144 g/km
Length:
4,337 mm
Width:
2,019
Height:
1,500
Weight: 1,950 kg
Price:
£18,295-€25,800 – on sale in Europe from January
Competition:
Mazda3, Vauxhall/Opel Astra, VW Golf, Proton GEN-2,  Peugeot 308, Renault Megane, Toyota Auris, Honda Civic, Nissan Note, Citroen C4, Kia Ceed, Hyundai i30, Chevrolet Lacetti, Fiat Brava, Skoda Octavia, Mitsubishi Lancer, SEAT Leon, Suzuki Liana
Same for much less: Proton GEN-2
Would I buy one?
Perhaps
Rating:
**** out of 5
For:
terrific drive, quality, looks
Against:
price, residuals

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