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Looks Great, Drives Well, Top Quality
Look out VW Golf, This New Focus Has It All
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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