The Hatch is the pick of the range when it comes to the looks department.
The Small screen and lack of a method of inputting letters makes the Satnav hard to use.
The unusual rear gives even the base model a sportier look.
The Titanium has a neat well thought out interior
Fully automated parking as standard.
The alloys are a missed opportunity to add some oo-lala. They look a bit 1970’s to me.
Three gays walk into a car showroom and….
Does that sound like the beginnings of a joke? It does doesn’t it and in a way that’s exactly how it felt when I recently went car shopping with a couple of chums. We marched into several different manufacturers with a bunch of cash to spend on a shiny new boy’s toy and out reception ranged from disinterest and contempt to helpfulness enthusiasm. Who’d have thought the latter could be found in a humble Ford showroom, and who’d have thought we’d be so pleased to feel welcome. One of the German makes made us feel as if we’d been beamed down from the Enterprise by accident and had to blend in while awaiting rescue, but this happens every time we visit this particular brand. Another European had a massive superiority complex and expected us to hand over nearly 80k on the basis of a very short drive around the block. It probably wasn’t the brand but rather the attitude of the dealer. After trying several bowls of porridge, Goldilocks settled on a bowl that was just right and that bowl was chockers full of a very sexy red Ford Focus Titanium. They signed right there and then and even better; their preferred red was in stock. So snaps all round!
I for one am utterly fed-up with the boring and the ugly that pass for hatchbacks, sporty or otherwise. Mr Ford decided his best blokes in to make us something which hasn’t had a personality bypass nor suffers from being designed by bean counters.. The basic wedge shape has been given a bit of pizazz with a flash of LED adoring the front light cluster. Ditto for the rear which is a feature only found in the sports and Titanium models. To add to the sense of adventure, the tail lights have a playful, almost organic shape to them. The wedge is set on a huge set of 18” alloys and the roof swoops down low where it meets the hatch and voila, instant sports car. It may have 5 doors and be merely a family hatch wearing all of the family jewels at once but there is something about the package that is just right. To top if all off the boys chose a pack that includes a spectacular glass sunshine roof. They wanted to tick the boxes because unlike their last car, another hatch, completely failed to live up to expectations. This time nothing was left to chance and boxes were ticked left and right taking the final price to the mid 40’s. Crazy for a small car but there is so much packed in to the Focus that you’d be hard pressed to find better value elsewhere. Remember the Focus is designed in Europe and our particular car was built in Germany. We know how OCD the Germans are about build quality unlike the countries which surround it which and be a bit hit and miss.
The inside looks as smooth as the outside. It’s loaded to the gunnels with extras and there are gadgets galore. The partial leather seats (you’d think for 43 grand car, Ford would have sprung for a full set of cowhide) look fabulous and there are touches of aluminium strewn about the cabin with reckless abandon. The boys chose the Ford-o-matic (sorry I thought I was back in the sixties for a second. Of course I meant sports shift semi auto double clutch shifter) so there is a gear shifter with metal highlights. In a rather quaint throwback to a bygone era, Ford chose to stick the manual gear selectors under a couple of tiny buttons on the side of the shifter rather than on the steering wheel. I love it.
The entertainment is via the infotainment module in the centre console. It looks very smart and is well laid out. The is a CD slot too for those who are stuck last century but better is the audio streaming od USB option to get the tunes from your phone into your car speakers. The Snap shots show just how well the buttons are laid out and better still they are easy to use. I’d like to see a larger LCD though. It’s not a touch screen so in typical Ford fashion input for the Satnav is via buttons and dials. This is a trifle cumbersome when you’re in a rush and it has to be said that Ford isn’t noted for its easy-to-use Satnav. The Upgraded headlights, radar guided cruise control and sunroof are all part of the well worthwhile upgrade pack.
Even better than all that is the Active Parking which if nothing else is worth getting just to watch the looks from bystanders. Press the button and the cute little LCD tells you when to stop, when to select reverse and when to take your hands off the wheel. It’s the weirdest feeling to watch the wheel spinning itself into a frenzy. It seems to spin far faster than a human can manage and I’m told can park a car with 30cms front and back. It won’t work unless the gutter is square and undamaged. It hasn’t failed me yet but I still feel like it’s going to mount the curb in front of a café chockers full of hot muscle Marys and cute twinks somewhat diminishing the coolness factor. You’d be best just to stick her in drive and head out of town rather than actually joining your friends for lunch should that unfortunate circumstance befall you.
The Focus looks as sharp as a tack inside and out. It looks thoroughly modern and dare I say even a little bit sporty. Things could go badly wrong on the drive of course, but not here. What an utter joy she is to drive. Remember this is the diesel version we have here but it goes like stick. The 120KW duratorq 4 pot has an impressive 340 torques so you feel it at the traffic lights. Like all turbo engines, petrol of diesel, you can’t just lift your foot off the brake and jam it onto the go pedal. Nothing much happens. The trick is as you see the lights changing you lift off the brake. This engages the double clutch gear box and the turbo starts spinning. When you press the accelerator there seem to be far more oomph under your foot, but if you opt not to adopt this procedure the car just sits there like a lump waiting for an invitation to move. Once you do move you will find your power delivered in a huge burst which can be an awful lot of fun. So far the 5.5 L/100K that Ford claim as the combined fuel usage figures seems a very far-off target. We hoped for 1200 k’s on one tank on a recent trip to Brisvegas but managed far less than that. There seems to be no explanation so we’ll keep an eye on it and report in due course.
The handling is joyous. The ride is firm verging on hard but we can forgive this once we start doing a few tight corners. The Focus has very little body roll and the vice-like grip feels like it will never ever let you down. The handling reminds me more of high-end brands which cost an awful lot of money. Although the steering on all but the lowest model is electric, it has superb feeling. Moreover, you have the sense that matter where you point the wheel, the car will follow without complaint. There is a spooky urge to keep pushing her harder and harder, but our car is red and this folly would soon attract unwanted attention from you-know-who.
Focus is reasonably quiet too. A friend made an observation recently that car design has leapt ahead in the last five years and I have to agree with him. Focus is by no means a top of the range car but still manages a few little luxuries to help you on your journey. The cabin is beautifully laid out and well-appointed with thoughtful placement of the things you use often. The audio system sound fabulous and is easy to operate. Only the Satnav suffers from a severe case of clunkitis. It’s always been Ford’s Achilles heel and the screen is too small to be useful. Because the LCD isn’t a touch screen all the input is via the command module. Street names have to be put in with a dial which is insane. The directions don’t include the street names either. Most in dash units don’t but it’s something we deserve as standard, after all even my iPhone’s Navigon gives street name directions. There is nothing worse than hearing “turn right now” but there being 2 streets close together and not knowing which to take. Invariably you take the wrong one.
The cabin feels spacious yet compact. I mentioned the firm ride, but it has to be said that the seats are firm verging on hard too. They have good lateral support but I’d like to see them a little more compliant in the seat cushion because on a long trip sitting on bricks can be very tiring. The drivers chair gets powered adjustments but isn’t it a bit mean not to allow the front passenger such convenience? The rear seat is placed slightly higher to give you the feeling that you’re sitting in a theatre but this doesn’t seem to affect the head room overly. Focus passed the “4 beefy lads” and “2 bags” test. I wouldn’t like to take a road trip with 4 on-board but anything up to a few hours should be fine and there is oodles of room in the boot for a couple of decent sized cases so naughty weekends away should be a snap.
The driver aids are frightfully handy. The radar guided cruise control is still relatively uncommon and only available in high-end brands. Ford inherited this from their brief stint as custodians of Volvo. Turn your cruise control on and a device up front keeps you a fixed distance from objects ahead. Be warned, you can come to depend on it a little too much and may find yourself in all sorts of bother should you borrow someone else’s car. Before you know it you’ve run up the rear of a council bus with all kinds of unfortunate consequences. There is the ubiquitous alphabet of safety gear too with a suite of stability control electronic nannies to make you a much better driver than you actually are.
Ford didn’t want to go to all the trouble of putting in headlights that follow the steering wheels direction so they have little lights at the front which turn on instead. Turn the wheel and if the headlights are on, the little side lights flick on to illuminate the way you’re turning. So far I haven’t found a use for it but who knows!
The Wrap up.
I love the looks, the interior, the engine and the handling. Finding fault is merely nit-picking because the Focus is a brilliant sports car with 5 doors and 5 seats. It bristles with technology with the top model getting all the bells and whistles. It doesn’t carry the same prestigious badge as other German marques but is every bit as good to drive. Starting at $19,990 to $42,000 is good value. The 125KW Diesel sips a mere 5.5 l/100k (combined cycle) and has 340 Nm of torque while the 6SP Speed Power Shift auto is faultless. Golf is considered the leader of the pack in this segment of the market but in my opinion the Focus is better in every way. Not that there is anything wrong with Golf, but Focus is just better.
In a sea of beige, the Focus is bright, incandescent, shiny red and isn’t getting the coverage it deserves.
What do you think?