Aston Martin celebrates its 100th anniversary with a radical one-off concept car
Ford Focus review (2011 onwards)
What - Ford Focus
Where - Jerez, Spain
Price - £15,995 to £23,995
Available - March 2011
Key rivals - Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Astra, Renault Megane, Hyundai i30, Kia Cee'd, Citroën C4, Peugeot 308, Mazda 3, Toyota Auris
With a release date of March 2011, Ford turns up the refinement and the technology with its third generation Focus, but at a cost...
Likes: Big car technology, comfort, safety
Dislikes: Steering feel and handling, limited rear legroom, pricing
The Focus has always been a vital car for Ford. In 1998 it recovered the firm's European mojo in high style following the disastrous Escort mk 5.
This third-generation German-made model has an altogether bigger task: to be the centerpiece of the company's new 'One Ford' product philosophy that will see a car with 80% of the same basic parts being sold in 120 markets globally - shifting over two million cars-a-year in the process. No pressure then.
A good-looking estate version will follow later in the year; a four-door saloon will also appear, but not in the UK.
I really like the look of the new car, especially when dressed up in the fancy alloy wheels and high-gloss tri-coat paint (a £745 option on all models) that featured on the top-spec cars at the media launch.
While clearly an evolution of the outgoing car (which remains on sale until the autumn of 2011), it has flowing lines and is a pleasing interpretation of Ford's creasy, 'kinetic' design language.
Most of the cars in this class are decent lookers today, and the Focus may be the best of the bunch.
There were only two engines available to drive at launch. The first was a 180hp turbo-charged ecoboost petrol engine. I really liked this zesty 1.6-litre machine and it will be a hit when it arrives as a Zetec S model in the autumn - especially as it promises 47mpg and 139g/km of CO2: excellent numbers for a lively petrol model.
The other engine we drove is the 2-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel, good for 163hp. This will obviously be of greater interest to CO2-conscious company and fleet buyers. After the petrol it was inevitably a bit of a letdown by comparison but is capable enough, delivering its smoothly delivered 251lb ft of turbocharged torque from 2,000 rpm.
Weight is very slightly up from the previous model overall but the engine makes a big difference. Modern Euro-V compliant diesel engines are heavy and complex compared to flighty petrol ones, so much so that there is a full 200kg difference (or three average-sized adults) between the least powerful petrol (105hp) and the most powerful diesel (163hp, as tested here). Which helps to explain why 0-62mph is delivered in a measly 8.6 seconds.
You can feel that lump up the front and overtaking on the smooth Spanish roads was not as swift an experience as I might have expected. The only marginally more powerful and torquey Volkswagen Golf GTD would have polished them off better, and indeed that car gets to 62mph half-a-second quicker.
You can get a dual clutch 'Powershift' transmission for £1,250 extra. But it doesn't have paddle-shifters; you can't even option them. It offers manual changes through a ghastly little plus-and-minus switch on the side of the gear-lever, is slow to respond in auto and is 5 percent thirstier; avoid it. The six-speed manual is more than decent.
For the 180hp petrol version we drove, 0-62mph is delivered in 7.9 seconds, off to a top speed of 138mph.
Ride and handling
The new Focus is significantly more comfortable than the last one and sets new standards in the class. Helped by supportive seats and a tweaked version of the signature control blade independent rear suspension system the car delivers steady and assured progress - and the stiffened body has greater body control as well.
Combined with standard ESP handling systems, it is impressive. I had to brake at one point relatively hard on a wet corner to avoid an obstruction, and the car was totally unruffled.
A new standard feature across the Focus range is torque vectoring, a system which delivers different power levels to the front driven wheels under hard cornering and effectively helps to pull the car around corners and reduce understeer. Or that's the theory anyway. But this new feature comes as the same time as another one: the arrival of an electric steering system, installed to facilitate the self-parking and lane-keeping aids and improve economy.
The result is a disappointing loss of steering feel, a feeling of distance between steering wheel and front wheels, and a metaphorical widening of the distance between driver and car. Both previous Focuses have been a hoot to drive, an enviable chuckability to them whatever engine was fitted. In climbing the refinement scale, the new Focus has lost some of this.
Ford has stepped up a gear here and the new Focus features plenty of high quality, tactile plastics and metallic effects. It's a shame the controls aren't more polished in operation and while it is better than the Astra say, it still could learn plenty from the Golf.
Standard equipment across the range includes a Thatcham Category-1 alarm, Bluetooth and USB support, a rear spoiler, and Isofix anchors. DAB radio also comes as standard; very useful if the crackpot scheme to close down AM and FM comes to fruition anytime soon.
Extra kit is reasonably priced, especially if you're familiar with eye-watering option lists from the premium brands; having said that, the Titanium-spec diesel cars we drove in Spain still contrived to cost £25,000 - and that's without sat-nav which will be another £1,000. Ford pricing is more sensible than it used to be, but that is still serious money for a family hatchback, especially when some entry-level rivals can be grabbed for half that if you look hard enough.
Rear-seat legroom is disappointing; tall people will not want to spend much time back there. The boot is actually smaller than the outgoing model, and at 316 litres, is 10 percent smaller than the Golf's.
Sound-proofing is excellent; after the diesel has warmed up the cabin is quiet and tranquil.
Economy and safety
To get an entire C-segment car range below 139g/km CO2 - including petrol models - is a triumph. The powerful 163hp diesel tested here theoretically returns 56.5mpg combined and 129 g/km in manual form. In the real world we managed around 40mpg; not too bad given that we were not hanging around putting the car through its paces on mostly empty roads.
The new Focus has brought a dizzying array of 'big car' technology to this segment. A £750 'driver assistance pack' offers automatic low-speed braking to prevent front-end shunts, a lane keeping aid which 'reads' white lines and will correct steering for you if necessary, and a blind-spot system. Another £750 will get you radar-assisted adaptive cruise control, a very useful option and excellent to see in this segment for the first time.
The car has the latest in high-strength steel build and will be very safe from that perspective; NCAP test score is still to come. ESP stability control, Traction Assist, ABS and electronic brake distribution is standard on all models.
As noted above, the 180hp petrol car we tested delivers 47.1mpg combined with 139g/km, helped by weighing in at just 1,333kg - a full 88kg less than the diesel.
The MSN Cars verdict
I would have liked to give the new Focus the full five stars. It is a very refined car and establishes class-leading positions in ride comfort and technology areas.
But it is undoutably less of a driver's car, and that is a quality we have come to expect from Focus. The car has grown up, and, like the rest of us, has lost as well as gained in the process.
|Ride & handling||****|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
|Need to know|
|Engines, diesel||2.0 TDCi 6-speed manual|
|Torque, lb ft||251|
|Top speed, mph||135|
|Price||£22,745 Titanium model; £25,000 as tested with options|
Read another Ford review on MSN Cars
related stories on msn
Latest Cars videos
On the road with the landmark Lambos for special golden anniversary drive.
Date 13/05/13, Duration 4:26, Views 8776