Ford still has star in Fo­cus

Twenty years and 16 mil­lion sales later, the fourth-gen­er­a­tion Ford Fo­cus is an­other win­ner, writes Camp­bell Spray

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Motoring -

‘FO­CUS, boy, fo­cus!” I can still re­mem­ber across all the years masters at my board­ing school shout­ing at me as I stam­mered out an an­swer. The shout might have fol­lowed a black­board rub­ber fly­ing across the room to wake me up from some mid-sum­mer reverie. It was a great school but a bit old-fash­ioned in its ways.

I have never been able to free Ford’s mas­sively suc­cess­ful com­pact fam­ily car from be­ing tied to such mem­o­ries. This is a pity as it has been one of the com­pany’s all-time greats and will do very well again with its fourth-gen­er­a­tion model which was re­cently launched here.

In its pre­vi­ous in­carna- tions, es­pe­cially the ear­lier ones, the Fo­cus, along with its big­ger and smaller sib­lings — Mon­deo and Fi­esta — be­came a by­word for driv­ing dy­nam­ics. It was a real driver’s car, which in some way com­pen­sated for less-than-im­pres­sive in­te­ri­ors for which the word ‘bland’ could have been in­vented.

The new car aims to build on its dy­namic rep­u­ta­tion by again be­com­ing more Eu­ro­pean in feel as well as look­ing bet­ter in­side and out.

The lat­ter is def­i­nitely true al­though I feel it has been low­ered too much and the sleek­ness which is ap­peal­ing on the eye takes away from the ease of use. How­ever, it is a very roomy car, thanks to a longer wheel­base, for all pas­sen­gers, with ex­cel­lent leg space in the back. The lug­gage area is good and the rear seats fold al­most flat.

It would be a very easy car to live with, as the safety fea­tures are re­ally first class. How­ever, the Ac­tive model, which has some SUV as­pi­ra­tions in style if not abil­ity, might be more my thing when it ar­rives next year.

That was also my part­ner’s feel­ing. As we spun out to deep­est Co Wick­low last Sun­day, I tried to get her re­ac­tion to the Fo­cus. “It’s fine enough, I just want to feel big­ger,” she replied a lit­tle wist­fully. And at 6ft, I re­ally should start to see things from the per­spec­tive of some­one much smaller. She is tired of be­ing bul­lied on the road in her six-year-old Hyundai i10. She wants height and a bit of pro­tec­tion — no won­der crossovers ap­peal so much.

Next year it will be 20 years since the first Ford Fo­cuses ar­rived in Ire­land and the com­pany has just launched its 191 pro­mo­tional prices for the new range.

An­nounc­ing them, Ford Ire­land chair­man and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Ciaran McMa­hon, said: “Since it first ar­rived in Ire­land 20 years ago, the Ford Fo­cus has been hugely pop­u­lar with Ir­ish mo­torists, who loved both its stand-out de­sign and great driv­ing dy­nam­ics.

“Our 191 reg­is­tra­tion pro­mo­tion will make Fo­cus as en­tic­ing to new car-buy­ers across the coun­try as it was when the car first ap­peared here back in 1999. This lat­est Fo­cus de­liv­ers more style, space and ad­vanced driv­ing tech­nolo­gies than any pre­vi­ous ver­sion of the car and with a lead-in price of just €22,495 it is a very com­pet­i­tively priced pack­age.”

The car comes in two body styles at the mo­ment, five doors and Wagon (es­tate), and four dif­fer­ent trim lev­els start­ing with Zetec and go­ing through ST-Line and Ti­ta­nium to Vig­nale, which tops out at €33,420 for the 1.5 diesel au­to­matic Wagon.

The very well-equipped Ti­ta­nium trim is likely to be the top seller, which starts at €24,495 for the 1.0 three-cylin­der petrol en­gine mated to a man­ual six-speed box.

How­ever, these prices aren’t ‘on the road’ as my test car showed. It was the Ti­ta­nium diesel with eight­speed au­to­matic box which had a price of €28,356 be­fore p&p. But by the time rather nice Ruby Red paint, wire­less charg­ing pad, panoramic roof and the Ford Co-Pi­lot sys­tem, with a lot more safety as­sis­tance, had been added in, the price be­fore de­liv­ery was €31,436.

That is be­gin­ning to take the gloss off the ini­tial at­trac­tive prices and get into some heady ter­ri­tory. As a ba­sic rule of thumb, the price jumps are €2k be­tween petrol and diesel and the same again from man­ual to au­to­matic. I was dis­ap­pointed there is no au­to­matic petrol model in the ini­tial line-up over here. The diesels will also be hit by the new ex­tra 1pc tax an­nounced in last Tues­day’s Bud­get.

I am look­ing for­ward to get­ting into more of the petrol mod­els as the diesel wasn’t as smooth or quiet as it should have been, and the same went for the au­to­matic box. But the car was re­ally easy to use once you got the hang of the di­als for se­lect­ing dy­nam­ics and gears.

There have been 16 mil­lion Fo­cus mod­els sold world­wide over the last 20 years, two mil­lion of them in Bri­tain, where the mo­tor­ing press over the last few months have been ec­static about the new model and the C2 plat­form on which it has been built. This gives much greater in­ter­nal space while keep­ing the out­side di­men­sions in check. And there is no doubt a lot of at­ten­tion has been paid to the look of the car. While the Fo­cus DNA is still there, I saw el­e­ments of both BMW and Volvo in its de­sign, nei­ther of which should be sniffed at. The very calm and un­clut­tered cabin is now ac­tu­ally stylish with some very good fin­ishes.

Po­ten­tial pur­chasers should re­ally have a good look at all the safety and driv­ing aids avail­able with the Fo­cus now. Ford has made it a ma­jor aim to re­duce the “de­mand on driv­ers, help­ing them fo­cus their at­ten­tion and be less stressed and more con­fi­dent at the wheel”.

While I think Ford has done a great job with the new Fo­cus I wasn’t to­tally con­vinced by the car, but, as I said ear­lier, maybe I am get­ting over-in­flu­enced by the cross­over de­sire. It is a model that can­not be ig­nored by any­one plan­ning to buy a fam­ily car next year. Keep away from the diesels for, de­spite some read­ers bring­ing to my at­ten­tion a few prob­lems with the Ecoboost en­gines, I think they have been a real win­ner for Ford. It shouldn’t be for­got­ten that the war­ranty is now seven years. A cou­ple of read­ers would have loved to have had that a few years ago.

All the en­gines are bet­ter, more eco­nom­i­cal and cleaner than the last gen­er­a­tion. The sus­pen­sion on the more ex­pen­sive and pow­er­ful mod­els is out­stand­ing and there are great brakes. How­ever, I am still see­ing Kia, Hyundai and Honda mod­els that have more per­son­al­ity. The Fo­cus is good, but it is not so good to see off cross­over op­po­si­tion. But I do think it has put the ghosts of my past to rest!

FULLY FO­CUSED: Above and top left in ST-Line trim level; top right the rear of the Ti­ta­nium Fo­cus

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