"I think this Focus is going to be a favourite. It's fast and discreet but seems very easy to live with.."
The Ford Focus is an easy car to take for granted. We just expect it to be a permanent fixture at the top of the sales charts for family hatchbacks, blithely accepting the fact that it'll always sell more than Golfs, Astras, 308s and Meganes. It's just the way things work. There's a natural order to these things. A colleague of mine is a big Ford fan and collects all kinds of weird and wonderful vehicles. He rang us a few weeks back to let us know of his latest acquisition. It was a last of the line Ford Escort and it had a mere 5,000 miles on the clock. Keen for me to drive this survivor car that looked as if it had just rolled off the production line, we met, I had a go and it was absolutely awful. Really, deeply terrible. It seemed that Ford had made a superhuman effort to make this car as ghastly as possible, which takes a certain commitment in itself. When I got out after the mercifully short drive, I viewed the Focus in a new light and vowed to understand just how and why it was so good. So here we are with a new Focus long termer outside the office. It's a decent specification too; a 1.5T five-door hatch in Titanium X specification. Okay, so a 1.5-litre petrol engine sounds a bit weedy but this one's forced induction means it really does punch above its weight. Let's compare it for a moment to the first generation Focus ST 170 hot hatch. That car made 170PS and generated 195Nm of torque. This one makes no real external sporting proclamations, but that little engine is good for 182PS and ladles out 240PS of torque. Yes, this car is a good deal bigger and heavier than the ST170, but don't underestimate the 1.5-litre lump. In standard specification, this model's going to run you just over £23,500, but our one had a few boxes ticked when it was originally specified, which is something we really do take into account when making an assessment of the vehicle. To whit, it has Lunar Sky metallic paint, the Appearance Pack 2, which includes 18-inch alloys and tinted rear glass, a heated steering wheel, the BLIS blind spot detection system, door edge protectors, keyless go, the SYNC2 DAB Navigation system and a Driver Assistance Pack which consists of lane departure warning, lane keeping aid, traffic sign recognition, driver alert and auto high beam. That little lot bumps the asking price up to just over £26,000.
If I'm honest, I'd probably just have sprung the £250 for the SYNC2 system and left the rest. The auto high beam is nice to have but I can't see myself paying £450 for that and I find the lane keep/departure stuff an annoyance. I've managed for thirty years without it and I don't find it adds too much to the driving experience. First impressions of the Focus are extremely promising. The Aston Martin-look front grille works on this car a bit better than it does on the Fiesta and this paint finish even looks like an appropriately sleek V8 Vantage colour scheme. The interior has also been given a serious once-over. The fascia design is more intuitive, that button-strewn centre stack and steering wheel being tidied up considerably. The black satin trim and chrome detailing contribute to a cleaner aesthetic too. Many of the controls are now marshalled by that SYNC2 high-resolution, 8-inch colour touch screen system. This includes voice control for 'easier' access to audio, navigation, climate control and compatible mobile phones. We'll reserve judgment on that one. One thing that's undoubtedly an improvement is practicality. The centre storage console offers more space as well as a new sliding, integrated armrest, accommodating a variety of bottles and cups with the capacity to simultaneously hold a litre water bottle and a 400ml cup. I think this Focus is going to be a favourite. It's fast and discreet but seems very easy to live with. Keep checking back as we get to know this one a lot better.