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New Ford in fine Focus

PUBLISHED: 18:40 12 March 2011

Sportier profile: The new Ford Focus.

Sportier profile: The new Ford Focus.

Ford

The Focus is huge for Ford - no wonder it's put so much into the all-new model, says Andy Russell.

The new Ford Focus will live up to its name as all eyes are on its combination of sportier looks, even better driver appeal and a host of new technologies it is launching for the brand.

The Focus is hugely important for Ford with more than 1.4 million sales since replacing the Escort in 1998, and Britain’s best-seller from 1999 to 2008 when it was toppled by the Ford Fiesta.

Forecast to sell 90,000 a year, the third-generation Focus is the ‘hero’ of Ford’s new-look medium car range alongside recently-launched sister models the C-Max and seven-seat Grand C-Max.

They share the latest Ford kinetic design and the Focus now looks far more dynamic than its predecessor, and much better in the metal than in pictures, especially in bright new colours – candy yellow and candy red.

Sitting alongside its more spacious and practical sister models, Ford has given the Focus a sportier image and is offering it only as five-door hatchback and estate – the three-door model has been dropped and the saloon will not be offered in the UK.

And in a market where new models get progressively larger it’s interesting that the new Focus hatchback, while 21mm longer, is 16mm narrower and 16mm lower which contributes to its sleeker styling.

At launch it is being offered with updated turbo diesels – 95 and 115PS 1.6 TDCI and 140 and 163PS 2.0 TDCI with the bigger engine offered with PowerShift automatic gearbox – but the highlight of the range is the all-new high-efficiency 150PS 1.6 EcoBoost turbo petrol engine alongside 105 and 125PS 1.6 units. All engines are more economical with lower emissions than those they replace with 1.6 TDCI models producing 109g/km of CO2.

The frugal diesels are well suited to high-mileage drivers but only the 2.0 TDCI was available at the early drive and while cruising quietly it gets vocal when driven hard and the automatic gearbox kicked down. Maybe that was all part of Ford’s plan to emphasise how good the new 1.6 EcoBoost petrol engine is. We drove the 180PS version, coming in Zetec S in October, but the 150PS unit is available from launch – unfortunately not in the big-selling trim levels.

It’s a great all-round engine, flexible enough to pull cleanly from low revs but keep it on song with the delightful six-speed manual gearbox and it spins freely and smoothly for perky performance without ever getting gruff or noisy. With 47mpg combined and the performance of the 2.0 TDCI for the price of the 1.6 TDCI it’s tempting for drivers who are shying away from diesel or find the figures on longer don’t stack up financially.

The Focus has always been the class benchmark for handling but now Ford engineers have enhanced and tuned the suspension to improve the three Rs – ride, refinement and roadholding. For the first time the Focus gets electric power steering which, precise and progressive, weights up nicely withs speed, and a standard torque vectoring control system which uses stability control and the brakes to deliver the power to the front wheel with the most traction so improving cornering stability and agility.

It’s all sounds very clever but drive the new Focus and you appreciate its all-round dynamic brilliance, handling with all the verve of a well-sorted sports car. What makes it all the more remarkable is the ride is softer than before and it was a measure of Ford’s confidence in the new Focus that the driving route combined fast motorway work with grotty rollercoaster country roads and the Focus passed this tough test… very comfortably.

Ford has also raised its game when it comes to the interior styling and quality – no mean feat for a car-maker renowned for its cabins. Edge and Zetec models, which will together account for 75pc of sales, get the mobile phone-style centre console controls for the audio system which work so well on the smaller Fiesta. Step up to Titanium and Titanium X and they’re replaced with a Sony audio unit in piano black trim which looks and feels very classy.

Despite the new Focus being narrower and lower, the interior feels spacious. While not as roomy as some rivals it can comfortably carry four adults and five at a squeeze. If they want to take luggage with them the Focus might not be up to the job for the boot is a lot smaller than the previous hatchback model at 316 litres with the mini spare and 277 with the full-size spare wheel but at least it’s well shaped with decent access. Rear seat backs split and fold 60/40. Ford also argues that if you need more carrying capacity there’s the C-Max.

Entry-level Edge, which costs £500 more but gains £1,000 of extra equipment, includes air-conditioning, DAB radio/CD, Bluetooth voice control and USB port, Thatcham category 1 alarm, electric mirrors and front windows, central locking, stability and torque vectoring control and front, side and curtain airbags. Best-selling Zetec gains alloy wheels, heated front screen, front fog lamps, sports front seats, heated door mirrors and upgraded centre console. Move up to Titanium and you add creature comforts like cruise control, dual-zone climate control and automatic lights and wipers while the Titanium X flagship includes active park assist with sensors, part-leather trim, heated front seats and headlamp washers.

The original Focus set new standards in this fiercely-competitive class and the new model’s technology sees it raise the bar yet again and is a fitting way for Ford UK to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

The new Focus features a class-leading range of technology and driver assistance aids developed by Ford, but drawing on knowledge gained from former sister company Volvo which has a formidable reputation for safety.

It is the first Ford to offer driver assistance features via a forward-facing digital camera beside the rear-view mirror and an on-board computer which analyses what it sees. They form part of a £750 optional driver assistance pack, unfortunately available only on Titanium and Titanium X models:

Lane departure warning – the steering wheel vibrates at speeds over 38mph to warn the driver if the car is drifting out of the lane.

Lane keeping aid – uses the electric power steering temporarily to actively steer the car back into the lane, rather than just triggering the lane departure warning alert.

Driver alert – recognises sideways drifting, a typical sign of a drowsy driver, and triggers a visible and audible warning.

Traffic sign recognition – the digital camera can identify traffic signs beside the road and on bridges, such as speed limits, and displays them on the fascia.

Auto high beam – detects other vehicles’ lights and street lamps and switches the Focus headlamps automatically between high and dipped beam.

Low-speed safety system – designed to stop shunting the car in front at up to 20mph by pre-charging the brakes and applying them if the driver does not react. If the relative speed difference between the vehicles is less than 10mph the system my help avoid the collision, between 10 and 20mph it aims to reduce speed as much as possible before impact.

Blind spot information system – alerts drivers when a passing vehicle is hidden in their blind spot on either side of the car.

FORD FOCUS HATCHBACK

Ford Focus 1.6 EcoBoost

Price: £19,745-£21,245

Engine: 150PS, four-cylinder turbo petrol with Start-Stop

Performance: 0-62mph 8.6 seconds; top speed 130mph

MPG: Urban 36.7; extra urban 56.5; combined 47.1

Emissions: 139g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 16pc

Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi

Price: £17,495-£21,245

Engine: 115PS, four-cylinder turbo diesel with Start-Stop

Performance: 0-62mph 10.9 seconds; top speed 120mph

MPG: Urban 55.4; extra urban 76.3; combined 67.3

Emissions: 109g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 13pc

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? Length 4,358mm; width (including door mirrors) 2,010mm; height 1,484mm

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