Ford's new Focus on eco driving

Andy RussellANDY RUSSELL tests Ford's new Focus ECOnetic with some real-world driving.Ford's Heritage Workshop at Dagenham has received its 100th car - a new high-performance Focus RS which joins famous Fords dating back to a 100-year-old Model T.Andy Russell

ANDY RUSSELL tests Ford's new Focus ECOnetic with some real-world driving.

Ford's Heritage Workshop at Dagenham has received its 100th car - a new high-performance Focus RS which joins famous Fords dating back to a 100-year-old Model T.

These cars are the best of Ford's past but it was a very different Focus that took centrestage for its launch there. The Focus ECOnetic points to the future, part of a range of 'green' Fords to help the company achieve its goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 30pc by 2020.


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ECOnetic is not a new initiative, Ford has applied the fuel-saving, emission-cutting principle to the Focus, Fiesta, Mondeo and even Transit van. What makes the new Focus ECOnetic interesting is it is next generation, taking the award-winning initiative to the next level to make the Focus Ford's most economical medium-sized car so far.

As well as the latest Michelin Energy Saver low rolling resistance tyres, aerodynamic enhancements such as a lowered ride height and underbody panels, and longer third, fourth and fifth gear ratios to reduce engine revs, the new Focus ECOnetic's Dagenham-built 1.6-litre turbo diesels have been further tweaked with new technology.

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As well as new fuel injectors, recalibrated engine management, a revised intake system and an oxygen sensor and diesel particulate filter in the exhaust, the Focus ECOnetic has a new alternator pulley design so the accessory drive belt doesn't have to be so tight, so reducing friction and cutting fuel consumption by 1pc - every little helps.

The new Focus ECOnetic uses 90PS and 109PS versions of the 1.6 TDCi engine which now returns combined economy of 70.6mpg with CO2 emissions of 104g/km. But the real claim to fame is the 109PS hatchback is the first European Ford offered with optional Auto-Start-Stop which boosts economy to more than 74mpg and drops CO2 emissions to 99g/km so owners will pay no annual road tax.

Auto-Start-Stop shuts down the engine when the gearbox is put into neutral in stationary traffic - cutting fuel consumption and emissions by up to 10pc - and fires it up again in 0.3 of a second when the clutch or accelerator pedal is touched. It is combined with an upgraded starter motor and smart regenerative charging - another first for a Ford - which converts kinetic energy produced when braking or slowing to recharge the battery to cope with the extra engine starting.

Unfortunately, while other car-makers are increasingly rolling out models with stop-start technology as standard, Ford's system adds just over �500 to the standard ECOnetic so it'll take a while to pay for itself.

All very well in theory, but how does it perform in the real world?

We headed into the traffic snarl of east London and over an 18-mile test route, on which I didn't dawdle but stuck to speed limits, I achieved just under 61mpg, helped by Ford's new Eco Mode system - a computerised aid to monitor driving style and show how you can get more miles per gallon. A display amid the instruments has three five-petalled flowers - one highlighting gear changing, another anticipation and how smoothly you drive and the final one for maintaining the most efficient speed on motorways and country roads.

It sounds gimmicky but it received very positive feedback from customers in early tests and can be an addictive, and very satisfying, challenge to light up those petals.

So why are you going to pay �500 more for an ECOnetic model, even without the stop-start system, over a standard Focus turbo diesel? Well, you could get 8mpg more overall and the lower emissions mean paying less road tax, in the case of the stop-start model none at all, but I suspect your attitude to green motoring will also be a key decision-maker - knowing you are doing your bit to help the environment.

I felt smug in heavy traffic, as the stop-start model cut out at traffic lights and queues, knowing I was not using fuel going nowhere and adding to the pollution.

It's about being careful and not wasteful, both when it comes to the way a car runs and, indeed, how it is built in the first place and here Ford is reducing its carbon footprint with a range of sustainability initiatives.

But just like those flower petals on the Focus Eco Mode, it takes time to raise people's awareness and grow sales. Ford says ECOnetic models will make up 3pc of all Focus sales and conservatively predicts the new stop-start model will account for about 0.5pc.

It doesn't sound a lot but when you consider the Focus achieved 93,500 sales last year it's about 3,000 units and that's a big step - and a smaller carbon footprint - in the right direction.

Maybe a Focus ECOnetic should be the 101st car in that heritage workshop and take its place in Ford's history.

FORD FOCUS ECONETIC

PRICE: 90PS five-door hatchback, �19,661; 109PS five-door hatchback, �19,916; 109PS estate, �20,886; five-door hatch with auto-start-stop, �20,428

ENGINE: 1.6-litre, 90PS and 109PS, four-cylinder turbo diesel

PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph, (109PS) 10.9 seconds; top speed, (90PS) 113mph; (109PS) 119mph

MPG: Urban 56.5; extra urban 83; combined 70.6. With optional auto-stop-start: 62.7, 83, 74.2

EMISSIONS: 104g/km (auto-stop-start 99g/km

BENEFIT-IN-KIND TAX: 13pc

INSURANCE GROUP (0-50): 15

WARRANTY: Three years/60,000 miles

WILL IT FIT IN THE GARAGE: Length 4,337mm; width (including door mirrors) 2,019mm; height 1,500mm

There's more to environmentally-friendly cars than low emissions and being frugal with the fuel.

The Focus is spearheading Ford's European recycling campaign which sees more than 300 parts made from recycled materials - saving about 20,000 tonnes of landfill a year.

Ford's material researchers at Dunton develop components from recycled material while ensuring no compromise to quality, durability or performance.

Recycled components in the current Focus include:

Heater and air-conditioner housing made from 25pc recycled plastics.

New bumpers made from 20pc recycled bumpers.

Carpets made from 20pc recycled carpet material.

Battery tray made from 50pc mixed recycled plastics.

Wheelarch liners made from up to 100pc recycled polypropylene.

Air-cleaner assembly made from 25pc recycled plastics.

Fabric seat option made from 100pc recycled material.

Roof lining, parcel shelf, instrument panel, insulation and sound-proofing materials include recycled textiles.

Recycled material includes plastic bottles, bottle tops, computer and TV housings, CDs, carpets and even denim jeans. Noise insulation in all Fords is made from jeans and reclaimed car seat upholstery.

Ford is also stepping up research into plastics, rubber, foam, film and fabric, to develop more alternative bio-based materials that are functional, durable and cost-effective and decrease dependence on oil-based products. New materials with more natural ingredients such as soy flour, hemp and cellulose are also being developed and tests show natural fibre-reinforced plastics can cut weight by up to 30pc.

Ford material experts are also working with a biodegradable plastic called polylactic acid, derived from the sugars in corn, sugarbeet and cane, which can biodegrade in 90 to 120 days, compared with 1,000 years in a landfill for petroleum-based plastic.

Ford's Dagenham Diesel Centre, which produces 1.4 and 1.6-litre turbo diesels, is powered by two Ecotricity wind turbines with a third 120m turbine being added later this year.

The existing two turbines produce 6.7 million units of clean electricity a year - avoiding more than 6,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually since 2004. The third turbine is expected to boost electricity production by 70pc to 11.5 million units - the equivalent to powering a further 1,400 homes.

Ford is also using ships and trains as alternative ways to transport parts and vehicles and has reduced the amount of water it uses by 56pc since 2000.

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