Bringing power to the people
With the new Focus, Ford deserves praise for making a premium-level car for the masses, writes Campbell Spray SAFE INVESTMENT: New Ford Focus brings comfort, safety and reliability to the fore
Undoubtedly the new Ford Focus is one of the most important cars to be launched this year. While the all-electric Nissan Leaf is perhaps the most game-changing vehicle to go on sale in 2011, the Focus takes the honours for managing to bring the packaging of a traditionally powered mass-market car to new levels.
It answers the question that my son used to ask some 10 years ago when we were driving the latest Lexus, Merc or BMW and I was showing off some elaborate safety or comfort equipment. "So dad, when will all cars have this?"
The answer, my boy, is now or, at least, very soon. Ford has recently been to the fore in putting as standard certain safety equipment like electronic steering programmes into their cars. Sometimes it may be because they are becoming compulsory anyway. Now, with the new Focus, Ford has become the first non-premium automaker to win two Euro NCAP Advanced rewards.
The Focus was recognised for Active City Stop, which monitors the road ahead and brakes automatically if a collision is imminent; and Lane Keeping Aid, which uses a forward camera to detect if the vehicle drifts out of its lane and applies a small amount of steering input to alert the driver. The Focus also earned Euro NCAP's maximum 5-star crash safety rating, including the highest possible dynamic score for child protection in both frontal and side impact collision tests.
The Focus has always handled well since its inception 13 years ago. It might be bit softer now but there is still the confidence of a brilliantly engineered car.
Of course everything isn't perfect. The Titanium model I was driving was coming down with buttons and other controls in a rather cluttered way. There isn't as much room either -- in front or rear -- that you might expect, but average-sized people will be fine. The 1.6 diesel is a bit jerky first off but on the open road it is a delight.
I also think the two-year warranty has to go. Many manufacturers -- including people like Toyota with their three-year warranty, and Hyundai and Kia with five and seven respectively -- are leading the way in this field. Cars like Fiesta and Focus should not be lagging behind.
In our motoring supplement earlier this year, which came out just a week after the Focus launch, contributing editor Shane O'Donoghue wrote "the Focus is one of the newest cars on the market and it shows. Inside and out it exudes quality and style, significantly surpassing its predecessor on those fronts. It's more efficient and more comfortable too. In short, it's a big contender for class honours.
"What's more, every one of the 13 models offered to Irish buyers is eligible for the scrappage scheme. Any downsides? For people that really enjoy driving, the new Focus, in its regular guises at least, may be a little disappointing. In return it's far more comfortable."
Since then the car has gone from strength to strength. Last month, Ford's Focus range, with sales of 823 units, was the top-selling model in Ireland. The model I was driving was the 6-speed 5-door Focus Titanium with the 1.6TDCi engine and a very high spec.
While the entry price for the Focus is €20,825, the Titanium models start at €25,025, excluding the awful delivery and related charges. However I also had three add-ons: Vision Pack (Xenon headlights, interior theatre lighting, LED rear tail lights) for €940; Driver Assist Pack (includes Lane Keeping Aid, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Information System & Active City Stop) at €1,500 and the Nav Pack (5" LCD centre display with radio / CD, Bluetooth Voice Control with USB / iPod connectivity) for €2,500. This gave a grand total of: €29,965.
With all that aboard it isn't a cheap car. But it is a safe investment as the add-ons bring premium level motoring to the masses -- and Ford deserves great credit for that.