Focus is well worth the wait
The boys from Ford have done it again, improving on perfection with a car that's even more innovative and dynamic than the original, writes Philip Hedderman
The wait is over. It's finally here and the big question on every motoring lip is, how can you possibly improve on perfection?
Is the new Ford Focus as good as the old one?
In short, no -- it's better, infinitely better. For a start it's longer, slimmer and lower to the ground, adding to the dynamic drivability.
When it burst on to the scene in 1998, the Focus turned automotive engineering on its head -- successfully blending steering precision and road feedback with the most refined handling ever seen in a family hatchback.
Fast forward to 2011 and the boys at the Blue Oval badge have done it again. This time, though, the German taskmasters have decided to match the driving attributes with affordable technology -- only seen in luxury limos.
Most of the innovation is not something that you can see or touch, but is again laying down a marker to all that this is, indeed, the future and will one day become standard features on all passenger cars.
The most important is the Torque Vectoring Control System, which enhances cornering stability and control and comes as standard. In layman's terms, by the time the orange icon lights up on the dash it has already saved your life -- and that is priceless.
Other key innovations include the Low Speed Safety System -- available for the first time in a . It stops the car automatically if it senses an imminent collision under 30kph; Active Park Assist (which parallel parks the car at the push of a button); Lane Departure Warning; Lane Keeping Aid; Traffic Sign Recognition (telling you what speed zone you are in); Auto High Beam; Driver Alert and Adaptive Cruise Control.
Safety is a big winner. It is built with more high-strength steels than any previous Ford, and a new generation of advanced airbag systems.
Looks-wise, the 5-door has a striking front end, sleek profile and dramatic rising belt line, giving it a more muscular, sportier look. The saloon and estate versions are in the pipeline, as is a new RS.
Inside, the modern, cockpit-style interior, with the stylish centre console wrapped around the driver and illuminated with atmospheric blue low lighting, adds a touch of class to the experience.
That experience is, of course, the drive.
It took to the winding mountain roads of Cadiz with ease, devouring corner after corner, uphill, downhill, in driving rain and on the dry with equal vigour. Motorways were heaven and were savoured in an almost silent cabin -- such is the smoothness of the diesel power plant.
That smoothness does dampen down the excitement a little and because it feels more compact executive than hot hatch, it does loose a smidgen of character. That said, luxury does have a tendency to grow on you.
Due in showrooms in April, the new Focus will come in three diesels and one petrol.
The firm favourites will be the 1.6-litre TDCi 95bhp or 115bhp (both band A with stop-start technology, €104 road tax), 2.0-litre TDCi 115 bhp auto or the 1.6-litre VCT 125bhp petrol (tax band B, €156 a year).
Ford boss Eddie Murphy is remaining tightlipped about the price, but we reckon the 1.6 diesel will be about €22,000. Standard kit on the basic offering includes ESP with traction assist, body-coloured bumpers, mirrors and spoiler, remote central locking and capless refuelling.