Ford 'focus' on global breakthrough
Breaking news . . . Ford 'focuses' on world domination!
Don't fret - it's just the car maker underlining its determination to establish the 'all new' Focus as its first truly 'global' car.
The original, unveiled in 1998, was greeted here and around Europe with admiration as it winged its way to the top of the C-segment bestseller lists, winning thousands of buyers, not least for its sturdy, robust and stylish good looks.
But it was the 'X Factor' of motoring -- its unique driveability and irresistibly responsive and sporty handling -- which won it the most significant accolade of all, as it quickly became revered as 'a real driver's car'.
The good news, on the evidence of a whistle-stop 300km test spin in southern Spain, is that, in its latest incarnation, it still provides that same driving pleasure. On the other hand, its intended 'globalisation' has resulted in some softening of the ride in some versions, to make it more appealing, one assumes, to the mass market and to US drivers in particular.
Strangely, this was most noticeable in the 1.6-litre Eco Boost (182PS) petrol version. Over a mix of road surfaces, including stretches of undulating terrain, it occasionally displayed an almost (but not nearly as dramatic) Renault-esque wallow, more reminiscent of a bygone era. However, swapping into the 2-litre TDCi, 6-speed powershift automatic version provided comforting confirmation that the car still largely retains its more familiar and undeniably taut DNA, even if some reservation was expressed about the manual gear change, accomplished by pushing buttons located on the side of the gear stick. While the change itself was seamless, the effect wasn't half the fun it could be!
Nonetheless, the always-satisfying driving experience is maintained (Ford would say enhanced) by new features such as advanced torque vectoring control, fitted as standard, and a new electric power-assisted steering system which proved terrifically precise and sensitive.
The new Focus range is awash with other innovative technological enhancements, too, which include stop-start, lane departure warning system, anti-tiredness driver alert system, traffic sign recognition, active park assist, emergency brake lighting and much more besides. Most impressive of all, perhaps, is a low-speed safety system that will brake and bring the car to a halt in the likelihood of a low-speed collision.
Unfortunately, the technology available in the range will be limited here, in order to underpin competitive pricing (from an estimated ¿22,000 for the entry level, 1.6-litre turbo diesel 95bhp). However, most of the 'goodies' installed in the vehicles tested will be available in add-on packages likely to range in price from an additional ¿500 to ¿750.
As most of the new systems have been designed with safety in mind -- for little more than the cost of metallic paint -- they would be well worth considering.
Inevitably, the consequence of this plethora of technology -- apart from a brochure now rivalling the size of the road manual itself -- is a densely clustered, jet-like cockpit, which may prove somewhat overwhelming for some at first.
Comfort, though, has not been compromised and particularly impressive was the almost complete absence of road noise even at speed and, for spells, in rainy conditions.
The car will make its debut here in April ranging in spec from entry level to Style to Zetec and Titanium in a three-model line-up of 5-door hatchback, 4-door saloon and 5-door wagon. Even on a brief encounter, the Focus continues to earn its place close to the top of any prospective shopping list.