Friday 17 November 2017

A Focus to sway the ABFs

The Ford Focus estate offers a practical, roomy and attractive package, but it is also quite pricey in comparison to its competitors, writes Campbell Spray

BREATHTAKING: The Ford Focus Estate Titanium scores with its beautiful handling
BREATHTAKING: The Ford Focus Estate Titanium scores with its beautiful handling

FORDS may not be the most coveted cars on the road. The very name seems to resonate with ordinariness. Not for nothing did Douglas Adams call one his most brillinat creations Ford Prefect because it would be "nicely inconspicuous."

If Henry could insist that initial models of his most famous car could be had in any colour as long as it was black, many drivers' aspirations are to eventually move away from the famous blue oval to almost anything else.

Just as there are legions of ABU fans, the world is also full of ABFs. In this they might be trying to escape the herd -- Ford is this year's third biggest car supplier in Ireland and top overall for all vehicles -- yet this can be short-sighted. You don't get to be such a global success story by making duff cars , although there have been one or two along the way. Ford has represented rock solid value for generations. But with all that heritage, it is sometimes easy to forget what a wonderful drive its range of cars gives. Ford also has some of the most attractive cars on the market.

On most nights, our dog's final walk takes us past a main Ford dealer on Dublin's North Circular Road. It is a pure pleasure to look at the beautiful Ford Fiesta and admire the rock solid credentials of the massive Mondeo.

While I have never been a great fan of the design of the lozenge-shaped Focus, its development and my heart are converging. It is a stunning success story. At its launch earlier this year, there was much talk about how good the estate version of the Focus would be and the way it might attract converts to this body style which up until recently was seriously neglected here.

No more. The move to crossovers has meant that the urban SUV has really had its day and, in doing so, has opened up the delights of estates. No more are they the boxy boringness personified by old Volvos.

Cars such as the new Mondeo-sized Hyundai i40 have brought the estate to the forefront of our consciousness. The Focus estate at entry prices of €21,925 now arrives to join this charge. It is such a practical, roomy and attractive package that it is bound to win sales even within the overall Focus market. However, while some fantastic technology is available across the Focus range, it can make the overall package quite pricey and it suffers in comparison to some competitors.

Yet where the Focus Estate scores again and again -- just like its hatchback sibling-- is with its precise and beautiful handling.

It almost takes your breath away to find out just how well Ford has developed this aspect of its cars and the Fiesta, Focus and Mondeo lead their sectors in this regard.

The Ford Focus Estate Titanium which I drove had a 1.6 diesel engine and six-speed manual gearbox. Bluetooth and USB was an optional extra at €200 to make €25,475 excluding the ridiculous delivery and related charges. If you want the Parking Pack which includes Reverse parking sensors and power-folding mirrors it costs another €300; while for another €250 you can include the excellent Active City Stop, a feature which is incredibly rare in this sector. I believe that all three things should be standard on the Focus Estate, but that's for another week's work.

For pure driving precision, it will be hard to beat but for more interesting specs, comfort and an enhanced premium feel, there is a lot of competition at the price you need to pay. For example the Hyundai i40 executive version with its five-year warranty is in the next sector up and until the end of the year is €26,495.

Yet the Focus Estate is a car I will be happy to drive again and again.

Sunday Independent

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