Putting the Focus on value
The latest Ford Focus is very pleasant to drive - but the big specification has a high price
SINCE its launch 16 years ago the Ford Focus has sold more than 115,000 units here. That's double the number of new cars sold in 2009, and nearly as many as will leave the showrooms this year. It's some achievement, especially when there is such brand snobbery out there and there has been a massive onslaught on Ford - not only from traditional foes like Toyota, Opel and Volkswagen but now from Korea with Hyundai and Kia as well as from the premium sector above it.
Much of its success is down to producing cars that are both easy to understand and extremely pleasant to drive. In recent years they have been specced up substantially, especially with safety equipment and connectivity. Ford have been at the forefront of helping safety technology trickle down from the premium sector, especially to what is called the C-Segment in which the Focus resides and is the largest cohort of drivers on the country's roads. Among the firsts for the Focus were technologies such as the life-saving Electronic Stability Control, Active City Stop and Active Park Assist.
Last month the latest version of the Focus was launched here and it stands wider and lower with stronger, more sculpted looks. It has always been a car with great handling - perhaps the best in its class - and is even better now at delivering an extremely responsive and connected-to-the-road feel.
I was testing the Focus over the St Patrick's Day holiday plus the following weekend and it was mostly a joy. The test model was powered by the award-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost 125PS Turbo petrol engine, which is very smooth and powerful with great gear rations for which you need to keep an eye on the revs as it is too easy to stay in lower gears, with a consequent detrimental effect on consumption. It is more an urban engine, for while there is plenty of power on motorways you will notice it drinking the fuel.
There is very little wrong with the new Focus, although I felt rather cramped and claustrophobic sitting in the back, and it really comes down a matter of brand and price. For although the Focus starts at €20,295 the Titanium spec model of the five-door hatchback I was driving comes in at €5,000 more.
However, when a number of options such as leather interior, 8" touch screen and automated parking system are added in the price is touching €30,000. This is heady territory for such a car but - in truth - is where the Volkswagen Golf soared to (and above).
At that price there are a lot of options and if I was putting my own money out it would be in the direction of the Volvo V40 for a premium model or start looking at what you get with a Hyundai i30, Toyota Corolla or Kia Cee'd. For that money you will also get an awful lot of pre-reg cars or top-rate second-hand models.
The Ford Focus is safe, solid, responsible and great drive, but look elsewhere before you opt for the old reliable.