Test drive: 2011 Ford Focus 2-litre TDCi 140 Titanium & 1.6-litre EcoBoost 150 Titanium

The TotallyMotor Verdict

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2011 is a special year for Ford; marking 100 years of blue-oval-built cars in the UK, and the launch of their all-new Focus. And while 100 years doing anything is certainly something to shout about - unless you’re a professional drying paint watcher - it’s the new Focus that’s really the critical focus of Ford’s 2011.

So let’s get some facts and figures dealt with. The UK is the biggest market for the Focus with 1.4 million units sold here since the somewhat groundbreaking new wedge design first hit our city streets back in 1998. And with 1.4 million units sold it’s probably no surprise to hear that the Focus has been Britain’s best seller from 1999 to 2008, when it was beaten to the first place prize by another Ford; the Fiesta.

A popular and accomplished car indeed, and like a new band storming the charts with a cracking couple of albums, the pressure is on to keep the Focus troubling the top of the hit parade with this third, all-new incarnation. But times have changed. The midsize or ‘C-platform’ car market is packed with much more choice than before and, for the first time, the Focus is widely aimed at drivers all over the world, rather than being ‘tuned’ for the European market. She’s a ‘World Car’ now, don’t you know.

New Focus must now satisfy a broader, international church at the same time keeping its core British faithful, faithful. The preceding Focus set the bar high from every angle – great engines, a roomy and modern interior and a brilliant Jekyll and Hyde chassis that managed to deliver a car full of family in safety and blast your favourite back lanes with the kids at home and the road ahead empty. A tough act to follow.

Ford want and expect 90,000 Focuses to depart their UK dealers every year, but the wider sales picture now takes into account over 120 international markets and a predicted 2 million sales worldwide by 2012, with 80 per cent of Focus parts shared.

But, fear not, the Focus is still ‘our baby’ with the new car’s design led by Ford of Europe Product Development, so all those years of keeping-Britain-happy-experience should hopefully be found alive and well in the new car.

The reason for this new international Focus flavour is basically a cost-saving exercise, with Ford spending less on international market-specific model variations, instead focusing the ‘savings’ on more, and segment-leading, safety and comfort tech for us lucky punters, without big price hikes. Look for safety-names like Traffic Signal Recognition, Blind Spot Information System and Lane Departure Warning on similarly-priced cars and see what you get.

Well, it all certainly sounds good, so let’s tuck into our new Focus petrol (139g/km CO2) and diesel (129g/km CO2) TotallyMotor test drives for a bit of pudding-proving…



First impressions:
I must admit that I wasn’t initially overly sold on the new Focus styling – perhaps a little too quiet? But, having spent more time in the car’s company, both face-to-face and through a Nikon viewfinder, I have to say that it’s gently grown on me – an understated and gradual evolution of the last incarnation that’s still clearly the Focus we all know and many of us love. An engaging drive will also add to a car’s endearment factor, but more on that later.

On this new product launch the Ford PR team freely admit that they’ve kitted every test Focus with the top-spec 18-inch, 5-spoke alloys wheels, because, quite simply, the car looks better on the big rims, they say.

I agree. From the side, on the 18s and with the rear half of the car glass darkly tinted, the Focus comes across with a sleek and solid new style; high shoulders, flared wheel arches, ultra-modern lighting and all. For me, wheels really make a car, so I’d be looking for the 18-inchers on my new Focus, but, the big stuff only arrives, and as an option, on the standard-seventeen-shod Titanium or Titanium X trims. Entry-level Edge and next-stop-up and best-selling Zetec must make do with less fancy 16-inch alloys. Bear that in mind if you’re all about the alloys too.

Focus is offered as the 5-door you see here and an estate. 2012 will see the electric model in dealerships as well as the hot ST variant, and regarding the base-shape today, that ST should wear its performance addenda with some nicely brutal style.



Into the interior:
There’s a reassuring weight to the driver’s door as I pull it open to reveal the nearly top-spec Titanium interior; sliding down into the seat and I’m greeted by an airy and busy first view.

I make my road-ready adjustments first and find the driver’s seat slides back to where I need it; some distance from the steering wheel to fit long legs, but fortunately the steering wheel slides and tilts with enough adjustment to bridge the wide gap I’ve opened.

I drop the seat towards the floor a little, wind the seat-back back, adjust all the mirrors and then assess the comfort situation; and it’s very good. There’s no leather seating in this spec Focus - Titanium X gets partial leather - but these Titanium fabric seats offer excellent stationary comfort and most notably with side bolsters that run right up the driver’s back, really making me feel secure.

I also found that my head naturally met the headrest, and with the seat fully wrapped around me and the steering wheel, gear knob and handbrake all in easy ergonomic reach, I was quickly the most comfortable I’d been in any car I’ve recently driven. This bodes well for the road.

The dashboard and steering wheel are quite busy places in terms of switches and dials, but I’m sure most of this will become second nature during the first few weeks of ownership, while the all-important first impressions of fit and finish and material quality are nicely near the top end of the satisfaction scale. I was particularly taken by the baby-blue instrument needles.

Very comfortable and already beginning to feel ‘part of the car’ I prod ‘Power’ button – after I find it nestled out of line of sight behind the steering wheel – and the EcoBoost petrol quickly spins into life.



The petrol drive:
We’re in the 148bhp, 1.6-litre EcoBoost petrol engine to start with; there’ll be some feedback from our 138bhp TDCi diesel drive up next.

An easy snick into the first of six manual gears and we’re on our way into a damp and varied combination of roads, with country lanes, A-roads and motorways all sampled on this launch route. And most of them peppered with big, or really big, potholes.

The foot controls have a nice assisted-spring and smooth action to them, and an initial poke of the brakes returns a progressively firm pedal with prodigious stopping power.

The Focus trademark quick and accurate gearbox is happily once more apparent in the all-new car and once some speed is built-up the mpg-helping electronically-assisted steering reveals a natural-feeling weight and great driver-to-road engagement.

The suspension laps up the big, higher speed dips and bumps with ease but the 18-inch wheels shod with low profile rubber might leave the ride a little firm for some. But not for me; I’ll take a little stiffness in return for quicker cornering any day of the week. Regardless of wheel size, the road noise is well isolated and grip and composure are always where I wanted them to be, even in these less than perfect rain and snow-dampened conditions.

So, everything underneath the new Focus is delivering a pukka, Focus-familiar drive, with only the 148bhp, turbocharged engine left to prove itself. And it didn’t let the side down.

Now, 150bhp, or thereabouts, is a bit of a performance benchmark, with drivers expecting some excitement and reasonable economy, and the modern EcoBoost delivers both.

A small turbocharger adds a useable torquey punch (177lb ft) to the 1600cc engine, combining perfectly with the quick 6-speed gearbox to return decent pace – 62mph in 8.6secs - and respectable economy figures, at 47.1mpg and 139g/km CO2. Play with the ratios in the gearbox and the turbo-lag-less engine will bring a smile to your face, and not a too much of a frown at the petrol pumps.



The diesel drive:
My time with the petrol Focus left an impressive impression and I was keen to see what Ford had done with their diesel Focus package, especially in light of the UK’s growing appreciation for economical oil-burners. The 2-litre TDCi needed to be as refined as possible while returning a quick-shifting, torque-laden drive and much economy-eking. Again, promises were delivered upon.

Another small, quick-spinning turbo sits aside the Focus diesel engine, and this 138bhp motor brings bags of those quality diesel characteristics that savvy, modern-day diesel drivers have come to expect. Torque from nowhere in the revs, a gruff yet friendly soundtrack and an enjoyable, short-shifting wave of turbo torque that again worked perfectly with the so-easy-to-use 6-speed manual gearbox. The tailpipe-price for this quite-fast-fun is 129g/km, while economy is a healthy 56.5mpg on the combined.

After driving the petrol and diesel cars I chose the diesel car again as my Focus of choice for further snow-drenched mileage – it was just the perfect package for me. The driving position was spot-on, while the lag-free turbo-diesel engine partnered the gearbox with seamless collaboration - a cruiser and a hustler, depending on your mood.



Safety and gadgets:
Bluetooth with voice control, USB connection, DAB radio, Thatcham Category 1 alarm, body-colour rear spoiler (5-door), roof rails (estate), driver lumbar adjust and torque vectoring control are all standard features across the Focus range.

New technology to note includes a forward facing camera that can read and remind the driver of the current speed limit, which this driver found useful when signage wasn’t liberally sprinkled, as well as Lane Keeping Aid, Active City Stop, Driver Alert and Auto High Beam.

The new Focus is 15 per cent stiffer than the out-going car and 55 per cent of the structure is made from high strength and boron steel. Next-gen airbags can also be found.



Ten second sum up:
Understated and neat exterior design comes together with an excellent choice of modern, well-performing petrol and diesel engines, a quality and spacious interior, the latest safety gadgetry, and trademark driver engagement and easy driveability. These were the ingredients that made the previous Focuses a hit, and you’ll find them in the all-new car, too.



Prices and availability:
The Ford Focus starts at £15,995 OTR for the 1.6-litre petrol Edge 105 and £16,995 in the Zetec spec. The 1.6-litre petrol EcoBoost 150 Titanium comes in at £19,745 and £20,745 for the 2-litre TDCi 140. The top-spec 2-litre TDCi 163 costs £23,995 in Titanium X trim, £25,095 for the PowerShift Auto. Available now.

www.ford.co.uk




By Daniel Anslow 

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