Earlier this month I drove to Northern Ireland, giving me an ample opportunity to put the all new 2011 Ford Focus through it’s paces over a 1000 miles and varying roads. Here in Zetec spec, 1.6 115PS TDCI with stop/start, & fitted with the Appearance pack (tinted glass & 17″ alloys – £525), Metallic Paint (£525), and a Centre Console (£250), giving a total OTRP of £19,895
Despite the ‘all new’ tag, it’s still very recognisable a Ford Focus. Personally I’m a bit disapointed by this, when the Focus first came out, it was a bit of a shocker, and it seems a shame if you’re starting with a clean sheet, not to do something new with the car. The biggest clue it’s a new car besides the front bumpers is the rear lights have been moved off the rear C pillars and back on corner of the rear quarters.
This gives a bit of a mix on the styling, the front with the gaping (though 50% blanked) front bumpers looks pretty agressive even in standard trim (so any ST or RS version should look like it’s ready to rip your grandmas head off), yet the rear feels softer.
What we will be thankful with Ford for not messing with, is the Focus chassis, it still rides superbly, smoothing out imperfections in the road, yet cornering quite flatly at speed, and you can easily drive this faster than the TDCI badge suggests. It has the kind of balance I wish the ST I drove earlier in the year had. Unfortunately the electronic power steering means you pretty much no longer have a clue what the front wheels are doing.
Unfortunately that 115PS 1.6TDCI Duratorq lump is awful. Really awful. I can only imagine Ford have tuned this to suit the new CO emissions for the low £10 tax, it has an official figure of 109 Co2 but it’s ruined the car, and I’m not sure how they had the cheek to include ‘torq’ in the name as it has non. Stuck behind something at 40mph? Drop a cog, pick a gear, any gear, doesn’t really matter, you aren’t about to overtake whatever is in front. Overtakes involve planning and a run up. Come up to a giveway in second, want to live? Seriously stick it in first there’s no guts if left in second. I don’t think I’ve ever driven a car that daily requires you to drop it in to 1st on the move. Multiple times I found myself checking I wasn’t really pulling out of somewhere in 4th.
Just to prove how bad it was to myself, I tried the same slow moves in my BMW but it could actually do it in 4th never mind 2nd! Lower trim models are also available with a 95PS engine if you fancy suicide. I’m also afraid I got nowhere near the claimed 55-76mpg either (though I rarely do), the run up the M1/A1,A66,M6,A75 at the usual motorway/dual carriage way speeds saw it returning around 43mpg, taking it cross country in Ireland & actually ‘driving’ the car dropped it into the high 30s. Reports from a friend who’s driven the petrol suggest that’s as equally gutless too.
Oh, and did I mention the stop start system? I can see the point of these if you live in London, but I think the system needs a bit more intelligence, it just works on premise of no clutch & neutral, cut engine. So driving for 1.5hours non stop, pull up to the first roundabout, drop neutral for a moment, and it cuts the engine, just as you’re dipping the clutch again to go, rather than thinking hang about this is a very temporary stop. It also means it’s cutting it in the mornings when you’re bloody freezing and the engines still cold, so it’s there blowing cold air at you. Luckily there’s a button to turn it off, but I’d like a permanent override in mind, so that was off except for when I turned it back on again, for now I’ll stick with the system I use in the BMW, called the keys…
Inside the Focus has become a button fest, with not 1 but 2 control panels on the steering wheel (which isn’t the easiest to figure), plus audio & voice activation controls (pretty much useless as ever), then the radio console is an even bigger button fest with controls for the DAB, telephone…. I’m still not keen on plastic trying to look like shiny metal, but I’ll sound like a very broken record soon, and luckily it’s only on the steering wheel details.
This does at least mean it does come with what I count as ‘essentials’ in modern cars, DAB (as FM as being discontinued) BT handsfree, a USB port in the glovebox for your iPod/iPhone or USB drive along with an aux input. You can also stream audio over BT but like the old model Focus ST it still requires you to push play on the iPhone each time. Not sure why it can’t auto play like my 3yr old aftermarket JVC unit does with my iPhone.
At least up front it is comfy, the dash looks good, the speedo & rev counter are both in smart hooded binnacles & lit in an attractive white & blue. Put in a lot of mileage over the week without any experience of the dreaded ‘numb bum’, the only real criticism is knee room particularly for the passenger can be a bit ‘tight’. The centre console loses points for not being big enough to store a CD case or A5 map. The 12v power socket it also right back behind the gear lever. With the prevalence of sat navs, mobiles etc that get mounted to the screen, surely these should be closer? Finally had to succumb and buy a longer charging wire so could have my iPhone sat nav mounted to the screen in this car without the wire obstructing the gear change.
Fairly typical of modern cars, rear visibility is restricted by those heavy C pillars, particularly combined with tinted rear glass, but forward visibility is actually better than some I’ve driven of late, with the front A-pillar only being an occasional annoyance.
Safety wise, all models are fitted with a plethora of airbags, ABS, ESP, emergency flashing of brake lights under heavy breaking, and the Focus has earned itself a 5* NCAP rating. Luckily I didn’t have to test any of those features. Higher models can also be specified with Driver Alert in case of drowsiness, blind spot information, traffic sign recognition, auto high beam, & active city stop.
So overall, despite a few niggles, the new Focus is a good car, safe, practical, comfy, handles well, well equipped. Just not with that 1.6TDCI lump. It’s woefully underpowered. I await the new ST with interest though…