The all new Ford Focus by Philip Hedderman in Cadiz
- 03 February 2011
- 2 Comments
By Philip Hedderman in Cadiz
It’s not often you get an invite to a royal event.
Yes, we here at the next gear were summoned to witness the rebirth of a King.
The royal highness in question – the new Ford Focus.
For the last 12 months the car industry has been obsessing about whether the No 1 hatchback in the world would retain its title.
Well, the wait is over.
The blood has been mopped up and the crown placed upon the head of a worthy winner.
It wasn’t much of a fight though and the winner was never really in question.
You see, when it burst onto the scene in 1998 the radical new Focus turned automotive engineering on its head – blending steering precision, road feedback with the most refined handling ever seen in a family hatchback.
Fast forward to 2011 and almost 100,000 Irish sales later (10 million worldwide) and the boys at the Blue Oval badge have done it again.
But they had their work cut out as improving on near perfection isn’t easy.
So how and what did they do?
Well for a start it’s longer, slimmer and more squat to the ground adding to the dynamic drivability.
It is that very drivability which revolutionised motoring making Focus the benchmark for all other marques to strive too.
This time round, the German uber-masters decided to match the driving excellence with state-of the-art technology – only seen in luxury limos.
Most of the gadgetry is not something that you can see or touch but is again laying down a marker to all that this is, indeed, the future and will one day become standard features on all passenger cars.
One such electronic piece of wizardry is the Torque Vectoring Control System which comes as standard.
It enhances cornering stability and maintains control of the vehicle in all weather and road conditions.
In plain, simple language it means that by the time the skidding icon lights up on the dash it has worked its magic and most probably has saved your life – and you can’t put a price on that.
Other key innovations include the Low Speed Safety System (or an anti-rubber necking device).
Available for the first time in a Ford, sensors detect that the driver is not aware of a sudden danger and stops the car automatically if it senses an imminent collision under 30kph.
Active Park Assist (which parallel parks the car at the push of a button), Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Aid, Traffic Sign Recognition (telling you what speed zone you are in), Auto High Beam, Driver Alert and Adaptive Cruise Control.
Unfortunately all of the above are optional extras but they are reasonably priced at between €500-700 when you consider that metallic paint costs that.
Some would argue that the first time the rubber necking brake kicks in it has saved you four times the price of fitting it.
Safety is also a big winner here as Ireland’s favourite is built with more high-strength steels than any previous Ford, and a new generation of advanced airbag systems.
Looks-wise the 5-door gets a few styling lessons from its outgoing ST brother with a striking front end, sleek profile, dramatic rising belt line giving a more muscular, sportier look.
Sadly fans of the 3 door will be hugely disappointed as it’s been consigned to history, but the saloon and estate versions are in the pipeline as is a savage new RS.
Inside the modern, cockpit-style interior, with the compact centre console with a Sony music centre wrapped around the driver and illuminated with retro blue low lighting, adds a real touch of class to the whole experience.
That experience is, of course, the drive.
It took to the winding mountain roads of Southern Spain with ease devouring corner after corner.
Rugged terrain really suited the petrol which came into its own in a series of uphill, downhill twisting roads which brought out the best in the zippy 1.6 litre ecoboost engine.
It relished the driving rain and never once did driver or co-pilot feel nervous about this car’s ability in such dangerous conditions.
Motorways were heaven and were savoured in an almost silent cabin – such is the smoothness of the diesel power plant.
That smoothness does dampen down the excitement a little and die in the wool Focus fans may even feel a little cheated.
Because it feels more Mondeo than Focus it does loose a smidgen of character.
You can blame yourselves for that as the chief engineer and designer both claimed that survey after survey said that Focus owners biggest complaint was that the car was not comfortable enough.
That said, luxury does have a tendency to grow on you and I doubt you’ll quibble too much.
Due in showrooms in April the new Focus will come in three diesels and one petrol.
The Irish line up will be the 1.6 litre TDCi 95bhp or 115bhp (both band A with stop start technology €104 road tax) 2.0 litre TDCi 115 bhp auto or the 1.6 litre VCT 125bhp petrol (tax band B – €156 a year).
Ford boss Eddie Murphy is remaining tight lipped about the price but we reckon the 1.6 diesel (95bhp) will be around €22,100.
Standard kit on the basic offering include ESP with traction assist, body coloured bumpers, mirrors and spoiler remote central locking capless refuelling and USB connectivity.