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It’s taken a remarkably long time to get my hands on a Focus, probably testament to the speed with which used models are snapped up by the eager public. Hence I’ve seen heard and read all about it and become accustomed to the sight of its shape.

Ford have continued its long standing policy of getting rid of the last vestiges of its long standing favourites by not calling it the Escort MK97. This is fair enough as its no relation to the old stager, and the Escort name has probably lapsed to the level of permanent Lada land in most people’s eyes. Leaving just the old Fiesta name on the books.

(As an aside don’t you think it’s a joke how Toyota claim the Corolla is the best selling model of all time, have you seen the original rear wheel drive micro saloon for god sake)

Considering Fords problems when ousting old models and bringing in new the Focus comes from a remarkably fresh sheet of paper.

After the initial, oh my god I have to say it’s quite good looking, Ford have tried to pull off some radical styling touches in the last decade. Not all of them have worked but some of that’s may be down to Ford doing good things to one end and messing up the other, creating cars that did not quite sit together. Witness the Fish faced Scorpio or the Fat Assed KA. This time though Ford have put their money where their mouth is and styled the whole car into one Homogenious lump. Well for Silver hatchbacks at least.

The Hatch back does seem kind of colour sensitive the silver ones are stunning, the Black ones less so and some of the other colours perhaps best not chosen.

The style does not quite translate to the Estate in my eyes though losing much of the clean elegance of the design and the Saloon is to be frank a minger.

Inside harks back to uncle Henry’s any colour so long as it’s black. Black and more black. Though granted the silver flecks highlight the seats quite nicely. I don’t really have a problem with black interiors, its just all the more surprising that even in the gloom the inside appears (and is) very very roomy.

The interior may disappoint a little if the radical exterior has set your taste buds a glow, it presents little real new and original thought. But then again it won’t age overnight, it is ergonomically excellent and its simplicity of design translates to ease of use.

Plastics are of good quality curved and shaped nicely, tight fitting and soft to all the touchy bits.

All in all I have to give Ford top marks for the build and execution of this very important model


 

 


By the time the escort was heaving its last long overdue breath the car must have put on 500lbs in extra equipment alone since the original little saloon. The Focus is at least as well speced as any late model Escort, and probably better than most of its 30 odd year production. 

It’s a sign of the times that a mid range model of today is much better equipped than your old high end Ghia which was the height of luxury in many peoples eyes. Height adjustable seat, Head rests, Adjustable steering wheel, Adjustable height seat belts add up to a perfectly adaptable driving position for all but the vertically challenged or Lanky. Power steering as standard, ABS, Fog lamps the tick list goes on and on. 
What’s most impressive though is that it you really don’t care too much. With many cars your looking at the equipment trying to talk it up, sometime the equipment tries to make up for the cars lack of ability.
Not the Focus though

Biggest disappointment first. In a relatively small light car like a focus the 1.8 Zetec should give great gusto and with 115bhp at the top end you can wind it up to a stunningly over the top 123 mph. Given a heavy right foot you can sprint to 60 in 10.3 seconds. But come on is this really good.

The 1.8 is more powerful than a Mk1 Golf GTi ,XR3 or XR3i gives a higher top end than all of them , but gets out sprinted by all of them. Now forgive me for asking but don’t we have a speed limit?, No body as yet has legislated against acceleration – YET !.

I would happily swap 10mph for -1 second of 0 to 60.

More disappointing than that though is the lack of torque low-down. I don’t know whether, emission laws cause some of this lack of sharpness, or it’s a way of generating super static throttle economy figures. It really should have more mid range grunt than this.

On the other hand it’s a smooth, quiet, refined, fairly economical unit. It’s also reliable and long lasting.

Perhaps the lack of torque is deliberate, an attempt to focus you on one of the Focus’s highlights. Its snappy gearshift. 
The stick looks long but the movement is short and snicks into gear with lightning pace. The gearshift encourages you to rev the life out of the engine and use the gear stick to keep it singing just below the high red-line. Not exactly the expected behaviour of your average small family crammed hatchback.

 

Ford claimed at inception that the focus had some wonderful newly developed suspension layout. I can’t see what’s so new about it to anyone other than Ford my-self, but it’s of little consequence as the Area the Focus excels is in its suspension and handling. Not that its fantastic in absolute terms, more in the way It severely trounces the low to mid range opposition and re-write the definition of what small family hatchbacks should feel like. Remember this is not some psudeo-exotic GTi,XR,SRi badged variant. But a bog standard everyman version for the masses.

And it brings with it sharp steering, sharp handling and a ride balanced nicely between sporty hard and wallowing comfort. To be honest it feels knobbly only over roughly surfaced roads giving a more than acceptable ride quality at all times, but manages to corner seemingly flatly at most speeds with little bother.

The Steering maybe powered but not overly so, it still bears a weighty feeling once on the move giving the impression that you can feel the tyres biting into the road surface. It was not quite as delicate as I expected, but perhaps that’s just a case of one Audi to many lately.


The Suspension and balance is nicely honed so that the car does not feel very front wheel drive and the car hold off under steer with a great deal of determination. It’s difficult under normal circumstances just to get the front wheels squealing in that way that front drivers do when harshly steered around tight corners.

 

 

Fords have long not only topped the sales chart but also topped the thieving chart. To be fair there are so many Fords around the most cars nicked would only naturally be Fords. But Ford has made valiant efforts to cut the amount crime will effect the focus owner, Transponder keys, remote central locking, deadlock, immobiliser, Vin’s, just add an Alarm locking wheel nuts and visible wheel locking deterrent and there is little else you can usefully do, bar leaving a Rottweiler in the back seat.

Safety is well catered for as well with fittings you would expect to find in a model from a size class up. Twin airbags, High level brake lights, fog lights, side impact bars, pretensioned belts, three point in the rear, ABS, Halogen etc etc all add up to take a level of worry away from the perpetually nervous types.

 

It’s been a long time since Ford could claim to own this sector by virtue of its cars abilities. The Astra caused the Escort no end of grief and the Golf long out classed it.
Ford Escort sales may have been high but that was not because the Escort had any great ability.

But at long last the Focus puts Ford back in the driving seat in this massive and important sector of the market, with a car that will lead the sales charts and for once does it deservedly. 
Ford's Focus is roomy, economical, easy yet fun to drive, rides well goes well, stops and corners well, The only strange oddity I noticed was a rather large amount of tyre noise. That could have been a brand of tyre or the very cold weather exaggerating the loud thrumming noise, it did not seem to worsen with the windows open so I presume it was not just wind noise.

In that most important of questions it makes a Golf feel old fashioned, wooden and boring. For that alone it must be bang on target and a pretty good car.


 

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