Focus on success

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With a range of ultra low emission engines and loaded with technology, including Auto-Start-Stop and options like Active Park Assist, Ford’s Focus sets a fresh benchmark in quality and safety. Jonathan Crouch reports

With 10 million sales since it was launched in 1998, Ford has taken no chances with this latest incarnation of its huge selling and commercially important Focus family hatch. Building on traditional strengths, this model is safer, looks better, has lower emissions, better fuel economy and is even more comfortable.

Add up all the points when it comes to buying a Family Hatchback and it’s long been hard to escape the conclusion that a Ford Focus might well be your best bet. For Ford, the problem is that most potential buyers don’t add up all the points. They’re swayed by rivals that are better looking, have higher-tech engines, offer more equipment or record more frugal fuel figures in some variants. So Ford went back to the drawing board and brought us the third generation Focus model we’re looking at here.

In this sector, smart styling is essential and the stylish coupe-like design not only looks appealing but is day-to-day practical. Most will choose the five-door hatch but saloon and sleek estate models are also offered. There is no stinting inside either, with particular attention paid to the materials used. The result is that everything you touch feels like it belongs in a far more expensive car. Here is a better-looking, better equipped, higher-tech and more frugal Focus. Yet one that keeps all the good things common to the original. Make no mistake: if you’re shopping in this sector, this is a car you have to try.

Low emission variants are the highlight of the Focus engine range, starting with the 1.6-litre EcoBoost all-aluminium petrol engine available in 150 and 180PS versions. Other petrol variants include the 105 and 125PS 1.6-litre Duratec Ti-VCT, while the diesel offerings feature the updated 1.6 and 2.0 litre Duratorq TDCI units. The smaller diesel comes in 95 and 115PS guises, with a revamped combustion system, smarter fuel injection and a turbocharger. The 115PS diesel features a handy overboost, taking peak torque from 270 to 285Nm for effective overtaking and harder acceleration. The 2.0-litre Duratorq TDCI comes in three variants, offering 115, 140 and 163PS and there’s the option on these engines of a clever dual-clutch automatic.

Through the years, the Focus has always catered for drivers who enjoy their motoring and won plaudits for its ride, drive and handling. To try and move things on again, there’s a whole new electric Power Assist steering system tuned to stay light and easy on the arms in traffic and when parking, but which gives secure, confidence-inspiring feedback at higher speeds.

There’s also a clever feature which Ford call their Advanced Torque Vectoring Control System. This automatically and constantly balances the distribution of torque to the driven front wheels for better grip. Cleverly, the system sends a little bit of braking to the wheel that is on the inside of the corner as you accelerate out. Which means you can turn and accelerate in a corner with greater confidence and grip, valuable when conditions are wet or greasy.

Swooping, coupe-style looks make you forget the lack of a three-door variant in the range and give the car a level of style and design that help it punch above its weight aesthetically. For Ford, it’s all part of a design ethos which they say makes the car look like it’s moving, even when it’s standing still. For the rest of us, the time and attention paid to the car’s looks ensures that while this is a volume product, it’s far from bland and a much more interesting car to look at as well as to drive.

Bodystyle choice is between 5-door hatch, estate and saloon.

The overall shape is enhanced by a front screen with a steeply angled rake. It’s all detail that pays witness to the amount of time the Ford engineers spent in the wind tunnel while designing the car. The Focus competes in a tightly fought part of the car market and prices compare favourably with key rivals like Vauxhall’s Astra, Renault’s Megane and Peugeot’s 308.

Running costs are kept at bargain basement levels thanks to a range of engines designed to give the lowest CO2 and particulate emissions. Buyers also benefit from lower insurance bills and fewer trips to the bodyshop for minor repairs, plus spare parts will be plentiful, readily available and competitively priced.

Ford needed to remind buyers just how good its Focus still is - and this third generation model does just that.

Contact your local Ford dealer to check out the Focus.