Sheer versatility from Ford’s new third generation Focus


Ford’s third generation Focus is at its best when a diesel engine is plumbed under its bonnet. Andy Enright explains why.

Few cars approach the sheer versatility of a diesel Ford Focus. Offering excellent economy, a beautiful standard of fit and finish, some incredible high-tech options and a high quality of ride, the Focus diesel has crept upmarket but still offers something very special at a relatively proletarian price.

Given that diesel cars made up 46 per cent of new car sales in 2010, take a guess at the percentage of new Ford Focus sales that will be accounted for by diesel models. 50 per cent?

Maybe 60 per cent? Not even close. According to Ford, fully 80 per cent of Focus sales will be diesel powered, relegating petrol engines to the role of bit part players.

The reasons for this aren’t hard to grasp. The diesels offer better economy, lower emissions and higher residual values.

While these factors are present in the purchasing decisions of private buyers, add the service charges and bulk discounting rates that are crucial to a fleet manager’s calculations and it’s clear that the Focus, despite becoming a higher quality proposition in third-generation guise, still needs to make these numbers work in its favour.

The latest Focus; front end looks a good deal more aggressive than that of its rather low-key predecessor, with gaping triangular front air intakes that wouldn’t seem out of place on an RS model.

Closer inspection reveals them to be mere plastic blanking plates but between them is what Ford dubs its dynamic shutter grille that can close at speed to improve aerodynamics. The rear lights are an intricate design that integrates with the fuel filler cap on the right side of the car.

These also contrast with the less extrovert rear window treatment. The estate version is extremely well proportioned, with a shrunken-Mondeo silhouette.

The interior is a massive step forward in terms of materials quality and fit and finish from its already solid predecessor.

Some commentators have claimed that the Focus has targeted the Volkswagen Golf, but the interior is a far more extrovert design than you’ll find in any Wolfsburg vehicle.

The centre console looks busy but it’s fairly easy to figure everything out quickly and the Sony stereo in the upper spec models is a very classy touch.

The PowerShift gearchange does away with the clutch pedal but also does without paddle shifters behind the steering wheel which seems something of an odd omission.

Some of the options offered on the Focus are the sort of thing only seen on flagship supersaloons not so long ago.

The park assist system, which guides you into a parking space, is one and then there are five systems that use a set of inbuilt cameras. These comprise Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Aid, Driver Alert, Traffic Sign Recognition, and Auto High Beam.