New Ford Focus looks sure to maintain popularity

So just how do you replace a car that is as perennially popular as the Ford Focus? That must have been the dilemma facing the blue Oval when they embarked on the design for the third version of the Focus.

If the aim was not to frighten the buyers with too radical a change, then the new Focus fits the bill. Its appearance is more evolutionary than revolutionary. Yet there is enough about the design to give the new model a fresh appearance.

Ford Focus

This time we are told is that the new car will definitely be much the same on both sides of the Atlantic. Until this new model, the American Focus had been based on the original iteration of the Focus, but, even then, it diverged considerably from that design.

The new Ford Focus, we are told, will be a ‘world car’ going on sale around the globe in very much the same form. The one difference will be that – to suit local preference – the USA will have a saloon version, while here we will only have hatchbacks, estates and maybe a convertible in due course.

I’ve now had the chance to drive three versions of the new model, starting with the Ford Focus 1.6 Duratec, the 2.0 TDCi and the 1.6 Ecoboost Estate.

In general terms the package is very much as before. After all if you have a success in your hands, there is no sense in alienating buyers by changing a successful formula. So, Ford has been careful to make sure there is nothing about the looks to scare loyal Focus buyers. The result is a range of cars that really look good, inside and out, with only a couple of minor caveats.

The rear lights look a little over fussy to my eye, the way they sweep down the sides of the car, and that centre panel on the dashboard looks just a little like someone was trying too hard. That said, the choice of materials for the interior is good and gives the Focus quite an up-market feel.

But it wasn’t this that I noticed first when I got into the new Focus. Two of the three cars I have driven, had a sizeable housing affixed to the centre of the windscreen at the top – behind the rear view mirror. Initially I was concerned it might actually encroach on my area of view, but in reality it doesn’t.

It contains the equipment the sensors and cameras for the £750 ‘Driver Assistance Pack’ that includes lane-departure warning and lane-keeping aid, plus the road sign recognition camera. The pack also includes auto high beam, blind spot warning and the ‘city stop’ system. This automatically applies the brakes at city driving speeds, if it detects an obstruction, for example a car in front that has stopped unexpectedly.

The road sign system is not infallible. I noted, with a little amusement, that it read the 10 mph sign in the car park of a golf course I pass every day and rebuked me by flashing the 10mph speed limit for the next half mile!

Ford Focus Estate

Staying with options, the test cars also gave me a chance to try Ford’s active park assist. Similar to the system that I first tried on a Volkswagen Tiguan some years back, this helps hunt down parking places that are big enough for your car and does the steering for the reverse parking needed to get into them. This park assist is part of the £525 ‘Convenience Pack’ that also includes folding door mirrors.

Behind the wheel of the Focus feels a good place to be. The ergonomics are good and the controls all seem to have been finely tuned to work together, helping the driver to achieve smooth progress.

In some reports I have read suggestions that the steering is not as good as it was on the previous model. Perhaps I am not as perceptive as some, but I found the steering to be responsive and progressive, with a nice degree of weighting. The result is a car that you can enjoy driving in city traffic, on country by-ways or, indeed, on open main roads.

The economy champion of the group that I tested was the Ford Focus 2.0TDCi Powershift. This car was equipped with Ford’s six-speed automatic dual-clutch gearbox.

With 140 PS power output It is very slightly slower off the mark than its manual counterpart at 9.5 seconds, compared to 8.9 seconds. However (and perhaps more importantly these days) it is also slightly more economical. The Powershift model improves on the manual version’s 56.5 mpg and takes it to 53.3 mpg. Traditionally automatics have been thirstier, but this new generation of dual-clutch automatics are turning that norm on its head.

Emissions of 139 g/km put this the Powershift one band up the UK car tax into Band E above the manual version. The price of the Focus 2.0 TDCi Powershift is £20,750 – a premium of £1,255 over the manual model.

Ford Focus road signs

My reservation about this model was the rather ‘wooden’ feel to the accelerator when you press it at first. I suspect this encourages a lighter touch on the throttle, helping the car to achieve better fuel economy as a result.

Last of the three new Focus models was the attractive Ford Focus Estate 1.6T Ecoboost. I particularly liked this model. The estate car body suits the new Focus, but it also combined the more responsiveness characteristics of a petrol engine with reasonable fuel economy.

Acceleration on the 1,6T Ecoboost 0-62 is a very respectable 8.8 seconds. But – thanks in part to the stop-start system – the combined fuel consumption is still 47.1 mpg. Carbon dioxide emissions are maybe a little higher than a diesel, but still respectable at 139 g/km.

The three models I drove represent a pretty good cross-section of the new Ford Focus range and, based on my experience, I am very confident saying the latest Focus model will consolidate its position as a class leader.

Prices for the new Ford Focus hatchbacks ranges from £13,995 for the Focus Studio 1.6, through to £24,000 for the Titanium X 2.0 TDCi Powershift. The Titanium 1.6T Ecoboost Estate that I drove costs £20,845.

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