03 October 2011

DRIVEN: Ford Focus

A practical, well equipped all-rounder. One of the best around.

FOR me, the Ford Focus will always hold a fresh memory in my head. This is because it was the very first car I got behind the wheel and learnt to drive in.

I was 18 years old when I began my driving lessons. I felt privileged to driving a brand new Ford Focus on my driving lessons. When you compare it to others being in smaller cars like the: Nissan Micra, Honda Jazz, Vauxhall Corsa and the Ford Fiesta.
When I was learning to drive in a Focus at the time. I did find it quite daunting on driving a car of this size. But this actually helped me a lot better on making judgements behind the wheel. Such as parking and manoeuvring. It meant that driving smaller cars should be a doddle; also having more confidence in driving larger cars.Back to the car, the Focus I drove was the latest model at the time. As the rather anonymous looking second generation model got a sharp new look. Most notably with the jewel shaped headlights, and sharper creases on the shoulder line of the car. Bringing it in line with the latest Mondeo with Ford's Kinetic design language being brought in. Ford also tidied up the Focus. With the removal of the mouldings on the doors, and the side repeaters being moved onto the re-designed door mirrors.

Common sense pre-vails the Focus as a small family car should. All the switches are where they are and within reach. It's easy to get comfortable behind the wheel with a multi adjustable driving position. The seat can go up and/or move back. Also with the reach and rake steering wheel adjustment, so all types of drivers can get comfortable.

There's also plenty of space on board for passengers in the rear. There's also a decent-sized boot as big, wide and well-shaped with a low load lip. Which makes it handy for loading bulky items. Inside, the Focus is a sober suited affair with a Germanic interior. There is a feel of quality inside with the soft-touch plastics. I dare say, it feels as well made as the Audi A4 my father used to own. Though time will tell if it really is a well made car.

The Titanium spec Focus is the range-topping model. It's jam-packed full of kit on board. Electric windows front and rear, alloy wheels, rain sensing windscreen wipers, Sony CD/MP3 player and tinted rear windows. In fact, the Titanium models are replacements for the Ghia models (in the UK to date). From now on, the Titaniums are top of the range models in Ford's cars.

On the move, it doesn't take long to realise there is a feel good factor when driving the Focus. As with previous Fords I've driven and written reviews on - or in the case being other Fords I'll drive in the future, when I drove the Focus.

It's a great handling car with sharp, precise and nicely weighted steering. Engaging the driver with positive feedback. The turn in is sharp and composed with plenty of grip and little body roll. Most cars that handle well usually come at an expense of a firm ride. It isn't with the Focus as the soft and well-damped suspension gives it a rather supple ride. Altogether, a nice blend of driver enjoyment and ride comfort.

The 1.6 litre petrol engine powering the Focus is a good all-round unit. It's not going to blow your face off but it's a willing and spirited performer nonetheless. It doesn't feel like a strain is being put on the engine when driven at higher speeds.

It's hard to fault the Focus in general but there are only minor gripes. One is with the gearbox. There's not actually anything bad about the gearbox in general, because it goes through the gears nicely with crisp changes. But this is a common thing with Ford's 5-speed gearboxes. What it is that it sometimes doesn't slot into gear when you select reverse. You can hear a grind noise to let you know the gear hasn't slotted in. The car also won't move back if you lift the clutch onto its biting point whenever this occurs. As mentioned, it's a only a minor gripe.

When you compare the Focus to other cars in the hatchback sector. There are more eye-catching or exciting cars like the Honda Civic, the Fiat Bravo and the Seat Leon for example. The Focus in comparison, looks rather conservative. But that's no bad thing because it's far from being an ugly car.

To sum it all up, the Ford Focus is a sensible all-round, small family hatchback that's fun to drive. With Ford's blue chip second hand values and a dealer in virtually every town. It's little wonder the Focus is Britain's best selling car.


Model tested
Ford Focus 1.6 Titanium
5 door hatchback
1.6 litre, DOHC 16 Valve, 4 cylinder
5 Speed Manual
98 bhp
111lb ft
11.5 seconds
Top Speed
112 mph
Electric windows (front & rear), electric mirrors, alloy wheels, quick clear windscreen, rain sensing wipers, Sony CD/MP3 player, remote central locking, privacy glass, rear spoiler, alarm, front fog lights, steering reach and rake adjustment, ABS, PAS

Photos © Ford Motor Company

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