Our long-term Ford Focus has come in for some criticism in the past couple of weeks.
Not from me – I’m still very much smitten by the ownership experience – but from a friend.
His criticism? That the eight-inch infotainment touchscreen at the top of the centre console “looks stuck on”.
I can understand where he’s coming from. As in many manufacturers’ cars, the screen is surrounded by a piano black frame so it looks like a tablet, sitting proud atop the dashboard.
However, I disagree with him. Looks-wise, its modern appearance fits in with the rest of the cabin, while from a practical point of view it’s ideally positioned – it means you can see information such as sat-nav directions quickly and easily, taking your eyes off the road for the absolute minimum amount of time.
The ‘stuck on’ appearance also enhances the airy feel of the cabin: if the screen was in the same position but had the dashboard built up behind it, then this extra mass of black plastic could add a claustrophobic feel to the interior.
The screen display is sharp with all text and graphics easy to read, making the Sync 3 infotainment system, which includes digital radio, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, simple to operate.
The screen is also used by the rear wide-view camera, which is fitted to our test car as part of the optional convenience pack (£500).
All-round visibility in the Focus is pretty good anyway, but the camera, which gives an impressively detailed view in both the light and dark of what’s behind the car, makes parking a much simpler task.
This is fitted to our ST-Line X model as part of the optional convenient pack (£500) which also includes edge protectors and active park assist.
Our test car also features the optional blind-spot monitor with cross traffic alert and braking (£400), which monitors the road behind and either side of the car while reversing out of a parking space.
This has also been valuable, warning of any traffic coming from either side of the car before the driver could see it.
Two months and almost 4,000 miles into our long-term test of the new Ford Focus, and the traditional, new car ‘feelgood factor’ has not dimmed in the slightest: if anything, I’m a bigger fan of it now than when I first took the keys.
It’s continued to be a joy to drive – our ST-Line X model offers a great balance between comfort and sportiness, with the weight and accuracy of both its steering and gearshift particularly impressive.
Its sporty character is further enhanced by the revvy nature and power delivery of its 1.0 EcoBoost 125PS petrol engine.
The three-cylinder unit is also proving to be efficient. So far I’m averaging 48.7mpg, which sits in the middle of the WLTP fuel economy figures of 46.3mpg-49.6mpg.
The past month has also seen the Focus’s credentials as a family car put to the test. My brother and his family came over from Ireland for a week, so it was constantly on the move, ferrying children and adults on various daytrips. All were very complimentary about the amount of head and legroom they had.
The short spell of sunny weather also saw me place greater-than-usual demands on the Focus’s cargo-carrying ability.
One trip saw me take a bike to Thetford Forest for a spot of cycling on the woodland trails, while the Focus also swallowed two golf bags and trolleys when I hit the local links with a friend.
Both occasions saw me fold the rear seats down – a simple procedure, initiated through a lever positioned at the top of the rear seats. The only gripe would be that the slightly high boot lid made loading and unloading trickier than it could have been.
However, this is only a minor point with the Focus continuing to prove that it was a worthy winner of the best lower medium car honour at this year’s Fleet News Awards.
And it’s already made a big impression. Our model is in sporty ST-Line X trim level, and its optional Shadow Black paint (£550), standard 18-inch wheels, ST-Line bodystyling kit, twin exhaust tailpipes and red brake calipers gives it a purposeful, striking look.
This sporty image continues in the cabin, with dark headliner, red stitching on partial leather trim and alloy pedals complementing the exterior.
Fortunately from a fleet and company car driver’s point of view, it’s also efficient. Powered by a 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine producing 125PS, our Focus offers official WLTP fuel economy of 46.3mpg-49.6mpg. Over the first 1,000 miles of its time with me, it has averaged 48.9mpg.
Its CO2 emissions of 114g/km put it in the 26% benefit-in-kind tax band for 2019/20, and its P11D price of £24,420 means a 20% taxpayer will pay a monthly bill of £106.
So far there’s been plenty to commend our Focus for – I’m looking forward to finding out if this continues for the next six months.