Fleet News

Ford Focus estate 1.6i Zetec



THE trouble with the Focus is its looks. Before it actually arrived on the scene last October, pre-launch press pictures caused pundits to suck in their breath and wonder whether Ford had made an Edsel-sized blunder with the replacement for Britain's most popular family car, the Escort. They all agreed it had striking lines, interesting curves, and was radically different to everything else on offer in the hugely competitive medium car sector, especially the retiring Escort (which Ford continued to insist was not actually being replaced by the Focus, as sales would continue in tandem).

But would fleet and family buyers shrink away at the sight of all these crisp exterior edges and sharp intersections? And would they turn and run for the nearest Escort Finesse when the doors opened wide to reveal a shrink-wrapped cockpit designed with occupants in mind? There was a collective sigh of relief when the range was seen in the flesh for the first time. Somehow it didn't look so odd on the road. After the inaugural Focus drive, relief turned to the closest motoring journalists are likely to get to euphoria. Here was a car which lived up to almost everything its maker had been saying about it for months. No wonder it won the European Car of the Year Award.

It was functional, versatile, comfortable, well equipped and drove wonderfully. And when prices were announced, anyone who thought there'd be a catch to compensate for the most innovative volume car offering for many years was pleasantly disappointed. But - as has been observed by other Fleet NewsNet road testers - less than six months after its UK debut the Focus has started to blend into the background. People are no longer gawping at it and pointing rude fingers.

This disappearing trick may be part of a cunning design plan, but it's a plan which may have worked too well. Of course, Focus was intended to raise standards and expectations, and it has achieved both for the general benefit of buyers. But any car which started life raising eyebrows and which so quickly fails to draw comment could find itself slipping back into the public perception of what a family car should be - ordinary. And that means it will always be chasing Volkswagen Golf shirt tails rather than jogging alongside.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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