Fleet News

Ford Focus 1.8 TDi LX estate

Ford

Review

WE all say it: there's no such thing as a bad car these days. Manufacturers say it with pride, fleet managers with relief, and journalists with a certain amount of disappointment - after all, there's nothing better to jump-start the grey matter than getting stuck in to an automotive disaster area.

But the worst any of us is likely to encounter is unimaginative use of black plastic, a noisy diesel or failure to live up to ambitious marketing claims. That said, there are still people in our industry who find it difficult to admit that the Ford Focus range is as good as it actually is, almost a year after its launch as the not-the-replacement-for-the-Escort.

Distinctive New Edge design brought fresh looks to the lower-medium class when the Focus three-door and five-door hatchbacks arrived in October last year. They also delivered class-leading fuel economy and extensive security and safety features in a clever package which included the stiffest and lightest body structure in the segment with all-round independent suspension for a happy marriage of functionality, refinement, comfort and fun.

Cynical hopes were raised with the introduction of the saloon and estate in February - no joy there either. The saloon may have come in a Ghia cardigan for its low volume target market, but the Focus's inherently good characteristics were left intact. And in the wagon, neither its extra length nor rearranged independent multi-link suspension, designed to minimise luggage compartment intrusion into the otherwise flat and squared-off load deck, upset the ride. The rear section looks as if it belongs to the Focus when it could have been a stitched-on compromise.

Ford's obvious determination not to detract from what is without doubt a brilliant hatch design for the sake of other market-demand derivatives may explain why the Focus family growth appears to have slowed. Long before the hatchback's launch there were hints that the platform was to be used for mini-MPV, performance, sport utility, light commercial and 4x4 vehicles as well. Our information is that a Renault Scenic rival would have been next off the block had it not been for General Motors' cunning Astra-based seven-seater Zafira launched in May. A people-carrier living up to the Focus mission statement of 'taking Ford a step beyond - beyond the competition in terms of design, package, driving dynamics, comfort, fuel economy and cost of ownership' could, therefore, be two years away. The Frankfurt and London motor shows may provide the answer to where Focus goes next.

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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