The attention the Focus - a recent addition to the Fleet News long term test fleet - has received is incredible. Motorists and passers-by all look at the car admiringly - clearly the volume of advertising is having a significant impact. But, I am confused - simply because I have not seen another Focus on the road even though the new car sales figures show the Focus to have been the ninth best-selling car in the UK last month and the fifth best-seller in the fleet sector.
So the Focus is starting to get out on the roads. The likes of Vauxhall, with its worthy but hardly aspirational Astra, Peugeot with the ageing 306, Volkswagen with the tried and trusted Golf, and Renault with the hardly new Megane must be worried. Without doubt the Focus is the style car in the sector, but it is not just on looks that it wins. Ride and handling are top notch and in the present tricky greasy conditions the 100PS car with a 115mph top speed retains its poise on cross-country routes with effortless ease.
Stability is assisted by the car's long wheelbase which also ensures top-notch internal space for driver and passengers alike. However, the size of the boot is a disappointment - golf clubs, for example, have to be carried on the back seat. While on the subject of space internal storage pockets are a disappointment and those that do exist are hardly practical for containing the likes of maps and cassettes.
Apart from those gripes driver and passengers should be well satisfied with the ergonomics of the car. The high roofline adds to the feeling of spaciousness and all the controls - which include column mounted audio controls and dashboard mounted boot release - are close at hand. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, 'Quickclear' windscreen, fully adjustable steering wheel and driver's seat - finding a comfortable position should not be a problem - and twin airbags. Confusingly, Ford appears to have introduced two levels of Ghia badging with the Focus.
The 2.0i 16v which costs ú1,000 more on the road than the 1.6i 16v we have on our fleet (ú14,350) boasts ABS, traction control, electric rear windows, global window closing, CD autochanger, fuel computer and 15in alloy wheels over our test car. That amounts to a very tidy package for an additional ú1,000 and points to the fact that while the Ghia badge signifies the ultimate in features there is Ghia badging and Ghia badging.
To date it has been an enjoyable near 600 miles and we'll report later on issues such as fuel consumption and wholelife costs. The cost column was not helped by our staff snapper 'losing' a wing mirror while trying to photograph the car, leaving us with a bill for ú110.55 - ú40.41 for the mirror, ú8.84 for the mirror back, ú35 for painting and ú27.30 for fitting.