Fleet News

Ford Focus 1.6i 16v Ghia - 3,800 miles

Ford

Review

##fordfoc.jpg --Right##IT'S time I passed on the Focus 1.6i Ghia to someone who doesn't have to change cars so often. Just 360 miles have been added to the clock since my last long-term report, most of them in and around town which explains the test fuel consumption figure's downward slide.

While I haven't covered vast distances, I shall be genuinely sorry to lose this five-door hatch because it has been trouble-free, practical and good to drive. And even though there are now many more Foci on the roads than when ours arrived in November, it hasn't lost its visual appeal, inside or out. Its 'New Edge' design has widened the goalposts for all volume cars. Sharp exterior creases and curves extend to the interior where a stylised dash (plastic wood-effect in the Ghia) echoes the daring shape of the bodyshell. It works beautifully, with items such as the vents and main instruments well in the driver's line of sight.

The steering wheel adjusts for height and reach, providing as good a driving position as you are likely to achieve in any car. The Focus is full of thoughtful touches. Most-used controls and switches are prominently placed and well designed - for instance, the large format radio is placed above the heater controls on the facia centre, there are excellent column-mounted fingertip controls, and the boot release is set at 2 o'clock to the top of the steering wheel. Brilliant.

The seats are comfortable and well proportioned, with height adjustment as standard on the driver's side and generous fore-aft movement. In the back, there is ample headroom despite the coupe-look exterior and kneeroom is generous for the class. Minus points include the lack of cabin oddments storage and relatively poor rear visibility, although I've got use to that.

As a driver's car, it's at the top of the class. Because of its super-stiff bodyshell, the job of controlling wheel movement, and hence cornering, attitude and ride, is left more than any comparable car to the suspension. This allows the Focus chassis to be more stringently controlled: if you're not compensating for chassis flex, you can afford to tune spring and damper rates more effectively. It results in a dynamic package that betters, for instance, a Vauxhall Astra or VW Golf. The 1.6-litre 100bhp engine looks pretty average on paper, giving a 0-62mph time of 11.3 seconds and a top speed of 114mph, but it's the way it does it that sets it apart.

Focus's envelope of ability is broader that its rivals. If offers a more compliant low-speed ride with better bump absorption, and that goes hand in hand with tighter body control at speed. In the mid-range, the car's poise and agility is deeply impressive - almost as chuckable as a Puma but with the more restrained maturity of a Mondeo. It's a great car, and in many respects better than a Golf, but given the choice I would go for the VW - it's still got the image edge.

Gervais Seymour

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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