Fleet NewsNet is no stranger to the Focus, having tested the estate, saloon and a hatchback. And they have won unanimous praise. The latest addition to our fleet is the 1.6 Zetec auto. The three-door has more poise than its five-door equivalent, with its rounded body looking to sit more comfortably on the wheels which, if not fancy alloys, always look too small. Thankfully the Zetec comes with some great looking alloys and outwardly the car is a real eye catcher. It's been a long time since I found anything wrong with the build quality of a Focus and this car continues the tradition.
The sports-style front seats caused some aches initially, but now my spine must have bent suitably and there have been no gripes in the last 400 miles. The driving position, with a little fiddling with the lumbar support, is now spot-on. One niggle has been the position of the seatbelt holder. Even with the seat back as far as it will go, you have to reach a fair distance behind you to get hold of it.
But with an auto the driving is a crucial. Why have an auto? Is it for the no-fuss driving experience? I've yet to find out. Managing revs when accelerating takes practice and is something I'll watch as I try to bridge the gap between my mpg rate and Ford's combined figure. This becomes crucial if you have the choice between the auto's 35.3mpg and the manual version's 40.4mpg.
The auto's CO2 emissions figure is 200g/km and the manual 165g/km. In other words, one qualifies for the lowest tax charge of 15% and the auto comes in seven percentage points higher. Unless I can improve the returns and the smoothness of the drive, I will be left with serious doubts about the value of an auto Focus.