This was the second major problem with a Focus while in the hands of Trev - a power steering pump failure blighted our Focus Tdi estate earlier this year. However, initial signs for the new addition are good. The Focus hasn't missed a beat in the 670 miles it has covered with us. In Ghia trim at ú15,000 on-the-road, the Focus is well equipped with air conditioning, electric windows and mirrors and quality-feel velour upholstery on the seats.
One downside of the top trim is the application of probably the most false 'wood' I have ever seen - it looks like a refugee from a 1970s' furniture showroom. Other than that, the interior remains a pleasant place to rack up the miles.
Moving outside, our Focus disappoints in several ways. This may just be my taste, but I think the saloon is an ugly looking car from the back end. Our model is also finished in a bright metallic gold paintwork which doesn't appeal much to me either.
In my opinion, if you want a Focus, order a hatchback - it's better looking and far more practical. On the bright side, where the Focus does impress, is in the most important area - driving impressions (a case of beauty being more than skin deep). The gearbox is light and positive, the engine has plenty of power low down and performance is excellent for a lower medium diesel.
Another area where the Focus impresses is in the handling department - the chassis responds immediately to steering input and the car can really be thrown into corners at a fair rate. While performance and handling are good, economy and carbon dioxide emissions do not suffer. Ford claims 52.3mpg on the combined economy cycle. So far, we have managed 43.3mpg in the 600-odd miles we have covered. However, I expect this figure to improve as the car gets more miles under its belt.
But for company car drivers, the real interest is in the Focus's carbon dioxide emissions - just 142g/km. This puts the Focus Tdi in the lowest banding for carbon dioxide-based benefit-in-kind tax for the first three years of the new system when it comes into effect in April 2002. In the first year (2002/03), a Focus Tdi driver will pay tax based on 18% of the car's price, including the controversial 3% diesel penalty.