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Ford Focus 1.8 TDCi

Ford

Review

##forfoc.jpg --Right##FORD is promising state-of-the-art performance and refinement from its new common rail diesel engine for the Focus. But the manufacturer says that because the technology is so advanced, it has run into supply problems and has been forced to delay the launch of common rail in Mondeo.

The new Dangeham-built engines will be badged TDCi as opposed to the existing TDdi conventional direct injection units and Ford sees the new unit as a premium model. In the UK it will only initially be offered in Ghia trim and is expected to be priced a few hundred pounds higher than equivalent Ghia TDdi cars (a five-door Focus Ghia TDdi costs £14,050 on-the-road). The 1.8 TDCi offered in the Focus has significantly more power than the TDdi (113bhp instead of 89bhp) resulting in improved performance, but the common rail technology means more efficient combustion and fuel consumption is unchanged on the combined cycle at 51.4mpg.

Its CO2 figure is marginally higher than the TDDi (145g/km compared with 143g/km) but the model remains within the lowest banding under the new CO2-based benefit-in-kind tax system until at least 2004/05, meaning tax based on 18% of the P11D price (including the Government's 3% diesel supplement). Ford also promises better refinement with electronics which compensate for the 'knocking' effect of the diesel engine at higher revs by regulating combustion.

Meanwhile Ford has expanded the TDdi range in Focus with the addition of a three-door Zetec trim model, priced at £12,595 on-the-road. It expands the Focus direct injection diesel range to 11 models, starting with the CL five-door priced at £12,550 on-the-road. The engine is available in three and five-door hatchback, four-door saloon and five-door estate format in CL, Zetec, LX and Ghia trim. The current range-topper is the TDdi Ghia estate priced at £14,800 on-the-road. A 1.6-litre CL estate model has also joined the Focus line-up, costing £12,245 on-the-road.

The Focus 1.8 TDCi we tested is a far cry from the TDdi we have been running on our long term test fleet since summer 2000. Although the Tddi is economical, its harshness and lack of urge do not do justice to the car's fine chassis. The TDCi changes that, providing the kind of responsiveness which allows keen drivers to exploit the Focus's sharp handling along twisty roads.

The TDCi covers the 0-62mph sprint in 10.8 seconds - nearly two seconds quicker than the TDdi. But more important is acceleration on the move. The TDdi develops 147lb-ft of torque, while the figure for the TDCi is 184lb-ft. And the new engine has an 'overboost' facility, temporarily boosting maximum torque to 206lb-ft at 1,850rpm. It is particularly useful when overtaking slower traffic and it is in this area where the new engine leaves the TDdi standing. We came across numerous slow moving tractors and trailers on our test route, but changing down to fourth and flooring the throttle activates the overboost facility and the car really takes off. It is still obviously a diesel. The noise is more subdued than the TDdi, but there's still a bit of a rattle despite Ford's clever electronics.

Ford's decision to pitch the car as a premium model in the UK is mainly due to supply, and the company's problems in securing its supply of fuel injectors is well documented. It expects to sell 9,000 Focus TDCis in the UK in the first full year of production, compared with nearly 30,000 TDdis. This is a shame because the TDCi is a far better engine than the TDdi and will be well worth the extra money because of its extra refinement and sprightly performance.

Although company representatives would not speculate on whether a waiting list for the cars would develop, they said they would sell every TDCi produced. If the Focus TDCi is an indication of what we can expect from the new common rail Mondeo later in the year then Ford will have a much-needed boost to its diesel range. As things stand the Focus TDCi will probably be the best lower-medium sector diesel car available.

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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