However, the dangers of merrily driving around the Cambridgeshire countryside are many. Horses, tractors and suicidal pheasants demand constant wariness, so looking down at the centre console to change radio station/sat-nav display/temperature is a definite no-no.
Concerned that a simple change of tunes could lead to an untimely liaison with the local wildlife, I’ve been investigating Ford’s Voice Control System, fitted to our Focus at a cost of £250. The concept is simple – press a button by the steering wheel, tell the car what to do and it does it – within reason – without the need to look away from the road. And it works pretty well.
Voice control can change CDs, tune the radio, operate the climate control, mess around with the sat-nav and supposedly operate the hands-free phone (more on that shortly) through a series of voice-activated menus. A clear voice is needed for the computer to understand commands, but once the initially bizarre feeling of barking orders to a car has passed it’s a very useful feature.
My ventures with the integrated Bluetooth wireless phone connection have been less successful. It’s supposed to detect the Bluetooth-enabled mobile in your pocket and seamlessly divert calls through the speakers.
Alas, despite several hours poring over menus and three different test phones, I can’t get it to work. Sure, the car will recognise the fact that my phone is there, but it refuses to actually use it. Calls to Ford have so far met with vague confusion and suggestions that I turn the car off and on again eight times, which hasn’t worked either. A trip to a dealership is planned.
Elsewhere, a recent long journey on a hot day proved the merits of the chilled glove box. My Irn Bru multipack stayed refreshingly cold for hours on end.
However, the cup holders are unable to cope with anything taller than a can because the armrest gets in the way. The door bins are tiny, so a bottle of water spent the journey skittering about the passenger seat and footwell.
Fuel consumption has been erratic, probably due to my occasionally heavy-footed style of driving and my twisty-roaded route to and from work. A conscious effort to improve economy and several long motorway journeys have seen consumption improve from 29mpg to 33.4mpg.
Model: Ford Focus 1.6i Ti-VCT Titanium 5dr
Price (OTR): £15,825 (£20,025 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 155
Company car tax bill (2005/6) 22% tax-payer: £52 a month
Insurance group: 7
Combined mpg: 43.8
Test mpg: 32.1
CAP Monitor residual value: £5,175/33%
Expenditure to date: Nil
Typical contract hire rate: £299
Figures based on three-years/60,000-miles