In the other corner are concerns about the high-revving nature of the engine and an annoying internal creak.
To deal with the positive side first, two more long-haul journeys to complement the trip I made to Devon in January have been added to this captain’s log: one a return trip between Peterborough and Oldham and another to Brighton for the Fleet News Business Forum.
In its class, the Focus is incredibly adept at mile-munching, providing comfort and a refined drive at motorway speeds.
Its handling, particularly in Brighton’s quirky one-way system and Oldham’s congested centre streets, make it a foil to the obvious stresses of these situations, with firmed but well-damped suspension, parking sensors and good all-round visibility in tight spots, most noticeably an excessively-crowded corporate car park in Oldham.
You may initially question the need for reversing sensors in a lower-medium car, but with the current prevalence of close-quarter prangs among fleets, you really will appreciate the £200 additional expenditure on this optional extra.
The DVD touch-screen navigation system, built into the centre of the dash, is also one of the most effective I have used.
While it may not be completely idiot-proof, it has proved to be accurate in most cases, offering turn-by-turn with optional audio instructions with a choice of scales and display modes to suit all your needs. The console positioning, however, is a slight problem since it is not in my eyeline.
To look at it properly, I have to take my eyes off the road, which obviously presents a risk. Mitigating this, though, is the simplified turn-by-turn information given in the instrument binnacle.
Now to the downsides. The creaking phenomenon, mentioned previously, continues to perplex. I can’t even work out where it is coming from – prime suspect is the front suspension. It is not getting any worse and doesn’t impact on performance, but remains a mystery.
A colleague who drives a similar-age Focus is complaining of the same problem and is going to take it to a dealer to investigate.
It was long shot, but I checked the tyre pressures to see if it made a difference. It didn’t. Future tests will report further on this.
Another issue I have touched on before is the high-revving nature of the 1,596cc engine – 4,000rpm at 70mph –and the real need for an additional gear to calm things down.
My passenger on the trip to Oldham also mentioned the high revs at cruising speeds. The upside is that it doesn’t affect oil use. A dipstick check reveals normal usage.
Model: Ford Focus 1.6 Ti-VCT Titanium 5dr
Price (OTR): £16,025 (£20,025 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 155
Company car tax bill (2006): 22% tax-payer £52 per month
Insurance group: 7
Combined mpg: 44.1
Test mpg: 33.1
CAP Monitor residual value: £5,000/32%
Typical contract hire rate: £300
Figures based on three years/60,000 miles