It’s difficult to work out what’s new with the new Focus.
We’re so familiar with its proportions and style from the hundreds of thousands that have sold during it 10 year history that even a decently large amount of cosmetic work seems to fit our eyes almost immediately.
But there have been some large changes for this model, which has been redesigned to fit into the kinetic design language of the Mondeo/S-MAX/Galaxy family.
The front is much bolder, with a new trapezoidal grille, huge gaping air intake and swept back headlights, which are available with bi-Xenon and adaptive lighting options.
The bonnet also features thick ridges down either side that from a certain angles resembles its cousing, the Volvo C30, while along each side are an ‘undercut’ as with the Mondeo.
At the back, there are new taillight and anew bumper, although the changes here seem much less pronounced.
There is the option of some fancy rear LED lights, which come when you specify the adaptive front lighting.
The interior also gets a makeover, and it is much more metrosexual than the previous rather workmanlike effort.
The dials in front of the driver are the most obvious enhancement, now swathed in aluminium-effect plastic with a red-backed information screen that has a slightly indistinct quality about it.
Trim levels are Studio, Style, Zetec and range-topping Titanium with the famous Ghia name having been dropped from the line-up.
It’s a name rather redolent of prawn cocktails following by steak and chips, velour seats and After Eights and quite rightly Ford has decided that it’s time to modernise.
So a top end Titanium comes with finishes like brushed aluminium rather than Ghia-esque wood, sideburns and Brut.
The entry level Studio range starts at £11,945 OTR, but to all intents and purposes doesn’t actually exist.
It’s created so the range has competitive starting price point but if you want one it will have to be ordered and built rather than plucked off a shelf.
Style, the next trim level up (LX having been dropped) starts at £13,445. Roughly all prices are have upped by around £250.
In the rest of the cabin, quality has been improved in most areas, because previously it was pretty obvious that there had been plenty of cost savings anywhere you eye rarely wandered.
Under every lid and behind every flap, there are still plenty of screws on show, but at least the quality of plastics are better now.
There are also some new contemporary options.
Digital radio, a new USB port for an iPod (which steadfastly refused to work when we tried it) and voice control for the sat-nav are some of the highlights.
The mulitimedia packages now use the same clean and clear systems as the Mondeo, although without the Human Machine Interface gubbins on the steering wheel, which seem to confuse the issue anyway, so that’s no bad thing.
There’s also the option of the ‘Ford Power’ button that comes with keyless entry, that rather contrived starting system that more and more manufacturers are adopting.
It’s pointless really, and probably appeals to the type of person who would specify sports suspension on the car.
Which brings us to the superb chassis.
Changes here are pretty much nil, and that is patently a very good thing.
Obviously Ford engineers applied the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ adage to this area.
The major development is that all models now come with ESP as standard which, given its proven life-saving ability is a positive move.
Although there’s a slight price uplift across the range, Ford reckons this is offset by having ESP as standard when it would usually be a £250 option, which is effectively saying, tough luck, you’re going to have to pay for it whether you like it or not.
But it’s an important feature and one that should be fitted anyway.
In the powertrain range, there’s plenty of interest.
There are the usual 1.4, 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol engines, as well as the 2.5-litre turbo in the ST, but on the diesel side, Ford has introduced the ECOnetic model, using the 1.6-litre TDCi engine in 109bhp tune, alongside the more familiar names and numbers.
This car offers fuel economy of 65.8mpg and more importantly, CO2 emissions of 115g/km, putting it into the new low CO2 tax banding of 13% and qualifying for the likely exemption to the London congestion charge next year.
Using remapped engine management, lowering the ride height, fitting new aerodynamic bumpers, pouring in low-viscosity transmission oil and shoeing the Focus with low rolling resistance tyres has made the car easier to move.
Consequently the engine doesn’t have to work so hard, and fuel consumption and emissions are reduced.
Price for the ECOnetic start at £15,795.
Ford is sticking to its alternative fuel strategy with the Flexifuel bioethanol and CNG models too, although the ECOnetic should be the stopping point for most drivers thinking about the greener route due to its more practical running considerations.
To ensure drivers put the right fuel in their Focus, all models now come with the Easyfuel capless refuelling system which prevents them from putting the wrong nozzle in the wrong hole, which given the epidemic of misfuelling among fleets, is a very good thing.
There is also a new automatic six peed gearbox available with the 2.0 TDCi engine featuring a double clutch.
Called PowerShift, it should operate in much the same way as the DSG/S Tronic system Volkswagen and Audi use, and it does not affect CO2 levels either.
The guides reckon there will be a residual uplift of three to four percentage points for this refresh which means a significant saving across a fleet, and offsets the slightly higher front end price.
Volumes are expected to remain fairly similar, although Ford reckons that it will not chase price-led business preferring to concentrate on offering a richer model mix and more profitable business.
A laudable goal, but with the gargantuan volumes involved in this selling this car a difficult one.
Having said the Focus is an excellent car, and the intelligent changes to the 2008 model have made it even more so.
Behind the wheel
I’ve got to admit some disappointment here.
I was looking forward to trying the new ECOnetic model. Not at the launch, I discover.
Oh well, perhaps the new PowerShift transmission then.
Not at the launch.
The Flexifuel car?
Not at the launch? ST? Not at the launch.
So it’ll be the standard 2.0 petrols and diesels then.
But it’s been a while since I’d driven a Focus and these two versions made me realise something.
You should drive a Focus every six months, to re-acclimatise with benchmark driving dynamics.
The 2.0 TDCi Focus is absolutely wonderful.
The chassis is utter joy, with soft edge that smooth out speed bumps and ruts, yet firm and controlled through corners.
The gearbox is direct and precise, the changes easy to smooth even with all that torque twisting through the clutch, while the performance is still exciting: just stick it in third and let the flexibility of the engine whisk you about.
You notice how much less shove there is once you get into a petrol and I find it amazing that Ford reckons 65% of all sales are still petrol, thanks to strengthening retail sales.
The interior is now considerably better, and feels very sturdy indeed while the seating position is still very good.
As a lower-medium car for company car drivers who love to drive, the Focus is still king, and with the addition of the lower-emission version, there are even more economic option across the range too.
|Model||2.0||2.0TDCi||ECOnetic 1.6 TDCi|
|Max power (bhp/rpm)||145/6,000||136,4,000||109/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm)||136/4,500||236/2,000||177/1,750|
|Max speed (mph)||128||126||119|
|Fuel consumption (mpg)||39.8||51.4||65.6|
|CO2 emissions (g/km)||169||144||119|
|On sale||January 2008|