Not so. There are all sorts of interesting variants on the horizon: the taller Golf Plus, scorching Astra VXR and the folding hardtop Focus for a start. One which I’ve deliberately missed out of this list is the Ford Focus saloon.
It takes all of the attributes of the new Focus – build quality, sharp front-end styling, decent ride and handling and well-equipped interior, and then grafts on an ungainly booted rear end.
To be fair, Ford is not alone as most volume makers offer a lower-medium saloon, and there’s more to come in the shape of the Astra four-door and Volkswagen’s Bora replacement.
But it’s a model type which has always baffled me as the hatchbacks on which these saloons are based are invariably more practical and, as importantly, better looking.
There’s limited appeal for these cars, and Ford appears to be trying to make this even more limited by only offering the Focus saloon in top-spec Ghia and Titanium trim levels.
This means it is expensive for a car of this size, and brings it into competition with some premium badge saloons, as well as larger upper-medium models.
In range-topping 2.0-litre TDCi 136 Titanium trim as tested here, it costs £17,995 on-the-road. For the money you get a car loaded with standard equipment such as leather seats and air conditioning.
You also get the excellent 134bhp 2.0-litre TDCi common rail diesel engine and a slick six-speed manual gearbox.
As with all Focuses, the saloon rides and handles brilliantly, although be wary of drivers raiding the options list as the bigger wheels disrupt ride comfort.
And that diesel engine, which meets Euro IV emissions requirements, is excellent. It loses out slightly in power and refinement to Vauxhall’s 150bhp CDTi unit, but it offers huge mid-range power from as little as 1,900rpm. With motorway speed cruising taking place at a lowly 2,500rpm, this is a car which makes business motoring refined and easy.
And the boot is huge – what it loses in height over the hatchback it makes up for with increased depth. The boot opening is also more than a metre wide, as is the load area between the two wheel housings.
So this Focus is as practical as any other version, but it just doesn’t have the looks of its stablemates.
According to Ford’s marketing ‘the hatchback silhouette translates convincingly into the classic limousine body architecture’.
Not in my book it doesn’t. It makes the Focus look ungainly. And as the equivalent hatchback model is priced exactly the same, the saloon only exists to serve a very niche market (less than 3% of Focus sales).
Ford Focus saloon 2.0 TDCi Titanium
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £17,822
CO2 emissions (g/km): 148
BIK % of P11D in 2005: 16%
Graduated VED rate: £115
Insurance group: 10
Combined mpg: 49.6
CAP Monitor residual value: £5,650/32%
Depreciation 20.28 pence per mile x 60,000: £12,168
Maintenance 2.41 pence per mile x 60,000: £1,446
Fuel 8.16 pence per mile x 60,000: £4,896
Wholelife cost: 30.85 pence per mile x 60,000 £18,510
Typical contract hire rate: £371
All figures based on 3yrs/60,000 miles. Monthly rental quote from HSBC Vehicle
Three rivals to consider:
THIS test is a bit of a mixed bag so far as competitors go. At present Renault is the only volume manufacturer to offer a lower-medium saloon to compete on price with the Focus, so we’ve chosen Peugeot’s 407 upper-medium saloon and Volvo’s entry-level S40 as rivals. Thanks to the Focus only being available in top spec trim levels, its price means it overlaps with larger cars and models from premium marques.
THE Focus and Megane tie for top spot in terms of servicing, maintenance and repair costs on 2.41ppm. This equates to £1,446 in garage bills over three years and 60,000 miles. Close behind is the Volvo on 2.45ppm, for a cost of £1,470. This is surprising because the S40 is more of a premium brand offering than the others, and that usually means higher SMR costs. The Peugeot is fourth with a cost of £1,674.
WITH a claimed combined fuel economy figure of 52.3mpg, the Renault will cost a fleet the least in fuel. Over three years/60,000 miles it will use £4,716-worth of diesel. The Focus, which returns 49.6mpg, will cost £4,896. The Volvo finishes third at a cost of £4,974 while visits to the black pump in the Peugeot will cost £5,148.
Obviously, fuel costs depend on your drivers meeting the claimed economy figures.
Renault : 7.86ppm
IT’S no surprise that the Volvo, with its lower volume badge, wins the depreciation sector. CAP estimates the S40 will retain 37% of its cost new after three years and 60,000 miles for a cost of 18.69ppm.
The Renault is second, despite having the worst RV prediction of 28%. However, it is also the cheapest car here, so this helps it make up ground in the cash lost stakes. The 407, like most upper-medium cars, has a low RV prediction – CAP estimates 29%.
Bringing up the rear is the Focus, which is the most expensive car here.
Renault : 20.03ppm
THE Volvo only wins one section of our road test, but it’s the all-important depreciation sector and this helps it record the lowest wholelife costs. With a running cost over three years/60,000 miles of 29.43ppm it’s nearly a penny per mile cheaper than the second-placed Renault. The Ford finishes third – it’s challenge blunted by a high front-end price (the model here is the top-of-the-range Titanium version) and low residual value prediction. Which leaves the Peugeot last. But you need to remember that the 407 is a class above in size terms, so you’re getting more car for your money.
Emissions and BIK tax rates
ALL four cars meet Euro IV emissions requirements, meaning they avoid the 3% diesel surcharge for company car tax. But it’s the Renault which offers the lowest tax bills as it falls into the minimum BIK banding, leaving a 22% taxpayer with a monthly bill of £46. The Focus falls into a band higher, leaving the same driver with a bill of £53. Slightly further back is the Volvo, on £56 a month, and the 407 on £55. Renault: 141g/km/15%
IF your drivers must have a lower-medium-sized saloon, then the clear winner is Volvo’s S40. It has got everything its close cousin the Focus hasn’t (they share the same chassis and running gear) – looks, strong residuals and competitive running costs. If you do opt for a Focus, the hatchback may be a better bet. Not only does it look better but it costs the same and has a better RV, meaning cheaper wholelife costs.
WINNER: Volvo S40 2.0D S