It joins a sector already packed with lower-medium-based models that have a high level of appeal to user-choosers looking for something a little different from a conventional hatchback.
As many of these cars are from the volume manufacturers, their costs are not as daunting as their image and looks might suggest.
And they also help counter the age-old argument from fleet managers that convertibles shouldn’t be on the fleet because their fabric roofs are a magnet for vandals. Thanks to their folding hard-tops, these cars now offer the best of both worlds without the security threat.
The Ford is the latest addition to the market, following hot on the heels of its nemesis – Vauxhall’s Astra TwinTop – to join the French duo that pioneered this sector back in 2002.
Another recent addition is Volkswagen’s Eos. Although similar in size, it is priced above the competition. Making up the rivals here (by virtue of being open-topped and having four seats) is Chrysler’s PT Cruiser, a car that has appeal thanks to its ‘stand-out’ looks, although it does have a fabric roof.
Director of new business, Bank of Scotland Vehicle Finance
Focus takes the honours in this comparison, with the lowest CO2 and best economy.
Astra is second in both these categories and is an attractive all-rounder. Megane is a strong contender with the lowest rental and insurance group.
The Eos is perceived as more prestigious and has the highest P11D value. Although it has a strong RV, the rental may put it into a different category on a choice list.
The 307 is an established product and is the second lowest on price. The PT Cruiser has the lowest P11D, but the second highest rental only to the Eos, and the highest insurance group.
Operations director, Inchcape Fleet Solutions
The Eos is differentiated by an opening glass sunroof that gives an open-air feel even with the roof up.
Ford’s Focus has the comfort and familiarity that comes with the Blue Oval badge, plus Pininfarina designer label appeal.
The Astra TwinTop has a less feminine image than its predecessor, while the 307CC is an attractive car with a more substantial feel than the pretty but slightly fragile 306.
Renault’s Megane CC is neatly proportioned and has the bonus of a glass roof.
The PT Cruiser’s unique looks are not for shy types and the driving experience doesn’t live up to the visual drama.
Fleet management and operations director, Leasedrive
THe pricey Volkswagen Eos is a clear winner. It is quick, returns good fuel economy, has strong residuals and impeccable road manners.
So is the Focus, which is fun to drive with sharp, responsive steering and should command better residuals than its rivals.
The Renault Megane lacks the zest of its peers and is more of a cruiser while the Peugeot 307 is let down by poor performance and body flex. Ditto the Vauxhall Astra, whose roof shudders slowly up and down.
Bringing up the rear is the Chrysler PT Cruiser, which has the highest CO2 and insurance group plus lower fuel economy.
Managing director, Tuskerdirect
the new Focus CC is the best value for money of this group. It’s well built, has a nice engine and is a great driver’s car.
Vauxhall’s Astra TwinTop is just pipped by the Focus but runs it very close in all regards. The Volkswagen Eos, despite its high rental, comes next and is a very aspirational vehicle.
Oversupply of the 307CC by Peugeot over the past couple of years, allied to large manufacturer rebates, has had a detrimental effect on RVs.
The Renault and the Peugeot are now looking dated compared with the newer entries into the sector, and the Chrysler is a little like Marmite – you either love it, or you hate it.
Ford Focus 2.0 CC-3
P11D price: £18,620
2007 BIK bill (40%): £1,564
2007 VED bill: £150
VERDICT: Offers drivers the lowest BIK tax bills, and has the best economy of the group, as well as being good to drive. Strong RV makes for decent rental costs.
Volkswagen Eos 2.0 FSI
P11D price £20,445
2007 BIK bill (40%) £2,126
2007 VED bill £190
VERDICT: Pricey at the front-end, but a great RV thanks to strong brand appeal gives the Eos second spot. The most expensive to lease, and not the best on fuel.
Vauxhall Astra TwinTop 1.8 Design
P11D price £18,420
2007 BIK bill (40%) £1,768
2007 VED bill £150
VERDICT: Great looks, fine drive and competitive on costs, too. Cheaper to lease than the Focus, despite less support from Vauxhall. Strong RV helps.
Peugeot 307CC 2.0 S
P11D price £18,253
2007 BIK bill (40%) £1,825
2007 VED bill £190
VERDICT: Not the best to drive, but 307 is an established model and decent support from Peugeot gives the second lowest rental. Low front-end price, too.
Renault Megane CC 2.0 Dynamique
P11D price £19,120
2007 BIK bill (40%) £1,988
2007 VED bill £190
VERDICT: The cheapest car here on monthly rentals thanks to strong support from Renault that cancels out a lowish RV. But it is competitive on tax and fuel.
Chrysler PT Cruiser 2.4 Limited
P11D price £17,960
2007 BIK bill (40%) £2,227
2007 VED bill £190
VERDICT: Not a true rival to the others, but quirky looks and low price give some appeal. Poor RV and high maintenance costs make it expensive to lease.
Average leasing rates
DESPITE a healthy RV, the Eos is the most expensive thanks to low discount and higher fuel and maintenance costs. Strong support from Renault sees the Megane offer the cheapest rentals.
LOW CO2 means the Focus falls into the lowest BIK banding here of 22%. The Astra is two bands higher, with the 307 in the 25% bracket and the Megane and Eos one higher. The PT Cruiser sits in the 31% band.
THE Chrysler’s 2.4-litre engine damages its chances here, returning just over 30mpg. The others all have smaller capacity engines. The Focus is the most frugal on 37.6mpg, slightly ahead of the Astra.
NO surprise here, as the Volkswagen leads the way on retained value, but Ford and Vauxhall put up a decent show. The Astra pips the Focus, retaining 38% of its cost new, compared to 37% for the Ford.
VOLKSWAGEN is the least generous with support, giving an average of 9% off the Eos. Next up is Vauxhall, with 11% discount on the Astra. Renault is really pushing Megane, with an average of 18% off.
HIGHER labour and parts prices at dealers take the Chrysler above the £2,000 mark. Elsewhere, it matches the others on tyre and brake replacement costs. The Megane just pips the 307 as the cheapest.