I’ve been reading the first road tests on new Ford Focus in the press.
We first saw this car back in May at the R&D centre in Cologne, where a number of senior Ford personnel – including Damian Otan, Focus product manager – explained all the changes made to the car. The main change is the exterior styling – every panel has been changed, except for the roof.
We then drove it a few weeks ago at Ford’s test track in Belgium – again, Ford putting the emphasis on the improved quality and its driveability, giving us the confidence to increase its RVs.
Ford was among the worst manufacturers a couple of years ago in supplying good quality information on time. The turn-around has been dramatic, and Ford is now one of the best in the industry.
This means we can turn around new vehicle data quickly and get it out to customers in an orderly fashion.
Many manufacturers are now letting us see and drive new models much earlier than before. In some cases we are looking at all-new models and technology up to two years ahead of launch.
A few weeks ago I drove the brilliant new Jeep Cherokee across the Sahara Desert. Today, the nearest I got to sand was the beach at Dunkerque on the way to Brugge in Belgium to test the baby of the family, the Patriot.
The model we drove was the 2.0 CRD Sport costing £16,995 – a true 4x4 but at lower-medium prices and size.
We achieved 36.1mpg on average driving through England, France and Belgium, which we thought was a good result.
The Patriot uses a Volkswagen-sourced diesel engine, but was noisy on start-up and at low speeds.
At motorway cruising the noise level was acceptable. Interior quality leaves a bit to be desired, but in a way – in this type of rugged vehicle – it is almost acceptable.
Called into Nissan’s Design Centre in Paddington on the way back from Belgium.
It took us nearly two hours to do 2.9 miles in central London – it’s really pleasing to see that the congestion charge is working so well!
I spoke to some of Nissan’s designers, including Martin Uhlaric.
He told me that as a vehicle designer you have to be creative and original, have fresh ideas, but above all have the art of compromise as design is always watered down by either legislation, engineers, assembly or cost.
The studio is situated next to a canal, a railway station and under a flyover. Martin told me that they get inspiration from working so close to the city.
It was an interesting day, looking at some future concept cars that may or may not come to market, but I was really pleased to see the M1 North signs!
Had a phone call from Infiniti Europe in Geneva telling me that it was official that the launch of Infiniti in the UK has been postponed for a few months.
Not because of late arrival of new product, just simply that the dealer network would not be ready in time.