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Ford Focus 5 door 1.6i Zetec

A couple of weeks ago one of the most important new cars of  the year was launched and it was instantly the hit of the Birmingham Motor Show and has done impressive business in the dealers already. The launch of the all new Ford Focus is probably the UK car event of the year  - especially in sales terms - and is hot favourite to take the coveted European Car of the Year title later this month, having already made the 5 car shortlist.

The Escort is dead, long live Focus for it is a more radical design than almost any Ford before - except perhaps Ka - a full blooded example of the New Edge design philosophy that has been developing in Ford for several years, and that rarity, radical design in a mainstream family car from a volume manufacturer few of whom have the bravery to produce anything quite so dramatically different, particularly as Ford are replacing the car that is nearly always the No 1 best selling car in the UK.

Completely new from the ground up Focus will gradually appear in all versions from hatch to saloon, estate to sports versions and, eventually, a cabriolet but at launch the hatch, saloon and estate are available and in the showrooms now. 4 trim options are available and a very full range of both the new Zetec petrol and Endura diesel engines in a range of 5 sizes from 1.4 to 2.0 litres - with fuel consumptions as much as 25% better than their predecessors -  power the Focus with a choice of manual and automatic transmissions.

The slightly larger - than the Escort - Focus offers class leading cabin space and comfort and it’s safety also takes it to the top of the class with new head and chest side airbags for both driver and passenger and most versions having ABS and 2 new braking and traction control systems, EBD and ESP to augment very full specs in all areas. 

Prices for the all new Focus are little changed from the outgoing Escort the 1.6 engined cars  starting at just £12,850, the 1.8 versions at the same price, the 4 door saloons begin at £14,350, the 5 door hatches at £12,850 for the smallest engined 1.4 version and the Estates begin at £13,850. Top spec now available is the 2 litre Ghia saloon at £15,350, the 5 door hatch at the same price.

I drove the mid range 5 door hatch powered by the 1.6i Zetec engine and this is likely  to be one of  the most popular of  all the cars. With a standard spec which includes sports seats, a leather steering wheel, electric front windows, remote locking with immobiliser, alloy wheels and dual airbags it represents pretty good value for the £13,350 sticker price. The cabin is as adventurous in design as the body, great sweeping curves, quirky complex angles, it’s as attractive and visually stimulating as the New Edge exterior the only jarring note being the ordinariness of the cigarette lighter, boringly normal.

The 1.6 injected Zetec 4 is a paragon of smoothness in a mid range family car with good torque throughout the rev range good pulling power and yet is notably quiet unless being pushed very hard through the gears and with an extra urban fuel consumption figure of better than 50 mpg it’s pretty economical too.

One of the great treats of the Focus is it’s handling, not that of  a sports car but certainly of a sporting car, the equal of anything in it’s class a real pleasure for the keen yet that very excellence provides huge reserves of stability for the less press on, average, driver, it rolls little, it grips a lot, it steers very precisely and it brakes very firmly.      

If ever a car was greater than the sum of it’s parts it has to be the Focus, not only is is pretty good in most areas and very good in some the total excellence takes it right to the top of it’s class by a considerable margin. Many have said the Focus is good, it is. 

First Published 1998 - Article © Graham Benge 2007

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