Tried & tested: Ford Focus TitaniumPosted on: 27 September 2011 by Marce Colucci
Ford's enhanced Focus glides from Paris to the Frankfurt Motor Show 2011
I spent four days earlier this month getting up close and personal with Ford’s latest addition to its stable of cars – the Ford Focus Titanium. OK so it was the estate version, but if you ignore that fact, once inside you would never know that you were carrying a cavernous hold behind you.
I met up with a group of international journalists in Paris on what would prove to be an adventurous rally (I use that term loosely) across France and into Germany, culminating at the Frankfurt motor show. We set off from Paris along the Champs Elysees and were soon cruising along the motorways heading towards Reims, our first stop. What struck me first about the Focus was the silence. There was very little noise even for an estate. There was not a single rattle or squeak as we made our way across the countryside. And we could enjoy all the nuances of the high quality sound system without the annoying humming and hissing of road noise.
We were driving the 1.6 TDCi with a 6-speed manual transmission. For a diesel, it was quite responsive putting out 115 PS. It will never win a drag race, but it does get away from the stop lights with some briskness. Shifting through the gears was effortless, although the position of the gear shift could be a bit more driver friendly. I found myself bumping my passenger’s arm every time I changed gears. Not a problem if your passenger is a young person, but for 2 adults in the front, the width is a little limiting. The seats are snug but not overly sporty so you get all the comfort without the stiffness, giving you a feeling of security even in tight corners, and able to keep your bottom nice and comfy over the longer journeys.
Quality without the price tag
The interior of the car is step above the previous models. Build quality is very good and detailing is excellent. All the control buttons are well positioned, are solid and feel like they will last a lifetime. Colours are understated and blended very well. But it also has the rich feel of much more expensive brands, but without the expensive price tag.
Having arrived in Reims and enjoyed a nice lunch, we set off for Metz, our first overnight stop. Now that we were comfortable with the car, it was time to have a bit of fun. The open road called and we responded. The Focus was a pleasure to drive. We could easily forget that we were driving an estate with a 1.6 diesel engine, as the speedo touched 170 kph on the smooth motorways of eastern France. Driving position was quite comfortable. I normally find with these smaller cars that after 30 minutes, I feel like a contortionist. But with the Focus, there is plenty of room in the driver’s cockpit to move your legs and get comfortable.
But the thing that grabbed me most about this new Ford Focus is the technology they’ve put into it. There are some very neat features that add not only to the driving pleasure, but to the safety of driving this vehicle.
The first is the Lane Departure Warning. This has 2 settings: warning and intervention. When on “warning” the steering wheel will vibrate if you start to drift out of your lane without indicating. This is great if you happen to be ‘momentarily’ distracted as it quickly refocuses you on the important task of driving. But even cleverer, if you use the ‘intervention’ setting, the car will actually make a correction and steer you back into your lane. Don’t think you can just nod off though – if you don’t have your hands on the wheel you’ll get an irritating little voice warning you to stop and rest.
Good news for your no claims bonus
The second bit of cool technology is the Active City Stop. This will save you hundreds in damages on your car, and possibly those of others, when driving at less than 30 kph. The multiple sensors and camera located in the front of the car are constantly monitoring what is happening in front. If you approach another car or object too quickly and fail to apply the brakes, the car will do it for you! Another insurance claim avoided!
The third and most impressive is the Auto Parking Assist. This feature uses the multiple sensors built in to the front and sides of the car to firstly find a parallel parking spot that the car can fit into. Once it has done that, the driver need simply position the car as instructed by the in-car display then follow the instructions displayed on the screen in the car. The Focus will instruct the driver to put the car into reverse then the magic starts. Take your hands off the steering wheel and just operate the gas and the brakes. The car takes care of the rest, steering the car into the parking space, waiting for you to change back into first gear, and apply the parking brake – job done! If I hadn’t done it for myself I would not have believed it. Experience it yourself in the video below.
There are many other features that come with this package, including:
- speed detection which reads the speed signs on the road and displays them to the driver in case you forget – am I in a 50 or 80 kph zone?
- a blind spot warning - a small light in the wing mirrors that lights up if a car is approaching alongside and could be in your blind spot.
- Changeable interior lighting with a variety of colours to suit your mood, or to create one!
And the list goes on.
All of these features were included in the cars we drove, and are available for around £600, if you twist your dealer’s arm nicely!
Having spent a nice evening in Metz, it was then off to Saarlouis just inside the German border to see how these cars are actually made. We were given a grand tour of the factory and saw each of the stages of production, from where the body parts are pressed to where they drive them off the assembly line. A fascinating tour and one I would highly recommend to anyone. When you see everything that goes into the making of this Ford Focus, you start to appreciate the value you are getting at just under £20,000.
From Saarlouis we drove another 200 kilometres to Frankfurt and the main attraction – the motor show, where we sadly had to relinquish our trusty rides back to their owner. Here we were privileged to take part in the grand unveiling of the new Focus as well as a few more surprises from Ford. More on these in my next blog.
Overall I would say that Ford is on to a winner with this new Focus. For anyone with a small family (emphasis on ‘small’) this car would be ideal. It offers affordability combined with a stack of features, a 5-star NCAP rating for safety, and looks like something you want to treasure both inside and out. It may not appeal to the younger crowd, but for anyone who is looking for a second car, that is economical to run and looks great, you really couldn’t do much better. In terms of quality it is rapidly catching up to the VW Golf and has certainly surpassed it in terms of value for money.
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