Forget the storm clouds brewing overhead – the big drama this week happened on the ground. The new Ford Focus aims to reclaim its crown in the family car class, so we hit the road to find out if it has what it takes...
Our trip took in everything from congested city streets and monotonous motorways to thrilling British back roads. And our Focus 1.6 TDCi Zetec even featured stop-start, to add a dose of economy to proceedings.
With Ford’s famed chassis know-how, the newcomer was sure to excel around the twisty Yorkshire moors, but it will need more than sharp dynamics to win this test.
The Volkswagen Golf is the current class leader, and has one of the broadest and most talented model line-ups in the business. We have praised the eco-friendly BlueMotion for its compromise-free design – and the green machine was our choice for this shoot-out.
Completing our trio is the Vauxhall Astra.
It arrived fresh from hitting the top of the UK sales charts in December, so the 1.7-litre CDTI Exclusiv would be no pushover.
So has Ford done enough to propel the Focus back to the front of the family car class? No. The new car addresses many flaws of the old model, such as its dated cabin and engine line-up, but it doesn’t make the leap required to topple the best in the sector. We love the athletic handling that Ford engineers into all of its cars, yet there is a trade-off when it comes to low-speed comfort. And while the cabin is very spacious, the boot is smaller than before, which is a faux pas in this sector.The Golf cements its place at the top of the pecking order with another impressive showing. It has a classy cabin, desirable looks and a capable, confidence-inspiring driving experience. The low emissions of this BlueMotion model only add to the appeal. Bringing up the rear is the Astra. It’s handicapped by its outdated engine and high price. In Exclusiv trim, it’s short on creature comforts, while the unrewarding dynamics leave it trailing for driver appeal. All three of the cars tested here have their compromises, but the Golf demands the fewest – so it’s a worthy winner.