Is this hot diesel Focus Ford’s answer to the Volkswagen Golf GTD? Back in Issue 1,149, we were very impressed by the top-spec oil-burner – but it was hampered by its Powershift auto box. So, is this six-speed manual version a better bet if you want a fast, fun, yet frugal hatch?
Ford claims the emphasis for the new Focus is on comfort and refinement, while aiming to retain the outgoing car’s driver appeal. And the most muscular oil-burner is a great, if pricey, example.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Ford Focus
Push the ‘Power’ button and the engine immediately settles to a whisper-quiet idle. It’s so hushed, in fact, the untrained ear could be forgiven for thinking there was a petrol motor under the bonnet. Pull away and the lack of engine, road and wind noise reaching the cabin, even at motorway speeds, is a revelation.
For keen drivers, the manual box is far better than the twin-clutch Powershift. Ford says the latter has been tuned for comfort, not speed – which is demonstrated by the lack of steering wheel paddleshifters. The manual, in contrast, has a slick action, and allows you to stay right in the powerband for more of the time. When you want to relax, simply move into a higher gear and drive on the reserves of torque.
On full throttle, the Focus never feels quite as fast as the similarly powerful GTD, yet that doesn’t mean it’s not as much fun – it still has the same appetite for corners as its predecessor. The new electric power-steering system is not only more efficient, but it’s accurate and reacts immediately to your inputs.
In corners you can feel the torque-vectoring system shuffling power to the front wheel that needs it more, resulting in loads of grip and a slingshot action into the next straight. The car rides well, too, even on optional 18-inch alloys.
Further cementing the Focus’ new-found maturity is a raft of fresh technology that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Mercedes S-Class. Most impressive is the Lane Keeping Aid: when you stray over the white lines, this either warns you by vibrating the steering wheel, or actively steers you back on course.
The Focus now has a much simpler range structure, too. There are only four trim levels – Edge, Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X – coupled with three petrol and four diesel engines at launch. All of which points towards the model repeating its phenomenal success of the past.
Rival: VW GOLF GTD
The GTD looks identical to its sporty petrol GTI sibling – and while it can’t deliver the same thrills, as a quick and economical all-rounder it’s hard to beat.