Trust me, I am no technophobe – but our hi-tech Ford Focus makes me feel like I need to go to the bottom of the class! It’s rare that I have to reach for a manual, yet the state-of-the-art kit on this car has forced me to have a rethink...
Our Focus is fitted with the new Driver Assistance Package, which includes Active City Stop, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Aid, Traffic Sign Recognition, Driver Alert, Auto High Beam and a Blind Spot Information System, so forgive me for consulting the handbook.
I’ve managed to figure out how most of the kit works, yet as the extra equipment costs £750 in Titanium trim, I suppose the real question is not “How does it work,” but “Is it worth it?” Well, in no particular order, I love the auto dipping headlamps. They’re especially useful in unlit rural areas, where it’s all too easy to dazzle oncoming drivers.
The blindspot warning system is equally useful, and really comes into its own around town. Yellow lights in the mirror glass warn you of bikes and cars in the dangerous over-the-shoulder blindspot, and after a few weeks of driving in central London with the system, I’m convinced it should be fitted to all cars as standard.
Less useful is the audible Low Speed Traffic Warning. On my way home from work I constantly find my music or football commentary being interrupted by warnings of narrow lanes.
Another gripe is the button-heavy design of the centre console. It’s in direct contrast to the iDrive-inspired joystick employed by my old MINI Countryman. The Ford’s controls aren’t as intuitive, but I find the sat-nav easier to use every time I climb behind the wheel, so familiarity is clearly helping. Elsewhere, the traffic sign recognition function is handy when travelling in unfamiliar locations (although it did suggest I could drive through Brixton High Street at 90mph the other day!). And I guess I won’t fully appreciate the Active City Stop function until I really need it. Thankfully, for the time being, I’ve never needed its intervention.
I’ve yet to get to grips with the Lane Keeping Aid, but even without relying on its ability to keep me on the straight and narrow, I’m convinced that all this kit is worth the money. Auto Express handed the blue oval a Special Award at this year’s annual New Car Awards for its Driver Assistance Pack, and I can see why. Family car drivers have never had so much safety technology at their fingertips.
There’s more to the Ford than gadgetry, though, and after reading acting editor Graham Hope’s initial thoughts on our long-termer in Issue 1,177, I was worried that I’d struggle for space. He thought it was too small for his needs, but my reservations were misplaced.
The 277-litre load area isn’t helped by the optional full-sized spare wheel (£75) that sits beneath the floor. A standard space-saver would increase the capacity to a more healthy 316 litres. This is still small for the class, but with careful packing I was able to take our family of four away for a week’s holiday without leaving anything at home. There was even space in the glovebox for the instruction manual...
“I agree with Darren – the safety kit on the Focus is great. The eerie sensation of the Lane Keeping Aid at work as it uses the brakes to keep the car on the right course really has to be experienced to be appreciated.”
Ross Pinnock, Road test Editor