Our Focus is packed with technology. You can bypass traffic jams, monitor your blind spots and prevent low-speed shunts around town, but the fun really starts when you reach some open roads. The key to falling for this Ford is getting out of town.
It really is a hoot to attack some country lanes with. The confidence-inspiring grip and well judged steering allow you to make the most of the 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine. After running a string of diesel models, I’m really enjoying the fruity soundtrack of the high-revving petrol engine.
The turbo provides nippy performance and pushes you to drive quickly. Throw in a six-speed manual box and precise brakes and you get a highly entertaining family hatchback.
It’s comfortable, too. The driving position is ideal, as the seats provide plenty of support and the pedals are exactly where you want them. I can sometimes feel my six-year-old son’s feet pressing through the back of my seat, which suggests space in the rear is limited. But this is more down to the fact he struggles to keep still for any length of time.
So what about the technology? Well, after initially being daunted by the array of buttons covering the dash, I now get it. Like most things, the layout is quite simple and reasonably intuitive once you have lived with it for a few days.
Controlling the sound system is a doddle. The joystick to the left of the steering wheel scrolls through various options, much like an original iPod. And when you connect a music player, you can control it from the dash, which is great. But unless I hit the shuffle option, I tend to listen to music beginning with the letters A, B and C, as I can’t be bothered to scroll down the list. So sadly there’s no chance of getting any Velvet Underground or Yazoo.
Still, Ford fits a DAB radio to the Focus as standard, so it’s debatable whether you need to connect a device at all. If you’re a news and sport fan, once you’ve heard Radio 5 Live without the medium-wave crackles, you won’t want to go back.
Some of the other technology from the Driver Assistance pack is incredibly clever and needs no effort on your part. I experienced Active City Stop when I got too close to a truck. The brake pedal dropped from beneath my foot and I felt the familiar grind of ABS as we came to a sharp halt. So the £750 option pack paid for itself without me lifting a finger (or pressing a pedal).
I’ve yet to experience the Focus steering itself, but I keep telling myself that my failure to trigger the Lane-Keeping Aid by staying alert and awake is a good thing. In any case, it’s amazing to find this level of kit in a family hatch – although rear parking sensors are a surprising omission. I’ve seen the TV ads highlighting the self-parking function. For me, this is a step too far, but limited rear visibility means sensors would help around town.
The boot isn’t huge, but it’s had no problem with camping trips, family holidays and weekly shopping. A Christmas getaway could be more of a challenge, but I’m more excited about tackling the open road than packing...
“I think I’m alone in actually finding the Focus quite attractive, but then it’s not hard to look good next to a Golf. Other than that, I just find it a little, well, dull. Yes, it drives nicely and the engine’s great, but it just doesn’t feel special. And the keyless go system is bonkers – you only need to press a button on the dash to start or stop the car, but you have to dig the keys out of your pocket to lock it.”
Steve Fowler, editor-in-chief