Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi Titanium

Is new top-spec version of blue oval favourite a major step forward?

  • Cleaner lines and better cabin comfort and quality than predecessor, clever Easy Fuel system, excellent body control
  • Engine noisier than Civic's, and car is slower during acceleration

With the Kuga SUV due early next year, followed soon after by the new Fiesta and second-generation Ka, 2008 will be a massive year for Ford. But there’s one model that remains crucial above all – the Focus. And with so many new launches on the horizon, the firm has decided to give it a mid-life nip and tuck in order to keep things fresh.

The objective of the new Focus is clear – to regain its position as the best compact hatchback in the sector. And with style high on most buyers’ agendas, it’s the looks that have received a serious overhaul. Ford’s ‘kinetic design’, first seen on the S-MAX, makes its way on to the Focus, which means a more dramatic and distinctive nose, thanks to those sweeping headlights.

It’s certainly an improvement on the outgoing car, which was fairly anonymous, while the lines are now cleaner, due to the absence of rubbing strips on the doors. It’s far from groundbreaking and no match for the distinctive Civic, but does look more in place with the rest of the Ford range.

The cabin has also been significantly updated and now feels more sophisticated. Our flagship Titanium model gets a new silver centre console, while all variants have revised stereo and ventilation controls. The quality of the materials has certainly improved, but the design is still conventional and looks dated when compared to the Civic.

But there’s little wrong with the driving position or the layout of the controls. It’s an easy car to get on with, while the finish is a close match for the Honda’s. Passenger space is decent, but when it comes to practicality, the Focus is somewhat limited. The rear seat system is less flexible than the Civic’s – the backs simply fold down – and there isn’t as much storage space, either.

As with the rest of the engine line-up, the 2.0-litre TDCi diesel is carried over from the previous model. It offers decent performance, while economy and emissions have been improved, but it’s a very different unit when compared to the Honda’s. The power delivery is smooth, but it’s noisier, particularly at high revs – the Civic offers a better combination of pace and refinement. The Focus also has a narrower power band and slightly less torque, so although its kerbweight is lower, the Ford couldn’t match its rival’s acceleration times.

The Focus is straightforward to drive, thanks to its positive controls, while on the open road a snappy gearshift and surefooted dynamics mean it feels solid. Body control is excellent and it remains stable, even when pushed hard.

The ride quality is equally impressive – the suspension glides over rough surfaces and although the set-up is firmer than the Civic’s, it’s not as easily unsettled by imperfections.

Prices for the Focus range have increased by £250, but the range-topping Titanium model still works out cheaper than the Honda equivalent. The £18,295 list price includes privacy glass, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a cooled glovebox and a Sony CD system. But that’s not enough to compete with the generously equipped Civic.

However, electronic stability control is now standard across the Focus range – it was previously a £250 option. Plus the 2.0-litre TDCi engine is also available for the first time with an automatic gearbox in the shape of Ford’s new dual-clutch PowerShift system.

Details

Price: £18,295Model tested: Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi TitaniumChart position: 2WHY: The new Focus has more technology than before, plus styling tweaks and an improved cabin.

Economy

Over our test route, the Focus returned 42.6mpg. As with the Civic, this was not quite up to the official figure – in this case 51.3mpg. But a bigger tank gives the Ford a longer 497-mile range.

Residuals

Used values are not too strong as the Focus is such a common sight. After three years, the Ford will be worth 38.1 per cent of its price, or £6,970. The 1.8 TDCi is the best performer.

Servicing

Three check-ups for the Focus cost £590 – Honda owners pay £120 more. But while Ford has nearly 800 UK garages, they came 25th out of 32 in our Driver Power 2007 dealer survey.

Tax

The Ford’s TDCi emits 144g/km of CO2 – 4g/km more than the Honda. Yet it sits in the same 18 per cent bracket, and as it doesn’t cost as much to buy, lower-rate fleet users pay £7 less, at £724 a year.

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