Ten years ago, buying a Ford family car guaranteed you a cutting-edge design, decent build quality, strong dealer support and, fingers crossed, reliability. These days, most manufacturers offer all of this as standard, so how has Ford decided to separate itself from the likes of Skoda, SEAT, Hyundai and Kia?
The answer is by using technology. And lots of it. Ford thinks that affordable cutting-edge tech is the way to attract buyers. Our long-term Focus is the perfect example of this approach, and the array of gadgets fitted to our EcoBoost model has certainly won me over.
At first, I was a little apprehensive about features with names like Active City Stop, Hill Start Assist and Auto High Beam. I thought I was perfectly capable of doing these things for myself.
The Focus dashboard was also an assault on the senses. It looks daunting: a pair of identical multifunction switches on the steering wheel operate two separate screens – one in the centre of the dash, the other in the instrument panel. The button- heavy design doesn’t help.
But within a week, everything made sense and the logic behind the layout seemed obvious – the left-hand button on the wheel controls the left-hand screen, and vice-versa.
Car group tests
The technology itself is mostly fantastic, and I love the Lane Keeping Aid on long motorway drives. It’s great watching the car ‘lock on’ to the white lines either side of the Focus icon on the dash screen.
And the occasional corrective nudge from the steering prevents you from veering out of your lane (you need to indicate before switching lanes to avoid the steering intervening). Tech like this definitely improves safety, especially on arduous night-time journeys.
Active City Stop is another top piece of kit, and it has more than paid for itself by preventing two sub-20mph shunts. The eerie sensation of the car applying ABS all by itself has to be experienced to be believed. I look forward to the day when innovations like this become more widely available because, on this evidence, it would cut the number of low-speed accidents around town – and hopefully reduce insurance premiums as a result.
Technology and complexity go hand in hand, though, and I do have one complaint. A loose wire on the iPod connection inside the glovebox causes the sound to come out of the speakers on only one side of the car. Wiggling the wire to fix it while you’re driving isn’t very safe – even with all the brilliant driver aids.
“Whether or not you agree with the concept of driver aids, you can’t deny that Ford’s Driver Assistance Package represents great value at only £750.”Stuart Morton, Chief sub-editor
“I understand that not every collision will be preventable, but finding systems that mean we can pay less attention to driving is wrong.”dieselsucks, via www.autoexpress.co.uk