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Click to view road test review picture galleryThe Focus has been
  the UK’s best selling
  car for every year
  since its launch.
  Now there
s a classier
  new one for 2008

with sharper looks
  and more equipment...”

2008 MARKS THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY of the intro-duction of the Ford Focus,
so it is timely that the
'new' models will start to appear
in UK showrooms in January 2008 with deliveries to UK customers commencing in February.

The latest Focus models are not totally new, but the changes are far more extensive than is usual for a model range undergoing the usual mid-life update.

The Focus has been the UK's best selling car for every year since its launch. One in 20 new cars sold in the UK is a Focus and it is the best selling car of its size in Europe. Over 112,000 have been sold so far in 2007 and the Focus was also the top selling range in the UK in 2006 with 137,694 models bought by UK buyers. Last year, the Focus was also the top selling diesel car in the UK, with 48,929 registrations.

Winner of more than 80 awards and the only vehicle in the world to be named Car of the Year both in Europe and North America, Ford's Focus has been something of a phenomenon since the launch of the original back in '98 and more than 1.1 million examples have been sold in the UK to date out of a total of five million produced in Europe. Impressive stuff.

The new Focus models on sale from February adopt Ford's crisper 'kinetic' exterior styling philosophy coupled with enhanced interior quality and better equipment levels — all for more or less the same price as the outgoing models. This relatively-new policy — introduced by Ford for their latest Mondeo models in 2007 — is aimed at getting customers, especially retail buyers, back to Ford and restoring pride
of ownership.

To meet the needs of retail, fleet and business customers in an increasingly-competitive new car market, the new Focus had to be designed and engineered to provide sharper, more distinctive and classier looks, a higher specification and offer improved value for money as well as lower CO2 emissions along with better fuel economy.

With on-the-road prices from £11,945, the new Focus costs just £250 more than the equivalent outgoing model. However, all versions now include an electronic stability programme as standard — previously a £250 option.

Mark Ovenden, Director of Marketing for Ford of Britain, said at the international press launch of the new Focus range that Ford has re-focused and simplified the range: now customers have the choice of
82 variants rather than the 107 previously available! An increased choice of options means customers can tailor the cars to better suit their needs.

Petrol models account for 65 per cent of Focus sales in the UK, but Ford expect the diesel share to increase with the introduction of new lower CO2 'Econetic' derivatives. In this country, retail customers take 35 per cent of total Focus sales although Ford anticipates that figure will also increase as it has with Mondeo due to the new and sharper design and added-value specification.

In the past, five-door Focus models have been the most popular, taking, on average, four out of five UK Focus sales. Three-door models only account for seven per cent; four-door saloons just two per cent; and estates 12 per cent. Estate sales are also expected to increase as more customers are now buying estate models of this size.

The 1.6-litre petrol models are likely to be the main sellers although
the new, lower CO2 1.6-litre turbodiesel models will probably claim an increasing share of overall sales due to the increase in fuel and taxation costs, and the fact that these revised diesel units benefit from the proposed London Congestion Charge exemption level of 120g/km.

The new Focus range comes to market with three-door, four-door, five-door and estate body styles all arriving in January for February delivery to customers. Coupé-Cabriolet and ST sporting 'flagship' variants will be arriving in Spring '08. Prices start at £11,945 and rise
to £20,595 for the range-topping ST-3 five-door sports model.

Apart from the sharper styling, much improved interior quality with soft-feel trim plus vastly improved sound-proofing for a much quieter ride, as well as new instruments and better positioned controls, the core Focus is very much the same as before. However, the revised electronics for the existing range of engines is well timed: the resulting improvements in fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions can only be added reasons to buy.

All the body panels except the roof, the windscreen and side window glass have been changed for the new generation Focus. Other aspects of the new car — brakes, steering, suspension, interior space and core engine design — are essentially as they were.

The latest Focus range receives an additional boost with the option of a new PowerShift six-speed double-clutch transmission and the use of Ford's Econetic ultra-low CO2 technology. Econetic variants have an average CO2 figure of only 115g/km (well below the proposed London Congestion Charge exemption figure of 120g/km) and a £35 annual road tax rating.

Other new features to be found in the latest Focus models include Ford's clever 'Easy Fuel' capless refuelling system that stops the driver putting diesel fuel in a petrol model (or vice versa), a tyre pressure warning system, an optional 230-volt socket for powering such things as laptop computers/running DVD players or a games console and there are low energy LED rear lights.

Every Focus is equipped with anti-lock braking, four airbags, electric front windows, CD player, central locking, height-adjustable driver's seat, 60/40 split folding rear seat and curtain airbags.

The restructured range offers a choice of Studio, Style, Zetec, Titan-ium and ST trim and equipment levels. Titanium replaces the long ser-ving Ghia specification to give the Focus more appeal to younger buyers and those company car users downsizing from larger saloons and estates such as the Mondeo. The revised trim levels are matched to a comprehensive line-up of petrol and diesel powertrains which are virtually unchanged apart from revisions to the engine management systems to deliver lower CO2 emissions. Transmissions include five-
and six-speed manual gearboxes, a conventional automatic or the all-new dual-clutch PowerShift automated gearbox jointly developed with Getrag.

Style models, costing from £13,445, add, over the 'starter' Studio level, body-coloured door handles and mirrors, bigger wheels, front fog lamps, air conditioning, remote audio controls, trip computer, leather covered steering wheel and remote central locking.

Zetec versions — the expected best-selling trim grade — cost from £14,695 and add 16-inch alloy wheels, dark headlamp surrounds, sports suspension, sports seats, Quickclear heated front windscreen, peri-meter alarm, driver's seat lumbar adjustment, rear spoiler and upgraded centre console. A body-colour rear spoiler, previously an option, is also included as standard.

The Focus Titanium variant — the luxury range-topper — lists from £15,445. Equipment highlights are privacy glass, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, Sony CD sound system, electric rear windows, cooled glovebox, aluminium scuff plates and footwell lighting.

As before, buyers can personalise their Focus by choosing from the long list of options, some of which have been reduced in price from the previous generation models.

The new Focus models definitely have a classier and more distinctive appearance. Working from the front towards the rear, the key changes are: trapezoidal grilles, swept back headlamps, bold wheel arches, newly-shaped rear glass, a contoured tailgate and new tail lamps. As mentioned, higher trim grades benefit from chrome detailing and a stylish, body-coloured upper rear spoiler.

Inside, the new upmarket theme continues. Soft-touch plastics now cover the instrument panel as well as the upper front door trim and this is complemented by plush new seat fabrics plus a variety of attractive fascia finishings. The instrumentation has been re-designed too and, along with all other interior controls, is illuminated in red. Controls for the upgraded audio equipment and two-zone air conditioning have also been ergonomically improved. In addition, the Titanium version now includes a freshly-designed centre console (optional with Zetec and part of the Sport Pack) which adopts the flowing 'kinetic design' look. There is a movable armrest and a four-litre-capacity storage compart-ment as well as storage areas for back-seat passengers and the opportunity to add optional items such as a 230-volt socket or a USB audio connection box.

The PowerShift transmission will be available from early '08 in these new Ford Focus models (as well as the Ford C-MAX) in combination with the 134bhp and new 108bhp versions of the 2.0-litre Duratorq TDCi engine.

Developed jointly by Ford with transmission specialists Getrag, the PowerShift gearbox consists of two layshaft transmissions working in parallel, each with its own wet clutch unit. Thanks to the layout of
the intermediate shafts — one carrying the 'odd' gears 1, 3 and 5, while the other carries 'even' gears 2, 4 and 6 — the next gear change can be prepared by pre-selection whilst in motion and at full power.

As a result, in this configuration, the average fuel consumption improves by around 10 per cent. And CO2 emissions will be lower compared to a conventional six-speed torque converter auto-
matic transmission.

Another new development is the Focus Econetic. This features an array of aerodynamic efficiencies and is powered by a 108bhp 1.6-litre Duratorq TDCi with standard Diesel Particulate Filter. Average consum-ption for the Focus Econetic is a frugal 65mpg! This corresponds to an average CO2 emission figure of only 115g/km, which is a class-leading result for a conventional vehicle in this segment.

As a direct result of the Ford Econetic initiative, all Focus 1.6-litre
TDCi variants will achieve 119g/km CO2 and this is regardless of power rating, body style or wheel dimensions.

The Flexifuel version of the 1.8-litre Duratec petrol four-cylinder engine can be fuelled with bio-ethanol E85-fuel as an alternative to conven-tional unleaded petrol — or in any mix of both. The new Ford Focus range also includes CNG (compressed natural gas) and LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) derivatives, both based on the 2.0-litre Duratec petrol engine.

As the first new Focus models are only just going into production, some new models were not available for test drives at the recent inter-national media launch in the South of France. Consequently, the new lower CO2 1.6-litre diesel and Econetic versions can't be reviewed until early in 2008, along with the new Focus three- and five-door ST 'halo' versions. One of which, incidentally, was on display at the press event last week — it now really has chunky, muscular and sporty styling to go with its high performance.

With no changes in overall size — so no improvement in interior space — except for the very smart new Focus Estate, the latest Focus drives pretty much as it did before. Next to the VW Golf it is probably the best handling car in the C-segment. But now the styling really gives the Focus an extra edge over its competitors. It looks very good indeed, and just as impressive is the improvement in interior quality. The car is quieter to drive; with less noise intrusion from engine and tyres. The plastics are of a higher quality and the build quality has visibly gone up several grades.

Driven over a variety of French roads, busy traffic town use, fast autoroutes and steep, narrow mountainous roads, the balance and fluency of the '08 Focus is excellent. The large 17-inch wheels, where fitted, can in my opinion unsettle the car, particularly the rear sus-pension, causing it to 'patter' over some poorer road surfaces but that is a minor issue for most would-be owners. The steering is crisp and responsive; the handling is totally predictable — all features real customers want and appreciate.

I would have like Ford to have engineered a bit more interior space in-to the new Focus, but because it uses basically the same body frame and underpinnings that has not been possible. Shall we say the Focus is still a bit 'snug' for family use…

With 'superminis' getting bigger (the Vauxhall Corsa and Peugeot 207, for instance) the gap in size between superminis and C-segment medium-sized cars — such as the Focus — is narrowing. Only Peugeot, with their new 308, have really upped the space in a new model in this sector.

So, to focus [Sorry — Ed] on the bad points first. Actually, there aren't any, apart from the fact that there's no increase in interior passenger space. On the plus side, there's much to be pleased about: sharper and more appealing body styling, better quality interior, more useful equipment, better sound-proofing, all the previous car's first-class driv-ing and handling characteristics and finally, the new Econetic low-CO2 derivatives. My prediction for 2008 is that 'A New Focus On The Drive' will be high on many motorist's New Year Resolution lists. — David Miles

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Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi Titanium 5-door | £18,295
Maximum speed: 126mph | 0-62mph: 9.3 seconds
Overall test MPG: 31.7mpg | Power: 134bhp | Torque: 236lb ft

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