badge is appearing
on some smart new
Fords: in particular,
the new Mondeo and
Ford Focus Coupé-
Cabriolet. In fact, the
could be just the car
Ford and its customers
need to weather the
UNUSUALLY FOR FORD, it was not the market leader for new car sales last month due to
the run-out of the old Mondeo and the introduction of new models. However, overall for the-year-to-date, Ford is still leading the new car market with 192,493 registrations an increase over the same period last year of 3.1 per cent.
And they look set to record their 31st consecutive year as the UK's
car market leader.
Interestingly, Ford, who predominately sells its new cars in the fleet and business car sectors, has seen increased interest this year from retail buyers. Ford's dealers retailed the most cars to private buyers
in June and year-to-date 77,848 private sales so far this year
and is 10,000 ahead of the nearest competitor.
Perhaps this is a new direction for the troubled car manufacturer: less unprofitable fleet business and more attractive products and a better brand image to attract the retail buyers?
Worldwide, Ford is facing a difficult future that has already resulted in the sale of Aston Martin. They are reportedly looking at disposing of Jaguar and Land Rover and rumours suggest that Volvo too will be up for grabs.
At this stage there seems to be no severance from its Japanese partner Mazda, and the engine agreement between Ford and PSA Peugeot-Citroen also looks set to continue.
So, once a 'House of Brands', Ford now looks set to return to the more focussed status quo of a 'Branded House'. Certainly the launch of the new and more up-market Mondeo has moved the Ford brand closer to being a manufacturer who can produce a 'premium' car again.
In latter years, drivers in the UK have generally felt uncomfortable owning up to buying or running a new Ford or even a Mondeo or Focus, because the brand and models had little status. Ford had become synonymous with knocking out mass-produced products for the fleet and company car markets. These had little appeal for the retail cus-tomers or those further up the company car ladder, compared to more premium brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
All that appears to be changing because there are very good models within the Focus range that drivers are proud to be seen in, and the new Mondeo is a much more upmarket offering and looks set to be a real success.
One of the Focus models that really does a good job in raising Ford's profile is the new Coupé-Cabriolet. The Focus line-up, overall, is the UK's best selling model range.
The Focus Coupé-Cabriolet went on sale in late Spring this year,
just in time for what was expected to be another Hot British Summer. Despite the unpredictable British weather, sales of such vehicles are growing. According to figures from the Society of Motoring Manu-facturers and Traders, registrations are now over 100,000 units a year three times the number a decade ago and the sector now enjoys a 4.3 per cent share of the new car market.
Private retail customers have been the traditional buyers of cabriolets or convertibles, but the introduction of the latest folding metal roof types such as the Focus CC has found favour with company car fleet managers. The added safety and security the new CC models offer over the traditional 'rag-tops' makes them now a viable altern-ative to a hatchback, saloon or coupé. The new breed of coupé -cabriolet models can now be found on company car lists for user-chooser drivers and there is a healthy demand for new and used vehicles from private buyers.
With the end of production of the Ford Street Ka in 2005 and the Escort Convertible back in 1997, Ford has not had a presence in the growing coupé-cabriolet market until now. And the Focus Coupé- Cabriolet is Ford of Europe's first power-operated hardtop model.
Prices start at £16,795 for the 1.6-litre, 99bhp CC-1 version. The Focus CC-2 with a 2.0-litre 143bhp petrol engine is priced at £17,795 and the CC-2 with a 2.0-litre, 134bhp diesel engine costs £19,270. Higher specification CC-3 versions are available with a 2.0-litre petrol or diesel engine and cost £18,795 and £20,287 respectively. Petrol models have five-speed manual transmissions while the diesel version uses a six-speed unit. An automatic transmission will become available for 2.0-litre petrol models at the end of this year.
Who will buy the Focus Coupé-Cabriolet? Ford says their research into this growing sector shows there is a 50:50 split between male and female buyers, although more females tend to drive these cars than males.
Around 70 per cent of owners are married and 30 per cent have child-ren. The coupé-cabriolet styling attracts 57 per cent of buyers to this segment and 32 per cent of customers will come from the C-sector where the Focus range is already the market leader.
All Focus Coupé-Cabriolet models have alloy road wheels, an active roll-over protection system, four seats with sculpted rear bench seats, electronically-operated and heated door mirrors, a Thatcham Category 1 alarm, CD player and air conditioning. The CC-2 derivatives have larger alloy wheels, a leather steering wheel and a Sony MP3 player. Top of the range CC-3 models come as standard with leather seats,
a different style of 17-inch alloy wheel, cruise control, a Sony 6-CD player, automatic lights and wipers, front fog lights and a distinctive grille surround.
Insurance group ratings are 8E for CC-1 variants and 11E for CC-2/
Ford feels the best-selling version could be the Focus Coupé-Cabriolet CC-3 with a 2.0i 16V 143bhp petrol engine and five-speed manual transmission. It is priced at £18,795 but is loaded with lots of options including satellite navigation. The optional 'luxury pack' will bring the total up to a significant £23,345.
When I drove the 2.0-litre petrol engine model on the press launch it proved to be reasonable enough for most people's needs but it didn't give the performance needed to go with the sporting design. I rather suspect the 1.6-litre unit will be too listless and the likely best overall engine for all-round driveability and fuel economy will be the 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine. On that basis this is the one I selected for a longer run, using it day-in and day-out throughout a very wet week. Whilst the folding metal roof was watertight, when I opened the very large bootlid water ran off it at the sides and into the load area. So that might be a long-term issue for a water-damaged boot lining, not to mention the irritation of having items in the boot doused with water.
Whilst the front-wheel drive Focus Coupé-Cabriolet feels as though it has a torsionally stiff and significantly reinforced bodyshell, with the roof down there was still an element of body shake and this became more evident on poorer road surfaces concrete sections of motor-ways, for instance. With the roof up, the car regained all the handling ability, compliance and ride comfort found with all other Focus models.
The roof operation was smooth and simple to use and buffeting inside the car with the hood down was minimal, particularly with the optional rear wind deflector fitted. With the roof up, the interior of the car
was exceptionally quiet although the roof does creak and groan when driving over some non-motorway road surfaces.
The interior is well laid out with all the instruments in logical positions. The driving position is good and visibility with the roof up is fine. The rear seats are roomy enough for teenage children but adults might find legroom a bit skimpy compared to the VW Eos. With the roof up, there is a considerable amount of luggage space, and with the roof stowed
in the boot there is still plenty of space, which is unusual in this type of car. The larger rear-end of the Focus CC the car is styled and built by Pininfarina in Italy lends the car a classier, well-proportioned appearance: indeed, seen from the side it looks a very smart coupé.
It also makes this Focus appear to be a larger car: one from the next class up.
Definitely the engine of choice is the 2.0-litre, 134bhp turbodiesel. Having lived with it for a week I can honestly say that, overall, it is
the best performer. Fuel economy was impressive: an average of 48.6mpg and better than the 'official' combined figure of 47.9mpg.
The engine is pretty refined and very responsive, and the six-speed manual transmission works very well with this engine.
Priced at £20,287, the Focus Coupé-Cabriolet CC-3 2.0 TDCi is well equipped, with anti-lock brakes, front and side airbags, a roll-over pro-tection system, 17-inch 10-spoke 'machined' alloy wheels, Sony CD system, air conditioning, heated windscreen, automatic lights, rain sensing wipers, driver's power-adjusted seat, heated front seats and leather-trimmed steering wheel. However, the test car came with an additional £2,650 DVD SatNav system and an uprated sound and infor-mation system, metallic paint, parking sensors (which by my reckoning should be standard fit), luxury leather trim and a rear windbreak. The price for all this? A hefty £24,837.
Okay for company car drivers although still pretty steep for private users. But there are a lot of plus points: it's refined, practical and well equipped. It also has a reasonable ride and handling with the roof down that improves to excellent when the roof is up, and the retractable roof itself is easy to use. Finally, its diesel engine is better than the petrol units. Against? The already mentioned run-off into the boot of rainwater. Admittedly, for some, the Blue Oval badge is not as 'brand desirable' as the VW roundel adorning the Eos. Having noted all that, next to the VW Eos this Focus Coupé-Cabriolet is probably the best of the medium-sized coupé-cabriolet models currently on sale. And that's a pretty good result. David Miles
Ford Focus Coupé-Cabriolet 2.0 TDCi CC-3 | £20,287
Maximum speed: 127mph | 0-62mph: 10.3 seconds
Overall test MPG: 48.6mpg | Power: 134bhp | Torque: 236lb ft