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ALAN DOUBLAS ON MOTORS: Best days may be behind it but Ford Focus is ageing well with ST-Line Vignale 1.0 EcoBoost mHEV


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The Ford Focus is far from a spent force.
The Ford Focus is far from a spent force.

Its best days may be behind it, but the Ford Focus is far from a spent force. It still has a long way to go before it is consigned to automotive history like its much-missed Escort predecessor.

At its peak, it sold more than a half-a-million around Europe but that was a long time ago and in its twilight years, Ford are working hard to extend the life of what remains very much the landmark model of the brand in the UK.

So while it is still looking good for its age as it approaches its quarter-century it’s been given a facelift in its bodywork and new technology to compete with some of the new kids on the block.

The engine options have been trimmed back with only one diesel – the 1.5-litre EcoBlue – but its days must be numbered.

There’s also the excellent 1.0 litre, three-cylinder EcoBoost petrol engine but while the competition is offering a range of hybrids or full electric power, Ford have taken that unit and bolted on 48-volt mild hybrid technology to offer a cost-effective alternative to buyers looking for a greener option and the economy and tax benefits it brings.

It’s a good move and the power unit gives back a surprising amount of response from its 999ccs and while the improved economy is not startling, the performance is fairly impressive, thanks to the little bit of electric assistance.

A small battery symbol on the dash lets you know when braking or deceleration is returning charge to the battery or when it’s using the turbo boost.

The Ford Focus been given a facelift in its bodywork and new technology.
The Ford Focus been given a facelift in its bodywork and new technology.

What hasn’t changed much is the car’s chassis and that’s because it’s so good and makes the Focus such an engaging car to drive with great response and positive handling.

It is solid, secure and well-balanced through the bends, equal to many performance-focussed models and while the lower ride-height suspension is on the firm side, it feels positive and deals well with our changing and often less-than-perfect surfaces.

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Ghost verging on automative work of art

The test car was in sporty ST-Line trim which meant it looked the part with bright red brake calipers front and rear behind the 18-inch high gloss, machined alloys and the smart polished twin tailpipes at the back end.

This spec also brings a B&O premium audio system with 10 speakers, ‘Sensico’ synthetic leather heated seats with power lumbar adjustment, a wireless charging pad, and a specific grille.

Apart from the ST-Line, the range comprises entry-level Trend, Titanium, and crossover-inspired Active trims, and hatch and estate versions.

The test car came with the Vignale package, which had previously been an updated standalone version of the old Ghia but is now available only as an option on all but the basic model.

The interior is dominated by a huge landscape-style 13.2-inch touchscreen with the latest Sync 4 software.
The interior is dominated by a huge landscape-style 13.2-inch touchscreen with the latest Sync 4 software.

The interior is dominated by a huge landscape-style 13.2-inch touchscreen with the latest Sync 4 software. It is the biggest in the class and the performance has been improved with quicker loading times, clearer graphics and icons.

Almost everything is controlled through the screen and it is easy to navigate, whether changing radio stations or altering the temperature or direction of the climate control.

There’s Apple Carplay and Android Auto with over-the-air updates and with many functions now embedded in the screen, there’s a clear space below for some minor controls and a large prominent engine start button.

There’s a comprehensive line-up of safety features and the test car came with Blind Spot Information System and Head-up Display at £400 each and for another £525, the Driver Assist Pack included Driver Alert, Traffic Sign Recognition and Adaptive Cruise Control.

The test car was also fitted with £950 fancy Dynamic Matrix LED headlamps which have an adaptive high beam to avoid dazzle for oncoming vehicles and change the beam pattern in wet weather to reduce glare.

But for me, the best option of all was the £825 and well-named Fantastic Red paint job.

CAR: Ford Focus ST-Line Vignale 1.0 EcoBoost mHEV

PRICE: £28,625 (£32,225 as tested)

ENGINE: 999cc 3 cyl inline turbocharged petrol EcoBoost mHEV six-speed manual with 48v starter/generator

POWER: 155 PS

TORQUE: 190 Nm

PERFORMANCE: Top speed 131mph; 0-62mph nine seconds

ECONOMY: 52mpg combined

CO2 EMISSIONS: 121g/km


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