Sunday, 7 October 2012

REVIEW - Ford Focus EcoBoost

We are seeing an increasing trend amongst manufacturers. Petrol engines are becoming smaller, and turbocharged. Take, for example, the Ford Focus. Previously the smallest petrol engine was a 1.6-litre, and it was far from economical. So for the new one, Ford developed a 1.0-litre, EcoBoost (turbocharged) engine. The idea is simple. It drives better than the 1.6 and also delivers better when it comes to fuel economy. So how does it fare in the real world?

Looks - 9/10

Ford seem to be doing a really good job with styling recently. The new Fiesta is superb. The next-generation Mondeo looks like a supercar. They even made the Ka look less like a squashed frog. So it is no surprise that the new Focus is a handsome one. The old one was a bit bland, although the facelift did give it a bit more presence. The new one, from front to back, is gorgeous. I must admit I was unsure at first; particularly with the rear end, but after standing and staring at it for a good half hour I decided that I do like it and it's a great design.

I shall start with the exterior. I like the big mouth that really does give the car presence when you see it coming towards you. Down the side there are bold lines which are also smooth, but give the car a sculpted feel. At the back I like the elongated lights which almost reach the rear doors. The alloys are nice, and there are a few options to choose from. Also I must say that I really have a soft spot for some of the exterior colours Ford are offering these days. My test car was finished in Candy Red, which is a great colour, but there are many others which look great too. Too often we have the same old white, black, silver etc. and it gets repetitive, but not with Ford.

Moving on to the inside then, and I think this is where the Focus earns most of its brownie points. The dashboard looks like something you might find on a spaceship of some sort. There are buttons all over the place; quite frankly the steering wheel practically operates the entire car. Yet somehow, it doesn't feel clustered, or unnecessary, or annoying. Everything seems logical, and does what you expect it to. The multi-function display on the dashboard is a lovely crisp one, and I love the blue colour for the dials. It feels very premium, and that's a good thing for sure.

Handling/Performance -9/10

One of the purposes of the EcoBoost is to drive like a 1.6-litre petrol engine. So does it achieve this? Well, the 0-62mph time of 11.3 seconds and the top speed of 120mph are nigh-on identical to those of said 1.6, and on paper that looks a promising start. The power delivery is such that you wouldn't think you were driving a 1.0-litre car, although the 'rasp' is very much the sound of a 3-cylinder engine. Fear not though, because it actually sounds nice from inside the cabin, and sounds almost sporty. So we know that the Focus delivers on power, but what about handling?

Well it really is sublime when it comes to ride and handling. With the ride, it has a suspension setup which lets you know what is going on with the road beneath you, but without being uncomfortable. Once you hit the motorways the Focus is smooth and relaxing, but on an A-road it will give you a feel allowing you to be more confident sticking it into the bends. This confidence is aided by the handling itself. The steering, as well as being perfectly weighted, is pin-sharp. You turn the wheel, and the nose points exactly where you want it; the front wheels kissing the apex perfectly. The brakes can be relied upon to stop you, and the 6-speed gearbox means you can work the engine to optimal level to give you power between corners too.

Economy - 9/10

One of the selling points of the EcoBoost is its economy. Now what you have to understand is that this is never meant to be a 3-million-mpg car that only emits world peace. What it does offer you is a lot more than the 1.6-litre petrol engine it aims to make obsolete. The EcoBoost claims 56.5mpg on a combined cycled, as opposed to the 1.6's measly 44.1 and that makes a big difference. Obviously in both cars you would see less than this if you drive them harder. As for emissions, well the EcoBoost steps head-and-shoulders above the 1.6 here. It emits just 114g/km putting it in VED band C (£30 road tax, free first year). The 1.6 emits 149g/km, meaning £135 for 12 months. You really do get the EcoBoost when you look at it like this. Not only does it drive better but it is much easier to live with, and will save you money on running costs too. A well deserved 9 here.

Practicality - 9/10

As you would expect in a car the size of the Focus, there is a great level of space and practicality on offer. There's ample space for front seat passengers and a huge boot. I could only find a slight niggle that there wasn't as much space on offer for rear-seat passengers as you may have liked, but this is if I am being super critical. The Focus is a doddle to drive and has great manoeuvrability so is very easy to live with. The Titanium model I tested has cruise control, lane departure warning, auto everything, and made every journey an easy one. One of my favourite things about the Focus is the optional door protectors (At £50 a bargain if you ask me). As you will see from the pictures, these are rubber strips which move into place as the door is opened. Because they work mechanically they will never catch regardless of how quickly you shut the door, and would be very effective in a car park. A truly great piece of engineering and much more visually pleasing than the old-fashioned stick-on rubber devices we used to see on car doors.

Fun - 8/10

So when you put all this together, does it make a car that's fun. Well yes actually. I think the reason for this lies mostly with how fun the EcoBoost is to drive. When you're sat behind the stunning dashboard just watching the A-road bends fly by one after the other, it certainly puts a smile on your face. As does opening and shutting the doors several-hundred times, just to see the novelty of the protectors at work. In fact what lets this car down in terms of fun, is explaining just what it is. Having to explain to people how the 1.0-litre engine is turbocharged and gives more power than the 1.6, and yet still does more to the gallon and is cheaper to tax is, frankly, boring. Do this down the pub and your friends will avoid conversation with you. Or you could just not bother, and know yourself that you are driving a great car and that's what matters. Just don't expect people to be massively interested in what is actually brilliant engineering.

Concluding Remarks

I really like the Focus EcoBoost. I get it. I understand what it offers you and I can see why people would want one. It would make a great company car because it wouldn't cost you the earth via your P11D. It makes a great family car, as it won't cost you the earth at the pumps. Prices for the EcoBoost start in Zetec trim, which will cost you £16,995. This isn't bad for the car you get at all. Once you get to the Titanium spec I tested with a few extras on it, you can be looking more towards the £22,000 mark, so there's plenty to suit everyone with whatever budget they may have. I definitely recommend you popping into your local Ford dealership and taking a look at one of these. And for those sceptical of the 1.0-litre's performance, go and test drive one. I guarantee you it will surpass all expectations.

Total Score - 44/50

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