Tuesday, 8 December 2015

COLUMN – December 2015

Here is another chance to see my column from the December edition of The Local Herald and The Clitheroe Local. I featured a coupe of reviews this month,with the large Kia Sorento and colourful Ford Focus ST featuring. As is always the case, you can read more in-depth reviews of both cars by visiting the 'Reviews' page of the site. My final column of the year will be on people's doorsteps around Christmas time, so keep an eye out for it here soon after.

As we approach the end of 2015, I am staggered by how fast it’s gone by. A lot has happened over the last 12 months, from what has felt like a never-ending stream of reviews to the beginning of our rallying adventure. We’ll see how the latter goes over the next 12 months, as we look to enter more events and (hopefully) finish as well as we have been doing.

This month I have two more reviews for you, and I will start with a large, 7-seater SUV in the Kia Sorento. There’s a new one out this year, and with the way Kia are doing at the minute it was likely to be good. I tested the KX-3 model which offers an impressive specification, and comes backed by the usual 7-year, 100,000-mile warranty.

The styling on the new model is fantastic, with a sleek exterior, bold new grille, daytime running lights and plenty of chrome. Step inside the Sorento and you’re greeted by lashings of leather and gloss black trim. The interior feels incredibly premium, with the stitched effect on the dashboard and a large multimedia system. There’s 7 proper seats, heated rear seats and a USB charging slot in the back, which should keep the kids’ devices filled with electricity.

There’s one engine on offer; a 2.2-litre diesel unit producing 197PS and 441Nm of torque. It’s available with a 6-speed manual or automatic gearbox, and all models come with AWD. My test car had the manual gearbox and it was delightful; effortlessly eating up the motorway miles. The Sorento range starts at £28,795 and the model I tested comes in at £35,845. This may sound a lot, but the Sorento is a lot of car.

The next car I had on test was a little bit different, and a lot more yellow. The Ford Focus has been facelifted this year, and with this comes an updated ST model. For the first time it’s available with a diesel engine, although the car I tested had the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol. It packs a 250PS punch, and with 345Nm of torque (rising to 360Nm with an ‘overboost’ function) the in-gear acceleration is impressive.

The styling has benefitted from the facelift, with more angular headlights and a sculpted grille. Inside there’s a new flat-bottomed steering wheel, some simple yet elegant dials and the marvellous SYNC 2 media system. Being the ST-2 my car had the half-leather seats, and the cloth half features some yellow material to match the exterior colour. I found this split opinion, and if it were me I’d just go for the ST-3 model with its full leather interior.

The Focus ST is as good to drive as it is to look at. It packs a decent punch, with 0-62mph taking 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 154mph. The variable sport steering is direct, and even on the optional 19-inch alloys it rides well. My only issue with the handling comes from my own bias. You see we own a Fiesta ST. It’s benefitted from the Mountune upgrade, and as such it can almost keep up with the Focus on performance. When it comes to handling, the Fiesta actually outperforms the Focus through the bends.

That being said the Focus is rather practical. There’s plenty of space in the back, the boot is incredibly big and for a sporty car the ST is very easy to live with. There are various options to help with this, from the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) to the reversing camera. A style pack can add illuminated scuff plates, privacy glass, red calipers and 19-inch alloys.

Dan

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