Behind the wheel of the new Ford Focus

By Andrew Rafter,

Latest Gadgets were invite to the picturesque banks of the Clyde last week to celebrate the 13th anniversary of the Ford Focus, and to get a sneak-peak and drive their latest model, the new Ford Focus is being touted as the most technologically advanced car in its class.

Although the range starts at a eye-watering £16,000 for the bog-standard, 1.6 petrol engine version, we were given free rein in the 1.6 EcoBoost turbo petrol car, powered by Ford’s Titanium X engine and it came fully-loaded with every gadget available.

Ford Focus

While the car comes with a lot of tech as standard, the Driver Assistance Package, which cost £750 adds a host of notable additional options. You can expect to find active city stop, lane keeping aid, active park assist (yes it parks itself), traffic sign recognition, blind-spot warning system and auto high-beam system which automatically turns full beams off and on without any input from the driver.

From the outside it is clear that Ford’s boffins have spent a lot of time with the design – taking the look back to original shape. They have tweaked the outside of the car to give it a distinctly sporty look, slightly at odds with the eco name tag, but they explained that consumers are ditching their gas guzzling BMW’s and the like for cars that are more in keeping with today’s need to save on petrol and car tax. But most importantly according to Ford, customers still want their cars to have more gizmo’s than the Star Ship enterprise, hence why the latest Focus is a tech journalists wet dream.

As soon as you step into the new Ford your automatically cocooned into a cockpit that has more buttons and screens than the Star Ship Enterprise, at first there are a bewildering amount of buttons and switches, but after a few minutes we comfortable with 99% of them, and we easily managed to pair our phone for calls and begun to stream some music from our smartphone using the incredibly user friendly bluetooth system.

Ford Focus dashboard

Surprisingly, after a few minutes of driving, any initial thoughts about room in the front and back quickly turns to a rather cosy feeling, a bit like the cockpit of an fighter jet. There’s not much room to swing a cat, but you left with a car that has lovely solid feel to it through out. It’s not as roomy compared to last model, but we for one forgave this shortcoming, as the new look is simply stunning.

There are two screens on the Ford Focus, one in the central dash which looked to be a 8-inch LCD display – which controls entertainment, sat nav and host of other gizmos. It’s not so big that it dominates the dash nor does it light you up like a Christmas tree, it’s just the perfect size. The other is where you’d usually find the speedometer. This screen is where you’ll be updated with various pieces of information, including when to change gear for optimum fuel efficiency and it cleverly show realtime traffic sign that the on-board camera picks up when you go into new speed zones or even temporary speed limits. Pretty much all these functions can be controlled from controls on the steering wheel and after a while we really settled into our new car for the day.

On the open road, you’ll notice the gear change indicator which tells you exactly when to shift up or down the six -speed manual box for optimum fuel efficiency, which, we completely ignored, not least because Ford had invited us to try out the cars on the outskirts of Glasgow, which had the least speed camera of anywhere we had ever driven in the UK.

Traffic Sign Recognition was notable feature, it recognises within a instant traffic signs ahead of you and displays them for you on the screen next to the rev counter, it just another way technology can help drivers stay within speed limits and we found it to work pretty much perfectly. And we’re not talking out-of-date GPS tracking here. The car actually takes video of the road in front of you and recognises a variety of standard signs including speed limits, and even those that have been set up temporarily so you’ll never get caught out again by the temporary speed limits.
When out onto the motorway more clever piece of tech became apparent – drift into another lane without indicating and the Lane Departure Warning will let you know you’re going off the straight and narrow. Persist with your inconsiderate lane changing and the computer will grabs the steering wheel and put you back on the right track using the Lane Departure Aid. This is quite an achievement and un-nerving at that the same time. The thought of a car taking control off the driver on a motorway at 70mph does seem quite frightening, but imagine, god forbid, if you fell asleep at the wheel. The system in theory could save you life. Importantly if you use your indicators like every decent driver should the system will not interfere so it also teaches you to be better driver, meaning safer, more stress-free journeys.

Changing lane on a motorway while someone is sitting in your blind spot and a little orange light flashes in your wing mirror to warn you that you’re about to merge into another car, the system is sure to save countless lives and crashes, and is just another example of Ford thinking of everything.

Auto High Beam will stop you dazzling other motorists as it dips the headlights automatically, Active City Stop will operate the brakes automatically under a speed limit of 10 mph, and the Active Grille Shutter cuts the car’s emissions by two per cent by closing the radiator grill at certain times to reduce drag and increase full economy.

We were blown away by the new Focus, it’s without a doubt Ford’s finest C class car, we are concerned how long all this tech will last after 5-10years of hard driving, but this is something that can’t be tested after a few hours of driving. Only time will tell, it’s without a doubt the safest car we’ve ever driven, and with all this tech your likely to see a decent resale value, which is a major plus. It would seem that Volkswagen and its Golf range finally has something to be worried about, Expect to see the new Focus on forecourts in May.

  • Ian Allen

    Nice review, however, the Focus celebrated it’s 10th Anniversary in 2008. Also, doesn’t “Titanium X” refer to the trim level and not the engine ?

  • Shem Pennant

    Edited. Thanks.

  • daniel

    hey,

    the auto braking is active under 19mph, not 10mph.

    just thought i’d say :P