Focussed Enough?

Ford Focus sideSome good points and some mediocre ones leave Adrian Burford pondering the Fordís COTY chances.

Have you driven a Ford lately? If you havenít you should give the new Focus a whirl, because it is a good car and a worthy player in the C-segment, counting strong dynamic ability and generous cabin space as strong points.

In fact the 1.8 TDCi Trend turbodiesel sedan is a finalist in the 2012 Car of the Year competition, facing off against the likes of Jetta and Elantra (and a bunch of others) for the South African car industryís most important prize. I mention the VW and the Hyundai specifically because while they are positioned slightly differently from the Focus and one another they can be compared in many ways even thought the object of the competition is to compare the 10 finalists against natural rivals rather than the other cars in the competition.

Ford Focus rearIt has been a while since Ford put some COTY silverware in their cabinet and pre the 2012 event the Focus was definitely a favourite. Post-judging, is it still? Iíd say no, and the reason is the aforementioned Jetta and Elantra, both of which look like better value. At almost R290 000 the Ford is quite pricey and, frankly, lacks something in the way of a quality look, feel and ambience compared to the Jettaís cabin. The Hyundai, on the other hand, provides an interior which is as inviting, but for considerably less.

In my opinion the Ford didnít quite deliver on its dynamic promise either, feeling slightly less responsive than I thought it would be. That may be the result of the added weight over the front wheels thanks to the turbodiesel 2.0-litre, while the six-speed Powershift gearbox didnít react as willing as I thought it would, with perceptible delays before it transferred power to the front wheels. You do however have the option of changing manually, via Ďplus/minusí buttons on the side of the gearlever but I suspect most drivers would soon forget about their existence.

Ford Focus interiorAS far as looks go, Fordís Kinetic Design does work: the Focus has sleek and modern lines, though it lacks the athleticism of the Hyundai methinks, and the elegance - albeit conservative - of the Jetta.

As far as the dreaded NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) go, Focus hits the spot and it feels refined and well-insulated. Thereís little in the way of wind rustle, and the diesel engineís inherent rattle is well-masked. Suspension soaks up all but the worst irregularities, though once again isnít as accomplished as the sublime Jetta over rough surfaces.

Space is something the Focus has plenty of and it is a good car to be a passenger in. Rear legroom is generous and the seats plush Ė it is good enough for just about any trio of front row forwards. As is the boot: their kit will fit in comfortably.

The Focus is well-equipped and dynamically very capable but at the price seems to be lacking the final layer of polish to make it a true champion. Iíd be surprised if I have to eat those words come March 15.