Ford Focus 2011
We take Ford's new C-class for a quick spin
First Look Ford describes the new Focus, being launched to its dealer network today, as being its most technology packed car yet. It's not fibbing, but not every model gets the lot.
Active Park Assist, for example, which does reverse parallel parking for you only comes as standard on the Titanium X, one of the four option packs the new Focus will be split into.
APA works surprisingly well, correctly detecting car length-plus gaps in a line of vehicles and steering you into the space, smoothly and accurately. I know, I tried it this week at a Ford event in Sheffield. All you control is gear selection, clutch, brake and throttle.
Drivers who parallel park regularly - I do; I have no off-street parking at home - may not use APA every day, but if you need to slot into a space quickly, it'll get you out of the way of traffic without putting your tyres on the curb.
Out and about, the new Focus is a quiet, calm machine, nicely keeping road noise down and successfully smoothing the many potholes spotting the roads along which Ford's prescribed test drive route took me on.
The 30-minute drive didn't give me enough time to put the Focus through its paces - neither I nor the dealers who'll be following me got to take the car onto the motorway or a big A road - so a fair bit of the car's new tech, such as its lane-keeping mechanism, blind spot monitoring and eco-oriented driving guidance didn't come into play.
I didn't get stuck in slow-moving traffic, so the low-speed safety system didn't get a look in either.
But the Focus feels good to drive, with its six-speed manual gearbox shifting up and and down very smoothly, and the 1.6 litre EcoBoost engine delivering rather more power - 150PS or 182PS, depending on version - than its capacity rating suggests.
EcoBoost allows Ford to highlight the Focus' green credentials, but it's not standard across the range. Depending on whether you pick Edge, Zetec, Titanium or Titanium X variants, you'll get a choice of 1.6 litre TiVCT or TDCi engines, or 2.0 litre TDCi. All deliver CO2 emissions of less than 140g/km, putting them into VED band E - Â£110 in the first year.
The 1.6 TDCi engine emits 109g/km, which is Â£20 VED band B, but that comes at the cost of much lower power: 95PS or 115PS, depending on model, and correspondingly slower acceleration.
The 150PS 1.6 EcoBoost will do 0-62mph in 8.6s and 31-62mph in the same time. Compare that to the 95PS 1.6 TDCi, which takes 12.5s and 10.9s, respectively.
Sensors and sensor-ability
Beyond engine design, the new Focus keeps CO2 emissions down by automatically stopping and starting the engine in appropriate moments, and by closing off the front air intakes when it can, reducing drag.
Active Park Assist uses sensors built into the lower rear and corners of the body. The new Focus' other tech works off of a couple of forward facing cameras and a laser mounted inside the cabin in front of the rearview mirror.
It's these that track the relative speed of the car in front - the basis for the low-speed safety system, braking automatically if you come up too close - and which monitor lane markings to nudge you back if you drift over the line. Do it on a bend and you'll just get a vibration warning. Edge over on a straight and the new Focus will turn the wheel to get you back.
If it thinks you're not holding the wheel - you don't resist its self-applied torque or increase it - you'll get a loud audio warning to tick you off. Ditto if the drowsy driver detector's early warnings have been ignored.
It's a little more forgiving if you ignore its speed reminders, the result of its ability to spot speed signs and present them on the dashboard display.
The blind-spot monitor uses the exterior sensors to trigger a warning light in the appropriate wing mirror if a vehicle is in the blind spot and you start to move out. Handy this, since the narrow, tinted rear passenger windows are not conducive to clear over-the-shoulder glances.
Again, all this is optional, part of the £750 Driver Assistance Pack you can add to the Titanium and Titanium X models.
Reg Hardware will be giving the Focus' tech a full write-up when we review the new car shortly. ®