A Ford Focus, but one with a surprisingly small engine.
Day 1 The Focus arrives. It looks like any other Focus. The engine is the interesting bit. It’s a 999cc three cylinder with variable valve timing, a low inertia turbo, a split cooling system and a variable displacement oil pump. It’s also a very considerate lover and always remembers your birthday. Unusually for a brand new petrol engine, the block is made of iron. Apparently it enables faster warm up. In Ford’s bumf it says the bare block is so compact it’ll fit onto a sheet of A4 paper which will be useful if you’re a keen home mechanic dismantling one on the dining room table and you don’t have an old newspaper to hand.
Take the Focus for a drive to the supermarket. It moves with surprisingly briskness. The car I mean. The supermarket tends to stay put.
Day 2 This car has keyless start so you get it going by jabbing a button. And then you think about jabbing the button again because the engine is so quiet you barely hear it fire. It’s also pretty quiet on the move. When you really rev it you get a distant but quite agreeable purr, like a massive mechanical cat has just entered the room. But much less strange and frightening.
Drove down to Chichester. A stern test of any car, and one that the Focus passes admirably. It’s Goodwood Festival of Speed week and lots of interesting stuff passes in the opposite direction. Ferrari 458s, Mercedes SLRs, an F40. All very nice cars, but I bet their engine blocks won’t fit on a sheet of A4. Also spotted a McLaren MP4-12C on the hard shoulder being prodded by an AA man. Ron Dennis would be horrified. ‘I am experiencing a quantity of horrifiedness’ he would say. Probably.
Day 3 Stayed overnight with a mate. He’s still in mourning for the Triumph motorcycle he had to trade for a sensible old-shape Focus. This new Focus has a three-cylinder engine like your old bike, I said, maybe it would make you feel better. He’s not convinced.
Day 4 Went to the Festival of Speed. It was excellent. Got out in good time, missed most of the traffic, had a nice drive through the countryside. This car really does handle very nicely. It’s grown up without being boring. The distant mechanical cat noise is still enjoyable. When we get home one of my neighbours is outside his house. ‘Is that a Fiesta?’ he shouts. In fairness, he’s standing quite far away. I tell him it’s a Focus with a new 1-litre engine. ‘1-litre?’ he says, and pulls a sort of ‘oh dear’ face. I was going to spend some time telling him it’s turbocharged, it makes 123 horsepower and it performs perfectly well but it had been a long journey and I really needed a wee.
Day 5 After yesterday’s long drive, I’ve realised something rather odd about the Focus. The gearlever is in the wrong place. It’s just a little bit too far back. Not as terrible as in, say, an old Vauxhall Zafira where ideally you’d have a friend change gear for you from the back seat but still awkward enough to give you a cricked wrist. Odd, especially since Ford usually get this sort of stuff bob on. The gearchange itself is really nice.
Day 6 You know the little buttons on car doors that activate the interior lights? Been trying to work out why the ones on the Focus are so massive. E-mailed someone at Ford who pointed out that they’re part of the Door Edge Protection system. When you open the door the massive buttons make little rubbery flaps pivot out from the trailing edge to stop your car dinging someone else’s. They’re a £50 option. So really, when you’re ordering a Focus, they’re a test of how considerate you are.
Day 7 Was talking to a mate who’s a powertrain engineer for Another Car Company. He reminded me that a brand new engine like this is no small undertaking for any car firm. He reckons they’ve been working on it since 2003 and it’ll have cost them upwards of a billion quid. Money well spent though because it’s a very lovely thing and a front runner in the race to downsize. See also: the Fiat Twinair. The only thing is that, like the Twinair, it’s not actually as economical as they claim. Ford says this Focus should do 58.9mpg on the combined cycle. After a week, the computer reckoned I’d got 37.6mpg. Not terrible, and I did drive like an arse for quite a lot of that time, but not life-changingly amazing. Even so, if you wanted economy you could get a diesel. Or you could accept the mpg for what it is and actually enjoy driving.
Statgasm: This car was a Ford Focus 1.0 Titanium. Ford says it can do 120mph and go from 0 to 60 in 11.3 seconds. It costs £19,195 although this one had some options fitted (including a speed limit sign reader that accidentally read the phone number on the back of a coach and told me the speed limit through Petworth was 100mph) which is why it costs £22,240