Time to Focus

One final weekend away provides an opportunity to make an assessment

DAMION SMY

SIX hours. Alone. In the Focus. It was my way of farewelling the LZ Focus Sport manual hatch. It was also a chance to get to a level of intimacy that would reveal if, over the almost six months it had been ‘mine’, there were any skeletons lurking in the closet.

The 300-odd kilometre drive to Seaspray, a beachside town on 90 Mile Beach, for a lazy weekend was likely the last time I’d have the chance to clock so many miles in the Focus, which has proven utterly reliable the entire time – as you’d expect, yet still worth mentioning.

In all that time I hadn’t really sampled the stereo properly. The daily radio chatter in traffic needed to be met by a country road, amped-up rock-fest, with bad singing as I got lost in the music,

Wiping the slate clean

The Focus had two quality niggles during its time here – the gear-lever boot, and the parcel shelf hanger removing itself.

Both were easy fixes, but that boot infuriatingly kept coming off.

And don’t tell Ford, but I spilt a fair amount of tea and coffee in this car. It was also showered in sand and loaded with country soil. Yet it kept looking like new with a decent clean. Nothing seems to stick to that interior, so Ford gets its Sport hatch back looking brand-spankers, with a few more miles on the clock.

the drive and the Focus. It’s a good system, especially at this price, but here’s a tip: don’t hit the ‘RDS’ button, which provides extra data but makes it sound tinny and cheap.

Value is something I thought about throughout my time with the Focus. Its 132kW of power is up there with cars like the (heavier) Mercedes C-Class and from about 1800rpm it has some serious punch.

Repeatedly, someone in traffic would make a futile attempt to stun the Focus, but they were usually easy meat.

Once at speed, everything settles down; the engine is quiet, there’s little wind noise, and I’d find myself occasionally squeezing the steering wheel because it feels so good. Same goes for the driving position, and the overall agility around corners. The Focus has the talent to be refined yet raucous when needed.

I don’t have kids or even a dog, but the practicality of the back seats – which easily fold – fed my paranoia of not leaving anything visible to tempt passers-by. Up front, I particularly appreciated the massive door bins and centre console storage – though the covered bin is small and I foiled the satnav by packing it too tightly and knocking the SD card out (easily pushed back in).

Its level of convenience has me convinced I would rather have a low-spec Focus than a low-spec Golf (the small car I always thought I’d prefer). As well as arguably having more character and being less pretentious, the Focus’s keyless entry is brilliant, and the global closing means you can walk away and it will wind up the windows. That would be impressive in a BMW 7 Series, let alone a $27K hatch. And the capless fuel filler is foolproof and utterly brilliant; like the clapping auto windscreen wipers, it shows design flair and practicality rolled into one.

If you’re planning to buy the manual Sport model – or any manual Focus, since this engine does the entire non-performance Focus set – don’t expect class-leading economy, even on 98-octane.

What would I change about this car?

Those wheels are terrible to clean, and look dated. The seat trim is great, but I just don’t like the way it looks; it’s about the only area that makes this car feel cheap (well, that and the repeat offender – the gear lever boot).

And the windscreen wipers didn’t always clear the screen properly, which was especially problematic at night on a rooinfested country road.

Yet the gear this car comes with – reversing camera, sat-nav, keyless entry and start – means you don’t need to tick any of the options boxes. You won’t even need six hours, alone, to convince you that there are no skeletons in its closet.

Buy or pass?

Would I buy this car? Golf and Mazda 3 are the clear class leaders but neither comes close on equipment levels for the cash. They are better in terms of dynamics, cabin finish and resale, but I only like 3s with big alloys (to the detriment of ride) and the Golf seems a smart yet boring choice. The Peugeot 308 is a cracker, yet the Focus has just as much character and is still a comparatively ‘safe’ buy. So, colour and wheels aside, I would have no hesitation putting my own down for this car.

FORD FOCUS SPORT

Date acquired: December 2015 Price as tested: $26,910 This month: 1340km @ 9.4L/100km Overall: 7414km @ 10.2L/100km

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