Back with a green Focus
28 February 2008
The UK's best-selling business car, the Ford Focus, is back, and this time it comes with an eco-friendly model that's due in March. Tom Webster reports
Despite taking top spot in both the manufacturer and model lists for fleet sales in 2007, not to mention five BusinessCar awards, Ford is being far from complacent.
Next year sees the launch of the Kuga small 4x4, the new Ka, the Fiesta replacement and, most importantly for fleets, the new Focus that will also showcase Ford's low-emission Econetic range.
Neil Wilson, Ford's Focus brand specialist, says that Econetic will be a "brand within itself" rather than just a derivation limited to the Focus. In the same way that Volkswagen's Bluemotion label has moved across the VW range, Econetic will make its way onto a sub-140g/km Mondeo this summer, then a sub-100g/km Fiesta before the end of the year.
Based on the 90PS 1.6-litre diesel 'Style' model, the Econetic's most evident differences are external - an aerodynamic bodykit has been added, with side skirts and a front spoiler. Sport suspension brings the car closer to the road to reduce drag a bit further.
For the wheels, low resistance tyres are used on the light 15-inch steel rims currently seen on the standard Style trim. To keep weight down, though, the faux-alloy cover from the Style is removed. Further weight is trimmed by replacing the spare wheel with a tyre inflation kit.
Ford is not employing a stop-start system as used by BMW and Citroen, or removing equipment to lighten the car, like VW has done by removing aircon from its Bluemotion Polo.
A series of improvements, particularly to the ignition, have been made to the management system of the 1.6-litre diesel engine that will appear in both the Econetic and standard Focus models. In addition, a new low viscosity oil developed by BP will be coursing through the veins of the Econetic. It apparently has shown such improvements in economy that will also to be introduced across other Ford models.
Ford claims that Econetic will make the 90PS Focus the new lower medium CO2 emissions class-leader for "conventionally powered models" with CO2 figures of 114g/km and fuel economy of 65.6mpg, though that statement discounts the petrol-electric hybrid Toyota Prius.
Away from the Econetic, the standard Style spec 90PS 1.6 diesel engine also shows an improvement in emissions over the previous model - and at 119g/km of CO2, a reduction of 5g/km, it creeps below the increasingly important 120g/km boundary.
So, aside from the environmental changes, what else has Ford done to fleet's most popular model? On the face of things, not a great deal. Even though every panel bar the roof and the glass has been altered, there is a sense of familiarity about the new look. With the styling brought into line with the new Mondeo yet retaining the current Focus image, this is hardly surprising.
In late March, a new double clutch 'powershift' automatic gearbox similar to VW's DSG automatic will also be available on either the 110PS or 136PS 2.0-litre diesel engines.
Engineering changes are non-existent, which is fine because the Focus is renowned as a fine-driving car, and interior changes are minimal. As we said when we first drove the new car back at the end of last year, the interior finish is superior to the outgoing version, yet there remains room for improvements - a couple of squeaks and rattles emerged over bumps and jolts of UK back-roads.
The big new Focus story, however, is the introduction of the Econetic range, a branding that will become more influential in the quest to avoid the spiralling costs of running a car.