Careful what you wish for ('05 Focus)

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Note: Europe exclusive post follows.
Having taken my '03 Focus TDCi Estate in for a service, I am driving around in an '05 Focus 5-door as a replacement for the day. So far, it has simply
reinforced my impression that I made the best choice in the Golf class when I bought my car two years ago, and also that progress is not necessarily a good thing. Certainly from the outside it looks a little more upscale, although as a mini-Mondeo it has lost the feline appeal of the original front end, and the interior design may look higher quality to some due to its absolutely conservative layout, but to me the materials look no better and I anyway liked the "new edge" funkiness of the old Focus and its more organic curves. Certain ergonomic details are better now (finally you can aim the vents from the AC system to blow on the driver...) but others are a step back (the radio cluster is harder to read, the gauges have more glare in direct sunlight, the steering wheel feels horrible with its cheesy faux-aluminum inserts, the armrest is useless and obtrusive).
What really annoys me is the industry-wide trend towards bloated cars. The new Focus is 14cm wider than the old one. This is substantial, and completely changes the character of the car. It may be a mini-Mondeo in concept, but I wouldn't be surprised if the two come out within cms of each other under the tape measure. Those 14cm are felt on narrow, twisty B-roads. Where I could toss my car into curves and place it perfectly on the road, with the new Focus I was all too aware of the shrubbery whizzing by a hair-breadth from my offside mirror. Sharing the B-roads with opposing traffic, especially trucks, is a bit dodgy now. Okay, it's not a Mercedes S-class, but it has lost its playful character due to its newly found corpulence. I'm sure the extra size pays dividends for back-seat passengers, although my subjective opinion is that you wouldn't really notice in a back-to-back comparison unless you measured. To me, it's just extra flab which has diluted the quality of the quintessential hot hatch. This steady evolution from cars the size of the old 205 GTi to the current Golf GTI is disturbing for the few like me who value a quick, compact back-road tool, but it's what the market wishes.
Oh, and it didn't fit in my garage at home.
The other immediate killer for me is the feel of the controls. Ford has followed the industry trend towards lighter and lighter controls. The clutch has no resistance and engages high off the floor, while the brakes are over-boosted and grabby. The shifter is lighter, but lacks the positive engagement of the old box and is placed quite low relative to the steering wheel. The Focus maintains its great steering, and ultimate grip is superb, but the rest of the control interfaces are a let-down and detract from the driving experience (for me).
It's actually a pleasant change to not be yearning for the newest model. Can't wait to get my old faithful back from service.
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Stephen F. wrote:

Fiesta?

Blimey, I thought the '03 model was pretty wide! It's the mirrors - I've scraped mine on the garage entrance, unfortunately I can't fold them back and then see to reverse properly!
Interesting post, thanks!
--
Chris Game

"Deleted code has fewer bugs." -- Xibo
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Funny the way the Fiesta has grown to the size (almost) of the old Escort/Focus, the Polo is now the size of the old Golf etc. The new ST is interesting, but it's sad how such a lot of motor still creates underwhelming performance.

Physically it would fit, but getting into my garage involves backing up while turning a sharp corner. It's threading the needle at the best with the '03 car, and I can barely squeeze my skinny ass out of the car after I've parked. I would probably have to come out the back hatch with the new one!
The mirrors on the new Focus, by the way, are crap. Small, and it's not possible to adjust them far enough outwards to properly eliminate the blind spot. Car manufacturers seem to think we want to see the side of the car in the mirrors for comfort...
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Thanks for the comments, Stephen, but I remind our North American readers that this is not the same car that we buy here. I'm not sure where he lives (is "ch" China?), but he evidently has the new European 2005 Focus, which is closer to the new Mazda3, whereas ours is just a slightly modified version of the 2000-2004 models. From everything I've read (including this post), I'm glad that Ford made this decision.
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Hence the "Europe exclusive post" disclaimer at the start. :-)
CH is Switzerland. The size itself would certainly not be a problem anywhere in North America, even on the twistiest roads. It's a shame the newer North Amercian cars have also lost their edgy styling, but this is what most consumers want.
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Can't seem to wake up this morning. If I had I would have noticed that the University of Bern is not in China :<)
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On Wed, 25 May 2005 08:41:57 -0400, "Dave Gower"

.ch is Switzerland. BTW, the new Focus is wider but it's all a matter of getting used to it. I own one for a month now and I had no problem with it being wider than my old Opel Astra.
-Nick
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.ch = Confederation Helvetica (Switzerland) .cn = China
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Timothy J. Lee
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Did you read my comments on Focus II in our local forum pages??? :)) You almost told in english what I have been saying in turkish for the last three months. :)) I am sharing your thoughts and opinions. I have to add that the interior finish of Focus II is not better than the previous model if not worse. I want to copy and paste your comments to our local forum pages if you allow me to do so.
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What were saying in Turkish?
Ahmet
'01 Focus Wagon
Turkey
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If you want you can sign up with our forums and read and contribute on this and other simlar topics. www.focusum.com
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Feel free to copy my comments if you like.
cheers Stephen
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Hi Stephen.
Was the '05 you got for the day a TDCi, and if so what did you think of it compared to your own?
Gary.
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Unfortunately it was a 1600 petrol, or "The Lame Duck" as my girlfriend called it after a day with it. It was nasty. Loud, gutless, and slow. As soon as I got back in my TDCi I felt like I was in a rocketship, and it's not exactly a road-burner. On the motorway, our TDCi with bike racks on the roof is quieter than the new Focus with the 1600, which is geared very short. I'm sure if you really flogged it and held it to redline in each gear you would match the performance of the TDCi... maybe. The tax incentives would have to be huge to make me buy that combination.
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On Mon, 6 Jun 2005 08:18:11 +0200, "Stephen F."

Facts (from the ford.co.uk website):
1.6 Duratec Petrol: 100 PS power, 150 Nm torque, 0-62 mph in 11.9 secs (5-door) 1.6 Duratec Ti-VCT Petrol: 115 PS power, 155 Nm torque, 0-62 mph in 10.8 secs (5-door) 1.6 Duratorq TDCi Diesel Euro IV: 90 PS power, 215 Nm torque, 0-62 mph in 12.9 secs (5-door estate) 1.6 Duratorq TDCi Diesel Euro III: 109 PS power, 240 Nm torque, 0-62 mph in 11.1 secs (5-door estate) 1.8 Duratorq TDCi Diesel: 115 PS power, 280 Nm torque, 0-62 mph in 10.9 secs (5-door estate)
Assuming you're comparing the 1.6 Petrol with the 1.6 Diesel (otherwise the comparison is irrelevant) the Ti-VCT is at least as fast as the 1.6 Diesel, not to say faster. In fact the Ti-VCT can be even compared with the 1.8 Diesel. The only explanation is that your replacement car was one with the old 100 PS 1.6 engine. The fact that it's geared very short is actually one of the features I like very much about the new Focus, but I guess that's a matter of personal taste.
-Nick
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On paper, running it through the gears, it's true it will keep up with the 1.8 diesel. In the real world, the wall of torque of the 1.8 leaves even the newest 1.6 for dead. The in-gear acceleration figures are key for me, not what it will do in a standing start sprint. Put your foot down in the 1.8 TDCi in 5th on the motorway, and it moves out in an impressive fashion. Do that in the 1.6 and you're dead, even though it is spinning at 3500 rpm or more at 120kph. Even a downshift to 4th didn't help much. Perhaps it was the 100ps, but I actually found the "old" 1.6 Zetec SE engine quite nice.
Don't get me wrong, I loved my old short-geared Corolla GT-S and I wind my MX-5 out to the redline on every shift. But... the Corolla could actually move in 5th gear with some authority if needed, and the MX-5 is meant for spirited driving and not much else. Maybe I'm getting soft in my old age (37) but I see also the value of a car which can quietly and quickly get on with its business without me having to behave like a hooligan just to keep ahead of traffic.
I stand by my (and my girlfriend's) observation: the 1.6 was a dog in real-world driving.
Stephen
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On Mon, 6 Jun 2005 12:22:52 +0200, "Stephen F."

Well, we all know diesel engines are superior where torque is an issue (especially in low revs). Diesel cars have their advantages and their disadvantages and choosing between the two is a matter of many factors. Anyway, you're comparing a 1.6 petrol engine -that probably hadn't even reached its full potential- with a 1.8 diesel engine. It'd be interesting to compare the in-gear accelerations, although I can't seem to find the ones for the TDCi (diesel engines are prohibited in Athens, so there is not much material I can find).

All 1.6 petrol cars are dogs then. And forgive me, but real-world driving is not speeding above 120 kph with 5th gear in highways (it's illegal anyway), it's also driving every day in a traffic jammed city like Athens.
-Nick
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wrote:

It had 12'000 km on the clock.

80 - 120kph in fifth takes about 11 seconds in the TDCi, and about 17 seconds in the 1.6, if I remember the last AutoBild test correctly. The same relative difference holds for 50 - 80 in lower gears. That's serious when you are pulling out to pass.

It is in Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany, UK etc. etc.

Agreed, and it is also passing trucks on a narrow two-lane uphill...
Stephen
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On Mon, 6 Jun 2005 16:17:19 +0200, "Stephen F."
[snip]

Noone would go for 80-120 with 5th gear on a petrol car :-) You have to compare relevant things.

I think I've done that once in 13 years. Which proves that things like that are purely subjective.
-Nick
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The in-gear acceleration times for the 5D New Focus Ti-VCT are as follows:
3rd gear 30-50 4.0 50-80 5.8 80-110 6.4
4th gear 40-60 5.6 80-110 8.0 120-140 7.0
5th gear 50-70 7.1 80-110 11.8 120-140 10.4
and that makes it faster than the New Opel Astra 1.6, the Golf 1.6 Fsi and as fast as the C4 1.6.
-Nick
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