Taking the alternate choice redefines ‘winning’.
First published in the March 2016 issue of Wheels magazine, Australia's most experienced and most trusted car magazine since 1953.
I’LL admit the Focus wasn’t the first choice for our summer beach trip. It wasn’t a lightweight roadster like the luscious red Mazda MX-5 that also sat out the front. But it boasted four fully inflated tyres (the Mazda didn’t) and even a space-saver spare in the boot (again, the MX-5 failed to oblige, but more on that next month when I reveal how the editor’s new long termer started its life at Wheels in my care).
The fact we had a pure driver’s car marooned at home, and one of the world’s most amazing coastlines to explore, had us initially lamenting the more humble hatchback. So we loaded up the ‘Winning Blue’ Ford – feeling far from having won – before the three-hour drive to Port Fairy on Victoria’s glorious Shipwreck Coast.
Immediately, though, the Focus showed its skills as one of the best C-segment hatches. I love driving holidays because there’s no carry-on limit, so I overpack.
On the road, my girlfriend – who comments on cars as much as Donald Trump comments on equality – said, “It’s good that there are two USB slots,” allowing my smartphone to feed while hers spun tunes. We also used something else the MX-5 lacks, a CD player. The Focus stereo, operated via the steering wheel, isn’t outstanding, but it’s far from disappointing.
Then there’s the sat-nav (something else our base-spec MX-5 didn’t have). The voice activation works effectively and the directions are spoken aloud after an audible tone that sounds like an aircraft ‘fasten-seatbelt’ chime. There’s also graphical direction in the instrument cluster to follow after we’d set the destination and mindlessly headed south-west.
Along the way, the Focus’s seats proved supportive even after several hours, and the air-con blasts cool air to easily deal with 40-degree summer days. Oddly, though, it’s either blasting or doing not much at all; there’s no ‘soft’ setting when you’re after a zephyr. Above the vents, that expansive dashboard proved a great place to dry clothes after a beach swim, but the windscreen reflections wouldn’t budge.
On the winding stuff, where I thought I’d miss the MX-5 most, the Focus didn’t disappoint. Its poise on the sinewy Skenes Creek Road through the Otways, where we’d been diverted after a beautiful trip down the Great Ocean Road because of the Lorne bushfire, was brilliant. The Michelin rubber is the weak link; they’re made more for smooth ride and quietness than out-and-out cornering, the fronts scrubbing easily.
Yet the warbling grunt of that 1.5-litre turbo, slick six-speed manual and overall balance made it a hoot through the forest, where I forgot about the MX-5. Almost.
Summertime, and the living is easy
The Focus proved easy to live with on holiday. The keyless entry – and start – made loading luggage easy, as did the impressive global closing, which winds up all the windows from the key fob as you walk away; a neat party trick. The cloth seat trim cleans up with a mere wipe and the 60/40 split rear seat means easy access to valuables hidden in the boot, which is huge. There’s also loads of space up front for phones, wallets, coffee cups and water bottles, as well as a deep centre console.
Read part one of our Ford Focus Sport long-term car review.
Ford Focus Sport
Price as tested: $26,910
Part 2: 3096km @ 8.0L/100km
Overall: 3299km @ 8.0L/100km
Date acquired: December 2015