Ford Focus ST-Line Vignale review – Family hatchback's focus is on desirability
CAR buyers seem to be most interested in two factors these days – good fuel economy and a decent infotainment system.
In a world where there are increasing concerns about the cost of living and rising demands for connectivity, that all makes sense. And Ford has once again stepped up to the plate to keep its popular Focus family transporter up to date with customer desires.
The blue oval badge marque now not only offers some superb eco-friendly powertrains – it has hugely improved the on-board experience.
A high-spec Focus ST-Line Vignale with a mild-hybrid, 1.0-litre petrol, EcoBoost engine and six-speed, manual gearbox proved the point to me recently.
I took the hatchback with my wife and family friends on a round-trip of more than 180 miles to visit our daughter in St Andrews and the Ford got the thumbs-up across the board.
And everyone was impressed by the sophisticated SYNC 4, dashboard-mounted, high-definition, 13.2in touchscreen that seemed to be pretty much at the heart of everything.
The infotainment system has the latest connectivity features – including intelligent and intuitive cloud-connected sat nav, wireless smartphone connectivity, advanced voice control and an emergency assistance function.
Meanwhile, FordPass Connect allows you to use your smartphone to remotely lock the car, get security alerts, show the vehicle location, receive efficient driving tips and set up the sat nav among other things.
The graphics and responses from the car’s touchscreen were superb and we really appreciated the big leap in technology, size of the display and the premium B&O sound system with 10 speakers.
Although, speaking personally, I felt some of the music choices from my passengers, were decidedly dodgy. However, my grumbles were quickly silenced by moans of “Just get on and drive” – so that I did and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The powertrain provides a pleasing amount of oomph, developing 155PS and 190Nm of torque, that allows it to hit 62mph in just 9.0 seconds and this Focus tops out at 131mph.
But the official average fuel economy is 52.3mpg (a figure I got very close to despite some spirited motoring), with CO2 emissions of 121g/km.
The performance is, of course, largely down to the mild-hybrid system that sees a 48-volt battery and electric motor assist with acceleration.
Regenerative braking power from the engine is used to recharge the battery when needed. The whole process is seamless, while the three-cylinder engine has a characterful thrum to it.
Adding to the driving engagement were the sports-tuned suspension that was firm but not too harsh and selectable drive modes – normal, sport and eco.
The latter feature alters the accelerator and steering responses, which behave just as you would expect in the different settings.
I made good use of eco for relaxed cruising on motorways, normal suited driving around towns such as Cupar and St Andrews, while sport made twisting country roads even more fun.
The brakes were also reassuringly reactive and the precise, six-speed gearbox was a joy to use.
There was a sporty theme to the interior, too, with ebony, perforated, Sensico faux-leather seats adorned by red stitching, along with a chunky matching steering wheel.
The front also had some carbon-fibre-effect detailing while there were plenty of soft-touch finishes elsewhere, such as in the door cards.
On our trip, everyone declared themselves happy with the amount of head, shoulder and legroom for four adults, while a £995 optional panoramic sunroof added to the sense of spaciousness.
The boot also easily coped with the overnight cases and bags of goodies we had for our daughter, and there is a load-through ski hatch, should you need it.
Creature comforts are plentiful, including keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, Ford’s Quickclear heated windscreen, heated front seats and steering wheel, and wireless phone charging.
The driver also benefits from a comprehensive 12.3in digital instrument cluster – which handily displays the likes of sat nav instructions.
Then there are auto lights and wipers, cruise control and adjustable speed limiter, front and rear parking sensors, lane keep assist and pre-collision assist with auto emergency braking.
Adding to the sophistication are electrically operated, heated, folding door mirrors with puddle lamps and side indicators. My test car came with a number of optional extras (including the fabulous £825 Fantastic Red paint finish).
I would certainly consider going for the £400 blind spot information system and £525 driver assist pack that includes a motorist alertness warning, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control and auto high beam.
The ST-Line Vignale also looks suitably sporty and upmarket, starting with a bold black grille and some sharp chrome features at the front.
Side on, there are some dynamic creases and the car sits on stunning 18in 5x3-spoke alloys – in pearl grey with a high-gloss machined finish – housing red brake calipers. At the rear, you can’t miss the large spoiler up top and the polished twin tailpipe at the bottom.
The final pleasing factor is the overall value-for-money of the test car, which costs from just £29,160 on the road before options, making it even more alluring.