Thursday, 25 October 2007

Test Drive - Ford Focus TDCi

There are some things in life that you just don’t want to have to do. Visiting the dentist, for example; you drive across town, struggle for somewhere to park, feed the meter, sit in a dank dungeon-like waiting room for the lion’s share of an ice-age, only for a tedious middle-aged chap with sufficient hair up his nose to stuff a mattress to spend thirty-five seconds counting your teeth for you before charging you twenty quid and sending you on your way. Doesn’t really make you clamour for another visit, does it? Scrubbing your bathroom is another fine example. Once you’ve cleaned it, the bloody thing should stay clean – after all, it’s where all your cleaning type activities happen anyway. Where does all the dust come from? The room should be cleaning itself in empathy.

And so it is that eventually, sooner or later, you have to drive a diesel. Now, I would personally never consider buying an oil-burner unless it had something really spectacular to offer. Since I can’t think of anything quite spectacular enough to fit that remit (the option to destroy it after use, perhaps, or a weekend with the three or four Hollywood lovelies of my choice), let’s just say that I’m really not a diesel person. Life’s too short to take the ‘sensible’ option; if there’s a petrol variant available then I can see no conceivable reason to select something less powerful, less refined, less responsive, noisier, smellier and generally less pleasant. Fuel consumption? Cobblers. You’ve got to weigh up the pros against the many, many cons.

Perhaps I’m being a little unfair. Modern diesels are so far removed from those of twenty years ago, ten even, that it’s not right to lump them into the same category. Indeed, diesel technology has achieved some impressive things recently – the Le Mans 24hr-winning Audi R10 was powered by Satan’s treacle, the JCB Dieselmax hit 350mph on the Bonneville salt flats, The Peugeot 908 HDi is, er, pretty impressive… alright, these aren’t cars you’d see every day, but the technology trickles down from these lofty heights and into the mainstream. Basically, a modern diesel generally offers a bit less power than its petrol equivalent but a lot more torque, and the old agricultural tractortones have been largely silenced. Advancing turbo technology means lag is diminishing with every new launch, and they keep the greenies happy. God knows why, they smell awful. (Diesel engines, I mean, not the greenies. Although they smell too – I don’t think they wash.)

As dervs go, Ford’s TDCi unit is actually pretty good. Part of their Zetec family, you can even specify one in a Westfield if you so wish – called, brilliantly, a Wiesel. It’s a torquey and eager little lump, and in 1.6 guise in the Focus it offers surprisingly rapid progress with almost no turbo lag at all. Driving it is not unpleasant.

This isn’t a shock. The Focus chassis is so sublime, so perfectly balanced and well judged that you could power it with an old Eastern bloc two-stroke and it’d still be a riot in the twisties. As with all Foci, this is a very easy car to enjoy yourself in. The second generation Focus has made great bounds in passenger comfort over its forebear too; the dash and interior plastics all look like they were chosen by the same person and fit together as if, well, they’d been designed to do so. Marvellous. A hasty last-minute dash to the dump showed us that it will take two tvs and a cupboard in its cavernous boot, so it’s a winner in the practicality stakes.

Practicality’s for misers and losers though, everyone knows that. The point of a car, by its very nature, is to get the driver from point A to point B as quickly as physically possible, then back to point A (because you’ve left the gas on or something) at a speed several factors higher than the previous journey, then another blast to point B via the beautiful scenic roads around the area of point C, before heading off for a trackday at point D. Anyone who denies this is either a liar or a very dull person. Either way, you shouldn’t talk to them again.

So, the Focus TDCi is both a winner and a loser. A winner in that it’s impressively well built, Tardis-like inside and has easily the best chassis of the modern hatchback market. A loser in that it all goes to waste with that pointless engine. Yes, it’s frugal and it’s clever, blah blah yawn etc, but the Focus ST has a turbocharged 2.5-litre engine that forces you to drive like your pants are on fire. Don’t be a cheapskate, just buy a proper one. When you’re lying on your deathbed, you’ll never look back and think ‘I wish I’d bought that diesel Focus’.

1 comment:

Mysteryman said...

its a nice colour!