It was a busy few days at Ford. His British boss is worried about the future of diesel engines and says the new ones are as clean as gasoline. That the decline in popularity is affecting the factories that make one million diesel engines a year. A few days later, his US parent company announced that the 2025 target of reducing CO2 emissions by 30 percent was reached in just eight years.
Then some bad news – complaints about engine failures in older cars with the one liter Ecoboost gasoline engine. There were allegations that this was dangerous. Ford said owners were asked to have their cars checked three years ago. Meanwhile, Ford was in the hills behind Nice just before the end of a media event that began in March, new Fiesta and Mustang models and finally the new Focus
The location was a fabulous multi-star golf hotel with suites that climbed down the hill. The breakfast buffet was 46 €. It's called Terre Blanche if you're in that financial condition.
We were there to drive and enjoyed a little of the amenities. Not even the horizon pool. The roads were the point, the circling route from Nice airport took us to the high green parts of the map, beyond the perfume capital of Grasse.
Much of it was known from other car starts over the years. "We had lunch there," said George, my star co-driver, who only handles events abroad. As a result, he had many free French lunches.
The strange thing was that the roads were perfect now. When they were devastated by frost and snow and trucks, all traces had disappeared. They were fit for the modern Tour de France, smooth, without seeing a single pothole or erosion.
That was not ideal. You want to know how a car reacts to such things, whether its steering is distracted, how bad it is ̵
We talked a bit about football. Ford of Germany led the show and his team was still sent home from Russia. We talked about Brexit. We enjoyed the Focus, the fourth Ford badge since 1998, when he replaced the Ford Escort. This Focus sets new standards in hatchback sophistication, with fine handling and driving pleasure. The next two changed the look and feel and perhaps tempered the manners. The brand new Focus of last week reminds me of the thrill of the first Focus. The control response and balance should appeal to most of us. The shape is stretched, lower and wider, on a longer wheelbase, which provides more usable passenger space, but no length increase. The screen has been scraped back, resulting in a longer bonnet. The "look" is balanced, slimmer, less clunky. It has lost the Aston Martin grille. Today's Focus grille has something of a Suzuki Swift, a little Mazda3 – a car as elegant as this Focus.
The old Focus has been replaced. There are new rear suspension, torsion bars with the lighter engines, a new independent system for the heavier engines and the estate. There is a continuously monitored system of top models that mitigates the effects of potholes and even warns the rear wheels of what is to come. That's practically everywhere in the UK. In these French hills it was superfluous. It also facilitates the car on the sidewalks for half and half of the parking lot – here it is frowned upon, usual over there.
There is so much new stuff that the list could be tedious. A few then. The first head-up display of a European Ford; far fewer switches, an eight-speed automatic transmission; an automatic parking system with pushbuttons; Stack of new "connectivity" for phones and audio; Headlamps that do not dazzle at high beam; Traffic sign recognition; Management of stop-go progress; lane centering; Accident prevention and damage control.
George was too fast for this intervention. Scene, the A8 Autoroute. Speed 80-ish. George starts cursing. Not uncommon. I looked up from my notebook. A black MPV ricocheted along the central barrier, leaving burnt rubber, skid marks, and many body parts. On the right side he also stopped, the truck he had turned to.
Georg cleverly avoided everything. In a more critical situation, the focus would have slowed down. Maybe it helped with his failure prevention system.
Verdict: Oh, um, the door pockets are too short. Otherwise a cracker.