Hats off to Ford for a highly creditable new addition to the swelling ranks of retractable hardtop coupecabriolets, even if it is a bit of a latecomer. Sue Baker went to Siena in sunny Tuscany to drive the alfresco Focus in a smart Italian suit
It is a sort of tradition that when a car company launches a new convertible, the test models lined up at some foreign airport come kitted out with baseball caps for the more tenderheaded motoring writers to wear. The idea seems to be that car critics who are not subjected to an enforced bad hair day are likely to be better disposed towards the vehicle they are judging.
But given a choice between bad hair and bad hat, I’ll opt for the hedge-raked barnet, thanks very much. We’ve come to expect a bit of a breeze around the bonce as something that goes with the territory of driving a convertible. Along with the occasional shudder of the car’s de-lidded body flexing enough to rattle your fillings as you rumble along over a coarse road surface. With all of that in mind, I listened to Ford’s claims about the Focus Coupe-Cabriolet’s windchannelling body sculpture and the effectiveness of extra strengthening built into it with my usual dose of healthy scepticism. Yes, but. It might sound convincing enough in the carefully stage-managed confines of a press conference when fresh off a plane at a Tuscan airport, but it would be another story on the pockmarked back-roads around rural Siena.
I was fully prepared to be both wind-blown and rattled. That I was neither shows how far the current generation of retractable hardtop coupe cabriolets have come. Ford’s offering is a late arrival on the scene, coming in the wake of the Peugeot 307 CC, Renault Megane CC, Vauxhall Astra TwinTop and Volkswagen Eos. Last but by no means least eh? For calmness of the open-roof driving experience and shake-free body, it is a match for any of them. Even at motorway speed this alfresco Focus has a remarkably bluster-free cabin when the hood is down and the side windows and wind-deflector mesh screen are raised. Even on lesser Italian country roads with rubbishy surfaces, there was not a hint of a complaining creak from the delidded car body. It is a body built in Italy, at Pininfarina, on a structure with lots of extra reinforcement designed into it to compensate for the inevitable loss of stiffness – amazingly, up to 90 per cent less – when the roof is stowed into the top of the boot.
A steel cross-member is added across the bulkhead, the windscreen area is braced with super-strength steel that runs up the front pillars and across the top, and there is yet more added steel in the doors and in the torsion box that houses the pop-up, roll-over hoops behind the rear seats. Compared with a standard five-door Focus from the current range, the CC’s structural stiffness is only around 30 per cent less, but interestingly itmatches the solidity of an old model hatchback Focus. That is a pretty remarkable achievement and pays tribute to the overall effectiveness of all that additional strengthening. On the road it translates into a drop-top that feels taut and tight, has an impressive absence of body shake, and lets you drive alfresco in unruffled comfort.
To help achieve this lee of wind-free calm in the cabin, the driver and front passenger seat are set a little lower than those of a regular Focus, and the rear body line rises a little higher to help cocoon the interior. It makes for a very amenable driving experience, so before I even started thinking about the performance, I felt well disposed towards this car. It’s frankly better than I expected, and really rather good, a coupe-cabriolet with all the advantages of optional open-top motoring and none of the disadvantages. Well, apart from losing a chunk of boot space when the two-section roof is stowed. Even so, the roller-pull separator that must be in place across the boot before the hood goes down leaves ample room below it for inserting quite chunky weekend bags.
There is a class-leading 248 litres of boot space left under the stowed roof. You can only raise or lower the roof with the car stationary, and either operation takes 29 seconds. Oddly, Ford expects to sell only around 10 per cent of the Focus CC with the two-litre Duratorq TDCi engine, explaining that it will be mainly a private purchase car and therefore predominantly petrol. That figure will be way off beam if buyers are canny enough to recognise that the 16-valve twin-cam diesel is undoubtedly the all-round best option. It ismannerly, smooth, and torquey, and unlike its petrol alternative, it never feels underpowered on the hills. It accelerates to 60 in the same time as the petrol two-litre, but benefits from having a wellspaced six-speed gearbox (five-speed in both the 1.6 and 2.0 petrol models) and feels much perkier through the gears, as well as having a lower CO2 figure and squeezing 10 more mpg out of a gallon.
You hear a mild clatter on start-up but from then on any difference in engine noise is irrelevant, because the diesel’s note is not only subdued, but what you hear of it is pleasantly sporty-sounding. So, the overall verdict? Ford’s drop-top ‘Focus in a tailored Italian suit’ is svelte and sophisticated, shake-free and an unruffled open air oasis with great driving manners. It’s well priced too, just undercutting the Astra TwinTop and a chunk less expensive than the rest of its rivals. It is definitely at its best with the two-litre Duratorq turbodiesel engine too, which is frankly miles better than either of the petrol alternatives.
On sale: Now // Price from; £16,795
- Price: £19,270 2 door Coupe-
- Cabriolet CC-2 TDCi
- Engine: 1,997cc 4-cyl 16valves
- Duratorq turbodiesel
- Max Power: 136 PS at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 250 lb ft
- Combined Consumption:47.9 mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 156 g/km (D)
- 0-62mph: 10.3secs
- Max speed: 127mph
Front and side airbags
CD player with MP3
‘Quickclear’ heated windscreen
Thatcham Category 1 Alarm
Electric front and rear windows
Front fog lamps
Powered/heated door mirrors
Rollover Protection Device (RPD)
ESP with TC and EBA £250
Adaptive front lighting £250
Bi-xenon headlamps £550
Park Assist £300
Satellite Navigation from £1,050
Bluetooth System/Voice Control from £250
18-inch alloys £500
Metallic paint £350
Dynamic drive, strong chassis, civilised cabin, excellent diesel and good value for money
Long rump, poor back seat legroom, and a hard-toread trip computer is all that is annoying