SPRUCED UP FOCUS
Very few cars qualify for the magic, roadtax- free VED band A. Until now it has been an exclusive little list of just six models: the Smart fortwo cdi, Ford Fiesta 1.6 TDCi ECOnetic, SEAT Ibiza 1.4 TDI Ecomotive, Toyota iQ 1.0, VW Polo 1.4 TDI BlueMotion, and Toyota’s Prius.
With the exception of the hybrid-powered Prius saloon, they are all superminis or smaller. But now another model has joined the sub-100g/km green car club – the new 99g/km the Ford Focus ECOnetic 1.6 TDCi Start-Stop.
It is no mean achievement to get a car the size of the Focus under the 100g/km barrier, but the blue oval has done it again with the now familiar raft of eco measures that cannier car manufacturers are increasingly employing, topped off by automatic engine switch-off each time the car stops. It takes a beefy starter motor to cope with some 150,000 or more stops and re-starts during the car’s lifetime, but that’s what this new green Focus is equipped with, as well as a double battery system. It has a large conventional lead-acid battery plus a small auxiliary battery to help stabilise the car’s electrical power. There’s also a button to override the Start-Stop system if, for example, you’d prefer to keep the engine running when stopped in traffic on a steep hill, and in certain conditions, such as when the air conditioning is working hard to cool the car in hot weather, the system automatically de-activates to keep the engine running.
Other green measures include a coated diesel particulate filter, wider ratios in the three highest gears, regenerative braking, a slightly lower ride height, low rolling resistance tyres and a small rear spoiler. With the exception of the wheels, the trim and equipment match that of the existing Zetec model. An eco display on the dashboard encourages you to be economy-minded on the move: there are three flower symbols that sprout more petals to reward a greener driving style. Low CO2 and seriously impressive fuel economy – almost 75mpg on the combined cycle – is obviously a big draw, but how much do you have to compromise for your green credentials? Not too much, actually.
On a demanding route through southern France, the tree-hugging Focus felt surprisingly lively. It handles well on tyres that grip better than many low rolling resistance compounds, and has great flexibility through the gears. Gear change quality is excellent, and there is no apparent wind noise penalty from the aerodynamic tweaks. The engine isn’t particularly quiet at tickover or low speeds, but for the most part it’s relatively refined. The Start-Stop system works efficiently, unobtrusively cutting and re-activating the engine in traffic.
RIVALS: AUDI A3 SPORTBACK 1.6 TDI START-STOP, VW GOLF BLUEMOTION 1.6 TDI, VOLVO S40 1.6 DRIVe SE START/STOP
- Engine: 1560cc, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel with particulate filter
- Gearbox: 5-speed manual
- Max power: 108bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max torque: 177lb ft at 1,750rpm
- Max towing weight: 1,300kg
- Max speed: 119mph
- 0-62mph: 12.8secs
- Combined consumption: 74.2mpg
- CO2 emissions (taxband): 99g/km (A)
- Boot space: 385/1,258litres
- Insurance group: tba