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Last year I did something for the very first time at the ripe old age of 39 and before you ask it was not my virginity that I lost as that is very much intact and I'm still as pure as driven snow. What actually happened was that I became a car owner. All my life the only cars I have ever had have been company cars until redundancy meant that I actually had to buy and fund my own set of wheels. Up until that point I had never had to worry about insurance or tax and all of the servicing and repairs were taken care of, I just had to make sure I remembered to take it in when I reached the mileage necessary for its next service.
I will be the first to admit I'm not to most knowledgeable when it comes to cars so you will not be getting a great technical review of the Ford Focus Estate. Words such as brake horse power just result in my eyes glazing over and I only watch Top Gear because it is very funny.
Couple of reasons I decided to buy this car, the first was that it was my last company car therefore I knew it's service history and the fact that just before I bought it I managed to get new tyres and break pads fitted on the company account and secondly my hobby of scuba diving makes an estate car really useful as I need the boot space. The car is a 03 number plate and I paid £5,850 for it and it had done 58,000 miles at the time of purchase, from what I can gather this seemed a reasonable price to pay.
The Focus is certainly not going to win a beauty pageant but I would not describe it as ugly as it does manage to avoid the van like look of the Astra. There is a curved appearance to the roof with black rails running across the top. I opted for the dark blue colour and I liked the fact that the bumpers and trim are in the same colour. The front end of the car is again a mixture of good and bad, the lines of the car look good and the car looks quite impressive however the front grill rather lets it down, on a good car the front grill will look like a menacing shark on the Focus it is more Shane McGowan. The interior is less attractive and more functional, there is an awful lot of black plastic with a large dash board at the front which is not very attractive and a couple of awful fake wooden bits of trim that really do not add anything to the car.
The dash board displays though are well set out and I certainly found that everything was very visible from my normal driving position. With the LX you do not get a digital display but a range of dials which I must say I find easy to read as I do not have to alter the appearance when the sun is shining.
I think you will find me using the word functional a lot in this review as that is probably the best way to describe this car. In a straight line you get a comfortable smooth ride, the suspension is good even on bumpy roads I have completed a number of long trips of over four hours without a break and never suffered any discomfort. Certainly the seats are comfortable and spacious and the car easily carries five adults.
The 1.8 diesel engine is nice and quiet and I have had it up to 105 mph however it is most comfortable cruising at about 80mph when the speed climbs to 90mph you begin to notice that the car is beginning to feel the strain. Previously I owned a Peugeot 406 estate and I certainly noticed that the Focus is a lighter build which gives it much better acceleration which is helpful when over taking however it does not have the fastest pick up and for most overtaking maneuvers it does pay to have a bit of a run up.
The braking is smooth and has never let me down which is the most important thing.
On the downside it is not the best car for cornering and I do find that you get a bit of over steer (the only technical term I learned from Top Gear) on the tighter corners at speed but that may be due to my bad driving rather than the car after all I'm no Stig.
The other thing that does affect the driving experience is that I do find it has quite a few blind spots because of the length of the car which means that you cannot rely solely on your mirrors when lane changing on the motorways. In addition the rear window is not the biggest and makes parking and judging distances quite difficult.
The car is pretty good on fuel consumption and being a diesel does help, if I'm working it out right on a long journey when I keep the speed steady I get about 44 mpg and this rises to about 50mpg when driving around the town.
Servicing costs are not bad with the car requiring a service every 12,500 miles and my last service cost me about £140.
The main thing though that has kept the running costs down is the fact that the car has been so reliable. It has been into the garage only once for a very minor repair that was needed when it started to blow a little black smoke out of the exhaust other than that it has only needed a new set of tyres (which were abut £75 each) and brake pads in the three and a half years I have owned it. The latter were fitted when it was company owned so I'm not sure of the cost.
For insurance purposes the car is in Group 6.
One of the biggest pluses for me with the Focus Estate is the boot size. I have been able to fit in the back two full sets of diving equipment which means that I'm carrying two twin sets and two single 12 liter cylinders as well as the rest of the diving equipment and a weeks worth of clothes for two people without the need to fill up the back seats. The rear parcel shelf is the pull out blind version and is easy to completely remove if required. It is the design of the interior space with very little intrusion from the wheel arches or other storage components that makes it better than the slightly larger Peugeot 406 for storing dive equipment. It is also really good when we go on a camping holiday to France with the roof rails making it easy to fit a roof box for extra storage.
I also like the fact that the rear of the boot is totally flat making it easy to slide in and out heavy items and also is a convenient place to sit while I get my jacket and cylinders on, whilst this is something that will only appeal to a small number of people the same applies while you are putting on your boots for a nice country walk.
The rear seats do fold forward to allow for even more storage although they do not fold completely flat nor can they be removed so this has limited use for certain items.
The LX version comes with a cd player and radio however a cd auto-changer is extra. The stereo has column mounted controls which are easy to operate and also a removable security panel that is pin protected.
One of the disappointing features it that the car has air conditioning rather than climate control and I do find that although it is certainly very quick to blast out either cold of hot air dependant upon the setting it is quite difficult to find a happy setting once the car has either cooled down or heated up which does mean that you will find yourself constantly changing the settings which is a dial rather than a digital temperature display.
This car may not turn many heads as you drive along, however being a good looking hunk then I achieve that on my own, but what you will get is a reliable car with relatively low running costs. The ride is comfortable and there is enough power in the engine to allow you to overtake if you need to. The car is pretty well made although the interior does seem a bit cheap looking and the air conditioning could be better from the point of view of being able to control the temperature better.
Most importantly I feel quite safe with me and the children in the car and added to that the storage in the boot is great then this car certainly meets all of my needs however I am prepared to swap it for a brand new Porsche 911 turbo if anyone is interested.