After 14 years of production Ford knows the key to the Focus's success is its simplicity.
2010 Ford Focus
Simplicity can be a beautiful thing, as the 2010 Ford Focus demonstrates so well. In an age where we are surrounded by gadgets for all manner of things - and in an automotive context, I refer particularly to driver-assisting technologies such as reversing cameras, lane-change sensors, parking sensors, automatic brake-assist and many others by various brand-names - entry-level vehicles like the Focus are refreshing for the very absence of these things.
Perhaps the many positives of the Focus are the result of its pedigree: the first rolled off the production line in 1997. Though there are other vehicles on the market with similarly long bloodlines and that aren't nearly as capable - the Mitsubishi Lancer for one. As a platform, the Focus is simply a very good vehicle.
Take the chassis and suspension, for instance. One of the standout features of the Focus is its rigidity - it holds the road extremely well. Compared with other vehicles in its class, it feels extremely well-planted, both in slow-speed cornering around town and in straight-line, motorway driving. Although some other vehicles in this price bracket seem to float around, particularly on take-off under some firm acceleration, the Focus holds steady throughout and inspires real confidence.
The pairing of the engine and transmission in the Focus also seems to be spot on. So often, small cars are let down by lacklustre, poorly executed automatic transmissions. The four-speed automatic of the Focus has well-spaced gear ratios delivering power to the front wheels in just the right amounts. Whether accelerating rapidly or taking off slowly, the upshifts are well-timed and don't jolt too much; downshifts are just as smooth.
With a 1.6L Duratec four-cylinder engine delivering the power, the Focus is a reasonably zippy vehicle. One can only imagine how much better it would be with the manual transmission (sadly unavailable locally), but the automatic box is king in this region and does make more sense.
The brakes on the Focus - front discs and rear drums - were surprisingly good. Without inspecting the hubs visible through the stylish 16-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels, you would barely know it doesn't wear discs all round. While on the road to Hatta from Dubai, even quickly hitting the anchors for some unexpected speed bumps slowed the car rapidly and smoothly. Though my braking wasn't so extreme as to require it on this occasion, it also comes standard with ABS.
Despite the glowing assessment above, the first impression of climbing into the cockpit isn't necessarily so great, with a few things letting it down. The interior of the test vehicle was a rather drab, grey plastic, though it does grow on you over time. The nasty plastic steering wheel was also disappointing, feeling something like that of a toy car rather than a real, road-going vehicle - but none of these things are even close to being deal-breakers.
On the upside, the silver-coloured central fascia for the CD-equipped stereo and controls for the air-conditioning do add a nice lift. The chrome-coated internal door handles and the nice trim around the vents also add a touch of class.
Other aspects of the interior were the topic of debate among driver and passengers - such as the retro-look pinstriping of the cloth seats. I like it, but some find it just looks dated. Each to their own, I guess. More importantly, the front seats are very comfortable, wrapping around slightly and providing good levels of support.
The real visual standout of the Focus interior is the dashboard, which is clearly visible and looks very sharp with touches of chrome and well-proportioned round gauges, including analogue tacometer and speedometer. An LCD in the centre shows engine temperature and trip meter, with toggling between these performed simply by thumbing a switch on the left-hand steering-column mounted stalk.
Legroom isn't great at first, though I soon realised this was largely because the seat height was cranked right up. A few pushes on the handle to the left of the seat corrects this somewhat, though there is not a huge amount of space even when the seat is pushed right back. Making further adjustments to the seat also revealed another refreshingly low-tech aspect - a manual twist-knob to adjust the recline angle, rather than a spring-loaded handle or electric switch.
You're not going to break any lap records at the track in the Focus, nor will you win many match-ups in the traffic light "grand prix" - but that's okay. It is still a fun, sturdy and dare-I-say reliable (no, not boring) run-about. As a means of getting from Point A to Point B in reasonable comfort and style, the Focus is an extremely worthy competitor.
Price base / as tested Dh65,000 / Dh69,000
Engine 1.6L 4-cylinder
Gearbox Four-speed automatic
Power 140hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque 150Nm @4,000 rpm
Fuel economy, combined 7.7L / 100km