There were a number of reasons for us choosing to run a Focus as a long-term test car. Most obviously, the Mark Three Focus is brand new and it is likely to become Britain's biggest-selling car, so it is a pretty important model. However, there are two other reasons for being particularly interested in this car. Firstly, it is Ford's first genuinely global car, designed to be equally appealing in both Michigan and Manchester. Sure Ford has attempted this before, but never with any conviction: the first front-drive Escort (this car's great-great-grandfather), was intended to be global, but hardly any of the panels were actually interchangeable, while the first Mondeo was a basically European car that looked small and expensive to American eyes. Secondly, this is the Ecoboost 150 bhp - Ford's attempt to rehabilitate high-end petrol engines in the face of diesel's current domination. The idea of the turbocharged Ecoboost engine is that it offers the smoothness and linear response of a petrol engine, without the normal fuel consumption penalty.
The first impression was good - the Mark Three is a lot sleeker and more expensive-looking on the outside than its predecessor. Impressions of the interior were more mixed. The quality of the materials is good, and the dashboard has been designed and sculpted to within an inch of its life - but that is the problem. The radio controls in the Titanium appear to have been scattered from a shotgun across the middle of the dashboard. Previously Ford's audio controls were the most logical in the business, but these are a mess. The Fiesta-alike controls of the lower-spec Zetec are actually far better laid out. Ford boasts about the Titanium having a Sony-branded radio, but most people are more interested in the controls than the badge. One Ford executive we moaned to said we shouldn't worry - when the Sync voice-based interface appears in 2012, people will never have to touch the audio controls again.