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Road Test

Ford Focus Coupe-Cabriolet

by Ian Barrett

8th September, 2008

Ford Focus Coupe-Cabriolet 
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Ford's Focus has been around for a number of years now in Australia and has gained a well-deserved reputation ascompetent family transport, with good looks,the rightbalancebetween performance and economy,and above average steering and handling, making itsomething of a driver's car. So what could be more desirable than a cabriolet version to mix it with the likes of Holden, Peugeot, Renault and Volkswagen, who all have folding-metal-roof convertibles in their showrooms? When we caught our first glimpse ofFord's version in European press releases a few years, we were itching to see it in the 'flesh' and get behind the wheel of one. We have now experienced such an opportunity, when we spent a week in the company of abeautiful'aqua' Focus Coupe-Cabriolet automatic.

Convertibles of this type are more about style and image than outright performance or driving experience. But that said, they fill an important niche in the market and figures suggest they actually outsell real sports cars. The Focus Cabriolet certainly has style. Looks are very subjective, but I rate it the best of the bunch in that department and it turned lots of headswhilst in our possession. Externally, that flawless paintwork was set off by subtle chrome highlights and a set of 10-spoke, 17" alloys wearing 205/50/R17 rubber, giving the Focus an appropriately business-like stance on the road.

The Focus is marginally bigger than competitors and this translates into the roomiest interior. Front seat occupants are well catered for, with comfortable and supportive heatedseats, trimmed inebony black leather. A full range of manual adjustment, including height, is complemented by 4-way adjustment of the leather trimmed steering wheel, allowing almost any shape to feel at home in the cockpit. The two rear passengers will be snug enough for short hops, provided they are no more than medium build. Individually shaped seats are nicely supportive, but leg room is naturally at a premium. Otherwise, luxury is very well catered for, with a long list of standard features.

Ian Barrett with the Ford Focus Coupe-Cabriolet 
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Included are dual-zone climate control air-conditioning (with pollen filter),chilled glovebox, multi-function trip computer, cruise control and a premium MP3-compatible Sony sound system with 6-stacker CD player and 8 speakers.Additional highlights arerain-sensing windscreen wipers, auto-on headlights, electrochromatic interior mirror and heated exterior mirrorswith integratedturn indicators.

The electronic folding steel roof is, of course, what sets this type of car apart from the masses. One push of a button is all that's required to raise or lower the roof in approximately 30 seconds - handy with a thunderstorm approaching. Just don't try doing so on the move. The car does need to be stationary to avoidrather costly repairs to the roof structureand mechanism, as during thetransformation it raises itself like a sail ready to catch the wind! Needless to say, the roof does 'eat' into available boot space when lowered, so one needs to factor this in when packing the picnic gear for a day out. Despite this caution, boot space, at 534-litres with the roof up,is amongst the best in this class. With the roof panels stowed, this shrinks to 248-litres, still above average.

The Focus Cabriolet also manages a full safety score, with a highly commendable 5-star ANCAP rating. Ford's 'Intelligent Safety System' embodies front and side airbags, belt-minder facility, crash severity sensors and instantaneous pop-up roll-over protection in the event of serious mishap. Security is looked after with a premium alarm, including interior motion detectors. Externally, those stylish wheels are guarded by locking wheel nuts.

Primary safety - the ability to avoid an accident in the first place - is equally well served, with very well-sortedride andhandling,and sharp, nicely weighted steering withabove-averageroad 'feel'. Even in the wet, there's plenty of grip. Suspension is by struts and stabiliser bar up front and Ford's multi-link 'Control blade' system out the back.Stopping power is courtesy ofventilated 300 mm discs at the front and solid 280 mm discs at the rear. Naturally, at this price point, there's standard dynamic stability control (DSC) with ABS, EBD and TCS (traction control).

Ford Focus Coupe-Cabriolet 
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Beneath the bonnet, the Duratec 2.0-litre engine is smooth and refined. Buta performance sports car it is not!Not when it's matched with one of the world's worst automatic transmissions, a 4-speeder with 'sequential sports shift'.Providing 107 kW @ 6,000 rpm, and 185 Nm of torque @ 4,500 rpm, the DOHC engine certainly provides great 'launch feel' off the line, but the zippy acceleration is short-lived. Extra weight aside, the transmission is its 'achilles heel' and fuel consumption also suffers. Ford quote usage at 8.3L/100 km (combined cycle), a figure we were unable to match on test.

The car always feels sluggish above about 80 km/h and open road performance with any hills in sight is mediocre. At freeway speed on uphill grades, it shifts endlessly between the upper two gears and the lack of communication between cruise control, engine and transmission means any attempt to maintain the chosen speed is likely to be in vain. And from our perspective, in 'manual' mode the gearshift also operates back-to-front. It's high time this aspect of vehicle design was standardised, in the interests of safety, if nothing else.

In automatic form, the Focus Cabriolet is really only a town car, a style statement best expressed at the marina or cruising the beachfront! Despite those million-dollar good looks, real drivers willfind their driving experienceunfulfilling. We do feel that with a 5-speed manual on board, this car would be an altogether different proposition. However, does it really matter? We suspect that the average buyer will, in fact, find ownership of a Ford Focus Cabriolet- be it manual or automatic - deeply rewarding.Overall, westill enjoyed theweek we spent with this car.

At $45,490 plus on-road costs for the manual (auto is a $2,000 option), this Italian styled beauty has attracted a following amongst convertible devotees. It's comfortable and well equipped and is a worthy competitor among its peers.

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