Yawn! Another coupe-cabrio! We've had hundreds of them in 2006...
Ford might be talking about the way forward, but it's pretty backward when it comes to spotting emerging market segments. It was late with common-rail diesel technology, late with its C-Max mid-size MPV and now it's the last of four big coupe-cabrios to be launched this year (following the VW Eos, Volvo C70 and Vauxhall Astra). And it won't even go on UK sale until 1 January 2007. Ford, however, claims its contender has a host of features that make it worth waiting for.
It doesn't look worth waiting for...
Ford has gone for the simplest option, a two-part roof, rather than the three or five pieces of the Vauxhall or Volkswagen. Ford argues that this simplicity is a plus, and watching an Eos roof go through its complicated motions does make you fear for anything going wrong. The downside is a seriously big butt to store those long panels, just like those early bird CCs from Renault and Peugeot. But the Focus scores highly for practicality. The boot is the biggest in a class noted for large trunks with the roof up. What Ford has achieved, with some ingenious cranking of the rear window as it folds, is best-in-class luggage volume with the roof down, and easy access to it without the need to raise the roof.
Ford calls the look 'Italian style'. Looks more Dolcis than Dolce & Gabbana to me...
Repeat the 'Italian style' mantra enough times and you too might end up believing that the Focus C-C has all the elegance of a tailored Italian suit. Designed and developed with Pininfarina, and assembled by the Italian company in Turin, you may see hints of 'Italian tourers from the carrozzerias'. Or not. Certainly there is some neat use of chrome above the doors and along the boot lid, and the kickup of the rear shoulders is firm and purposeful. But the proportions are seriously lumpy.
So is it a tourer or a sports car?
Roof down, windows up, wind deflector in place, you could cross continents with hardly a hair out of place and in great comfort. That's partly because the screen is so large that shorter drivers will be sitting under the header rail. That is if they haven’t taken their head off on the screen edge as they got in. The Focus may be the broadest in the rear seat department but rear legroom is poor-to-ridiculous; the Eos is vastly better. A sports car? Nice thought, but no.
So the usual wobbly handling?
Not at all. The Focus C-C has the best structural integrity of the lot. Only the very worst roads make the rear view mirror shake and even then the fascia remains composed. The driving experience is very much regular Ford Focus with another 170kg on board – neat and tidy, with decent steering feel, sharp turn-in and loads of grip. Good fun, in fact.
But too heavy for its own good?
Certainly you'd be insane to pick the entry 1.6, but the 143bhp 2.0-litre diesel gives a fair account of itself. The gears (only five forward) need stirring and the full revs used more than you might wish but remember, this is no sports car. As is often the case these days, the 2.0-litre diesel, from PSA, makes most sense. Power may be just 134bhp but with almost double the torque it's always a relaxing drive, with instant throttle response when needed.
Ford may be late but it won't be the last with a coupe cabriolet. And it's worth a look, if you fancy this kind of heavy boulevardier. The Focus' roof design is simple and ensures best-in-class luggage carrying. It drives as well as any other CC, but that's not saying much. And with prices starting from £16,795, the Focus is the cheapest car in the class, often by some margin. So, assuming you can get past the lumpy looks, the Focus Coupe-Cabriolet is well worth considering. It's at the top of an underwhelming class.