2013 Ford Focus Econetic review
Available only in Edge trim and with a 104bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine, this Econetic uses a number of mechanical tweaks to achieve its remarkable official figures, including revised gear ratios, a new turbocharger and a front grille flap that closes at higher speeds to reduce drag.
The Econetic's CO2 emissions qualifies it for the lowest rate of company car tax available to diesel-powered cars, placing it a band below rivals such as the Kia Ceed 1.6 CRDi and Seat Leon 1.6 TDI.
The raw figures look impressive, then, but do the gains in efficiency bring a trade-off in comfort or the Focus’s renowned driveability?
What's the 2013 Ford Focus Econetic like to drive?
First, the good news: the Focus Econetic has the regular model's fine balance of ride comfort and agility. The steering remains extremely sweet – pleasingly direct, and with a decent amount of consistent weight.
The Econetic’s revised gearing isn't such good news, though; if you're carrying a full load of passengers and luggage, you’ll need to downshift earlier on steep inclines, while top (sixth) gear is so long it's not really useable unless you're approaching the motorway speed limit.
Refinement is also an issue. If you use your instinct to decide when to change gear then you’re unlikely to complain too much, but if you follow the car's instructions, you’ll find the revs dropping so low that the whole vehicle vibrates on every upshift. The rumble through the pedals and steering wheel is particularly annoying – and as with all Focuses, there’s a fair bit of wind noise, too.
You're unlikely to achieve anywhere near the Government average fuel economy of 83mpg in real-world driving, either, although the Econetic should still prove extremely efficient. We'll be able to tell how many miles to the gallon you can realistically expect to achieve when we've completed our True MPG tests.
What's the 2013 Ford Focus Econetic like inside?
There’s nothing inside this Focus's cabin to suggest that you're in a particularly efficient model – and that's a good thing, because it means you won't feel you’re missing out on anything in the name of low CO2 figures.
Air-conditioning, Bluetooth and electric front windows come as standard – and if that doesn’t sound particularly generous, it's worth remembering that obvious rivals, including the 97g/km Kia Ceed 1.6 CRDi, are no more liberal with the toys.
From behind the wheel, the only sign that you've committed to saving fuel is an indicator, which lights up in the main instrument panel to tell you when to shift gears.
That aside, it's stock Ford Focus fare, which means a fairly funky design and a less-than-stellar range of cabin plastics. In this area, Ford doesn’t feel any better than the Korean manufacturers, and it's a long way behind recent arrivals from Skoda and VW.
Should I buy one?
If you’re a private buyer, look elsewhere in the Focus range; Ford's hatchback offers better combinations of purchase price and standard equipment than this (think 1.0 Ecoboost 125 in Zetec trim), particularly when a bit of haggling over price is taken into account.
As a company car choice, the 88g/km Ford Focus Econetic makes much more sense – and given that its low rate of tax is confirmed through to 2016, it offers as much peace of mind as you can reasonably expect where the taxman is concerned.
However, as things stand, a Kia Ceed 1.6 CRDi 128 1 offers even lower company car tax bills courtesy of its cheaper list price and, unlike the Focus, the Kia doesn’t feel overly compromised by its low emissions mantra.
What Car? says...
Kia Ceed 1.6 CRDi
Seat Leon 1.6 TDI
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £18,645
Torque 199lb ft
Top speed 116mph
Fuel economy 83.1mpg
By John McIlroy