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First drive: Ford Focus PowerShift

  • Six-speed semi-auto gearbox on test
  • Fitted to Focus TDCIs
  • On sale now

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Believe it or not, 'Focus PowerShift' is not a seminar for those intent on overthrowing the Government.

PowerShift is actually Ford's new six-speed gearbox that's claimed to give the smoothness and convenience of an automatic with few of the fuel and CO2 penalties of a traditional auto.

In truth, it's a similar twin-clutch arrangement to the Volkswagen group's DSG gearbox, where the gears are pre-selected in anticipation of the next gearshift.

Whether you choose to leave the gearlever in Drive, or make changes yourself, it all works in a similar unobtrusive manner to the VW box; changes are slurred away with minimal shunt through the drivetrain.

The only thing missing is a pair of steering wheel-mounted paddles for changing gear.

The gearbox is available with Ford's 2.0-litre diesel engine in 134bhp or a detuned 108bhp guise. Each is a punchy, quiet engine that's well suited to the new 'box, thanks to strong low and mid-range muscle.

Although 48.6mpg and 154g/km of CO2 for the 134bhp version means you'll pay 3% more company car tax and fall short of the 51.3mpg of a manual car, the relatively lightweight and absence of mechanical drag associated with traditional autos means the PowerShift is an extremely efficient device.

Along with the gearbox, you also get a diesel particulate filter (DPF) to reduce soot emission, all for 1200 over the manual alternative. The best part of the deal, though, is that the sweet driving manners of the Focus remain unaffected.

• Focus models with the PowerShift gearbox are available now. They cost from 17,900.