Long-term report: The Ford Focus Vignale is a car for all occasions

I have never really been one for reading instruction manuals. We have one of those smart televisions that is capable of all sorts of clever tricks but I’ve never really bothered to find out how it all works.

I used to be a bit like that with cars. As long as I could jump in and drive, I was happy enough to get from A to B without really scratching the surface.

Ford's Focus remains one of the most popular vehicles on sale

That’s all changed recently, though. Modern motors have so much clever – and genuinely useful – tech that it would almost be rude not to find out how things work.

Stupid, even, given that much of it enhances the safety of the driver and passengers.
Take our long-term Ford Focus Vignale. The list of specifications is impressive, and although I’ve made good use of much of what’s offered in the months it’s been on our fleet, one feature has remained untried – Active Park Assist.

And that’s why shoppers at my local supermarket will have seen me slowly cruising round the car park the other day trying to find a suitable space to give it a go.

At first, I was a bit confused as I’d mistakenly pressed the relevant button only once. That means the car will search for parallel parking spaces. After getting the groceries on board, I read the manual (page 225 to be precise) and learnt you have to press it twice to hunt for ones at 90 degrees.

Once that discovery had been made, things went swimmingly. The car moved gently forwards before reversing back into the space and all was well.

Do I like the system?

Well, yes, but on balance I think I’ll continue parking the car myself, as things just move a little too slowly in automatic mode. It’s stunningly clever tech though – and obviously not unique to Ford.

EF19 YPC has just gone through the 6,000-mile barrier and has yet to put a foot wrong (apart from the fact that a slightly unreliable sunshade just beneath the roof has a funny five minutes every now and again).

I treat the car to a regular wash and brush-up at our local hand car wash to keep it looking spick and span and the guys are always pleased to see me. Not because of my sparkling repartee and great conversational skills but I’m told if other punters see a new car being attended to, it increases people’s faith in the business.

The Focus is treated to a much-needed clean

Of course, it would be cheaper to clean the car myself, but then I think to myself that the Focus is so frugal in terms of fuel consumption, I can afford to splash out (sorry about the pun!).

After all, the boffins at Ford have clearly been hard at work, carefully optimising the car for aerodynamic efficiency. Its advanced design offers low drag and helps improve both fuel economy and CO2 emissions – and its EcoBlue diesel engine offers outstanding fuel efficiency and high levels of torque, particularly at low speeds.

Thanks to good economy, trips to the pumps in the Focus haven't been too frequent

It would appear to be an area where Ford is happy to be described as a lightweight – the high-tech unit blends outstanding performance with remarkable refinement.

It really is a car for all occasions, not unnecessarily big for solo journeys but capable of carrying five people in comfort and safety.

That’s another area where Ford has worked hard, incidentally. Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection monitors your proximity to other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists – even in the dark when objects are within the headline beam – and can alert you to a potential collision.

The rear of the car is sharply styled

Other features designed to keep you and the car in one piece include Lane-Keeping Alert, Evasive Steering Assist and Cross-Traffic Alert.

One element that I’m surprised hasn’t kicked in is Driver Alert, which can warn you if it thinks you should take a break. I say that because the system in the previous long-termer to which I was assigned (a nifty little Seat Ibiza) always seemed to think I was a bit too tired to drive.

Maybe I’m just generally more alert than I was this time last year… but I somehow doubt it!

  • Model: Ford Focus Vignale
  • Engine: 1.5 EcoBlue diesel engine, eight-speed auto
  • Price (as tested): £31,900
  • Power: 148bhp
  • Torque: 370Nm
  • Max speed: 129mph
  • 0-60mph 9.1 seconds
  • Fuel consumption (combined): 51.4mph
  • CO2: 121g/km
  • Mileage: 6,055
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