Long-term report: Clever phone app makes the Ford Focus Vignale even easier to live with
I’ll say one thing for Ford – it certainly gives we motoring journalists plenty of time to familiarise ourselves with its cars.
A little look at the archives reveals that I wrote my first article about the long-term Focus Vignale we currently have on the fleet back in early May. It’s now late October, the car has more than 7,000 miles under its belt, and it’s still very much with us, I’m pleased to say.
I’ve experimented with most of the tech and explored many of the car’s features over the past six months, but one aspect has remained relatively untouched until recently – the FordPass Connect and FordPass App functionality.
In a nutshell, the system allows you access to a range of features in your vehicle, and on your smartphone, that work together to keep you effortlessly connected on every journey.
What’s more, you don’t need to use your smartphone’s valuable data allowance to stay online. With the in-car wi-fi hotspot, you can connect a maximum of 10 devices, load your favourite streaming services, and make those long journeys feel a lot shorter for any passengers travelling with you.
Want to start the car on a cold morning while you’re having that second cup of coffee indoors? No problem. Just use the app on your phone and by the time you’re ready to head off, the windscreen will be clear and you’ll be good to go.
Need to see if the tyres have enough air in them? Or check your fuel level? Again, a quick look at the app on your iPhone (other smartphones are available) and you’ll be in the know instantly.
The live traffic updates associated with the system are incredibly useful too, as I found out on a nightmarish trip up to London towards the end of October. A busy M3 in torrential rain is not a particularly nice place to be, especially with no hard shoulder on the approach to the M25 as you get closer to the capital.
That trip was made after a few days I spent abroad where the weather was much nicer – and rather than leave EF19 YPC in an airport car park for a week, a colleague of mine in our video department took possession temporarily.
We chatted about it on my return and the one thing that had impressed him whilst behind the wheel was the quality of the interior.
He told me: ‘I remember driving early generations of the Focus back in the early 2000s and some of the materials that were used were pretty cheap, especially when compared to today’s standards.
‘This long-termer though has a much more high-end, premium feel to it. The only thing I found frustrating was a big gap where a gear stick would normally be. Most of the cars I drive whether for work or personal use have a gear lever in the middle which I’m used to resting my hand on but in the Focus there’s nothing there, so it feels a bit unusual.’
Our video man Nigel used the car to drive to a two-day video shoot and he added: ‘There was enough space in the boot to put most of my ‘stripped down kit’ without having to fold the rear seats down, which in itself was pretty impressive. The good visibility and light steering also meant finding somewhere to park the car in a multi-storey car park was a lot easier, even in a tight space.’
I can back him up on that one – I regularly use a multi-storey which is a bit of an obstacle course for anything bigger than a Fiat 500 – but the Focus navigates it easily with audible warnings and dashboard alerts if you get to close to walls and pillars.
In other news, the dash started displaying the AdBlue warning light a couple of weeks ago – easily sorted out with a quick trip to the Halfords Autocentre near our headquarters in Gosport. And I was alerted on the dash (and on my phone) to the fact that a couple of tyres needed inflating – another five-minute job.
All in all, EF19 YPC continues to impress and it’ll be a shame when we get the call from the Ford press office when they do actually want the car back one day!