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All it claims to be

Ford Focus C Max - all things to all drivers

Ford Focus C Max - all things to all drivers

One can say that the majority of drivers, being entirely subjected to their own very particular likes and dislikes, will in all probability think that the car they drive is the finest thing since the invention of cut bread.

Those pundits of the written word, however, who have been entrusted with sorting out a vehicle, from the vast array that get written about every year, must obviously, like our band of local motoring journalists, be entirely objective, and rule out their personal favourites.

For, although a Lotus Elise may well make enthusiasts drool, such vehicles do fall into niche, rather than mainstream markets and to vote a niche model 'Car of the Year' would not be exactly sensible, or even fair.

The Focus C Max, no matter what engine has been chosen, is frankly all things to all drivers. It provides a complete motoring answer to all those people who need a vehicle that will provide the means of getting either five people with assorted luggage or shopping, or fewer people and more goods around, in the comfort and control of a first rate family saloon.

It is so well designed that in sports mode, with the rear seats removed, a couple of bicycles with all the necessary 'gear' can easily be taken to some scenic spot before a cycling adventure is embarked on, just as satisfactorily as a new fridge, washing machine or small Quad-bike.

Or, as a four-seater a rear stowage box can be purchased and installed between the two remaining rear seats. The permutations are almost endless, as they should be in this age, where the motorcar is seen as one of the chief polluters of the atmosphere.

Having spent a morning of very mixed motoring, including a session of high speed manoeuvring, this motoring mind really has given serious thought to the entire concept of compact multi purpose vehicles.

Truthfully, because of their genuine multi-role function and the ability of this one, obviously not alone in class, the Focus C Max, to provide anything from definitely sporty motoring to the most mundane of gruesome household chores, the need for a second car for many families, will either be ruled out altogether, or the second car can be downsized to either a two-seat town car, or a hybrid, with combined electric and petrol motors.

The five-door Ambiente was on test, armed with a formidable 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine, a real smoothie, poking out 109 bhp, which allows the car to be driven beyond our national limit to 100km/h in 11.3 seconds, continuing smoothly onward to 185 km/h in total, reliable safety.

Regular readers will have become bored with my stressing that at our local maximum speeds modern vehicles are being driven so far below any of their maximum tolerances (until an unwanted skid, slide or stop has caused the vehicle to be used to its limits) that it goes without saying how well this car, derived from the Rally-winning Ford team of modified Focus saloons behaves on our roads, or for test purposes, on the old main runway at the Ta' Qali airfield.

The usual, hard, hands-off the steering wheel stops were done, with ABS working overtime, from 50, 60 and 80 plus km/h, and of course the car stopped in a perfectly straight line from even the highest test Stop.

Angle of roll on corners is always interesting to establish, and although the C Max appears to be a candidate for severe roll because of its height, and consequent higher centre of gravity, it rattled round the ever tightening curve on the approach to the football stadium just as fast as my own most satisfactory Ka.

This is of course no real surprise, as regular readers of Motoring will remember the editor and this subscriber did a joint road test of the first Focus, and were most pleasantly served, and then a hair-raising ride was taken in the co-driver's seat of a full-blown rally Focus round a forest section near Ford Rally headquarters with a Ford test driver at the controls (0-100km/h on gravel is pretty awe inspiring, not to say blooming scary).

The answers to the handling qualities of the C Max can of course be traced back to its siblings because C Max shares the same extremely well thought out suspension layout. At the front the independent system is controlled by MacPherson struts, and on most models, rebound springs.

An anti-roll bar and gas-filled shock absorbers is standard on all models.

The rear end, the secret to the degree of handling found in the C Max and all other Focus models is the use of independent Short-Long-Arm (SLA) control blades, a modern concept that is more efficient than conventional torsion spring suspension, and of course somewhat different from the more usual coil springs. This system is mounted on sub frames, and it comes with an anti-roll bar and gas-filled shock absorbers.

The use of Control Blades absorbs both horizontal and vertical rear wheel movements and provides a degree of passive rear-wheel steering for increased cornering stability, which helps to explain why the C Max is so darn good at being cornered with enthusiasm.

Not unexpectedly, this Focus stops with the same degree of ease as its various sister models, and locally the C Max comes with ABS (anti lock brakes), so skidding is almost excluded, while braking and a system called Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) is also installed.

EBA monitors the amount of brake pressure being applied to the pedal during an emergency stop. If the force applied is sufficient, EBA kicks in and automatically apply the brakes to their maximum pressure. The end result is that the stopping distance is considerably less than with vehicles equipped with ABS alone.

The power steering is light, sensitive, yet very positive, and the driver's seat as well as the steering can be readily adjusted to enable the driver to be as comfortable and relaxed as good driving techniques demand.

Experienced drivers will enjoy the fact that this car can be equipped with a six-speed gear change, a five-speed change, a four-speed automatic or a Durashift CVT. All drivers will be pleased to note that C Max is the first car in class to get the four-star EuroNCAP rating for child safety, along with a Swedish Insurance company giving it a 'Best Pick' for whiplash injury protection.

Obviously, the grand roadholding and ease of handling play a fantastic role abroad. Although possibly not quite so important over here, owners of the C Max get them as an additional bonus to what is an incredibly fine family car.

I was particularly interested in the attention that has been paid to stowage compartments, including under-floor stowage. An enormous amount of objects can be so easily packed in when the rear seats have been 'tipped, tumbled or removed', as the guidebook so graphically states.

This stowage ability, the absolute dual role that it provides, can never be minimised and a brief look at the interior dimensions highlights this rather well. At the front, the effective headroom is 1,011 mm, effective legroom 1,023 mm and shoulder room 1,424 mm.

At the rear, without a sunroof, there is an effective 968 mm of headroom, 951 mm of legroom and 1,402 mm of shoulder room.

For many readers the stowage capabilities may be even more impressive than the seating capacity.

The maximum cargo height is 921 mm with 1,050 mm between wheels arches, 855 mm of load length in five-seat mode, or 1,734 mm of load length in two-seat mode.

At a glance

Having been blasted round an unsurfaced forest rally section, any Focus is OK by me, and this is a magnificent Multi-Purpose Vehicle.

Engine: 1.6 Duratec, 1,560 cc TDCi Diesel. Four cylinders in line. 16 valves. Alloy cylinder head and block. Turbocharger with intercooler. Direct injection with high-pressure common rail. CO2 emissions [g/km] 129. Combined fuel consumption 4.9 litres/100 km. BHP 109 at 4,000 rpm. Pulling power (torque) 280-300 Nm at 1,750 rpm. Max speed 185 km/h. 0-100 km/h 11.3 seconds. Kerb weight 1,391 kg. Steering power-assisted rack-and-pinion. Brakes front, and rear, discs Turning circle between kerbs, from 10.7 m to 11.7 m, depending on the size of the wheels.

Where will you keep it?

Overall length 4,333 mm. Width, including mirrors 2,022 mm. Height unladen,1,595 mm.
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